“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” – Dr. Seuss
I came into the program blindly. Being the second year that the program has been up and running, there wasn’t much information available online. All I knew is that I was going to spend my freshman year of college in Rome, taking the same classes I would be taking if I were to study at the campus in Chicago. I knew that on average there would be about 200 students here at the J-FORCE (what we like to call the JFRC) and I figured, like the rest of us Rome Starters, that it would be only freshmen on campus. Weren’t we in for a surprise! We get here and we realized that there were only 7 Rome Start students and the rest of the students were going to be some sophomores, plenty of juniors and some seniors. All 180 of us live together in the dorms (or at the Zone Hotel). We eat at the mensa (the cafeteria) together, we play calcio (soccer) together and we take some classes together. Many of us have built incredibly tight bonds with the older students and, because we are sharing such an amazing experience in such a magical city together, these bonds cannot be easily broken. We are all a big family. We kind of skipped the whole “making friends” and “getting to know each other” phase and went straight to the point. We are all crazy and goofy and weird in our own way, and that’s OK. In fact, it’s good.
It’s definitely a unique experience living among so many upperclassmen and so few freshmen, and in Rome nonetheless, but we are not treated as any less or as children. Being a Rome Start student is pretty cool because everyone knows who we are. We’re kind of a big thing 😉 It’s an experience I would not change. It’s obviously not a typical freshmen year of college experience, but who says you have to follow tradition? Make your OWN tradition! Join the program and you not only get to THINK outside the box, but you also get to LIVE outside the box!
Think living abroad for your first year of university is weird? YES, it is! But that’s what makes it pretty amazing. People who join this program are not conformists or your average teenage university student. We are all different. We are seeking something different. We are all in it together for a crazy, weird, fun ride. Do you dare?