It is amazing how quickly a place can become a home.
I am currently in my fourth week at the John Felice Rome Center (JFRC) and this small campus — which feels more like a boarding school — has suddenly, and unconsciously, become my new home. This was felt most strongly this weekend when I ventured out on my first weekend trip that wasn’t sponsored by Loyola to the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy.
This trip was thoroughly planned through a student travel service called Bus2Alps, which took care of transportation and accommodation. But it still felt a tad scary to not have the safety net of Loyola-planned reliability — and the Loyola subsidized five-course meals. These Bus2Alps people didn’t care if I got into trouble. They had us bring our passports so they could transfer the responsibility of a delinquent college student straight to the U.S. Embassy.
I didn’t realize until I was on the massive bus (too massive for some bridges apparently, but that’s another story) with only three friends and 50 strangers that I was embarking on an adventure in a foreign country for the first time without a parent figure watching over me, even if that “parent” was a 23-year-old Student Life Assistant (SLA) from the JFRC.
As we traversed along the breathtaking mountains of Amalfi and the black sand beaches in Sorrento and Positano, my fellow travelers and I had to rely on our own intuition and judgment. Even after realizing we weren’t as adult as we had originally thought, it was still an amazing weekend.
Going into the trip, I thought I would just see the sights and enjoy the beach, but a majority of my thoughts weren’t related at all to the amazing beauty of Amalfi. I came out realizing how much I had missed my tiny community back at the JFRC.
Freshmen back in Chicago can probably relate to this, and my fellow upperclassmen probably remember how quickly Loyola became home, even if you lived in the “worst” dorm (shoutout to Campion). Now imagine this happening on a much smaller scale. At the JFRC we currently have about 250 residents, and by this point we all know at least the face of everyone who lives, works or teaches here — if not their room number.
Everyone always told me how close you become with your fellow students in Rome and how the small campus produces a family unit, but I never could have imagined how quickly that happens. Walking back into the JFRC dining hall at the end of my trip, fresh out of a taxi, I was welcomed by the majority of my classmates and the SLAs with inquiries about my trip. I was finally back home.
Here’s to hoping that I don’t become too attached by the end of my stay — but that’s wishful thinking.