Adventures Abroad

To Chicago, Love Rome: I Miss You, Chicago

Zack Miller | The PhoenixLoyola's stateside campuses offer more diverse food, A&E writer Natalie Doyle said.

When I first landed in Italy four months ago, I hopped in a taxi to head to Loyola’s Rome campus, the John Felice Rome Center (JFRC). I had never stepped foot outside of the United States, and I was excited to be in the country I had always dreamed of traveling to. 

The taxi ride — which felt like it would never end — finally came to a conclusion after driving up a long, winding hill and arriving at the gates of the campus. As I got out of the car, one thought came to my mind.

“Where the hell am I?”

Don’t get me wrong, the campus itself is lovely. Though small, it has a gorgeous courtyard with plenty of flowers and trees. Because of the temperate weather, it’s typical to see groups of students laying out or playing catch.

Natalie Doyle | The Phoenix The Rome campus has a “gorgeous courtyard,” according to Natalie Doyle.

The location is what gets me. The Rome Center is inconveniently located in Balduina, a neighborhood on Rome’s tallest hill, Monte Mario. 

There are a couple of restaurants, grocery stores and other necessities; it just takes a 10-20 minute walk downhill to reach anything. This is unlike Chicago’s Lake Shore Campus, where you can go to the Target two minutes across the street and choose from a selection of the multiple restaurants and cafes nearby.

Getting to downtown Rome is not as easy as you’d think — while the bus ride itself is only about 40 minutes, waiting for one of Rome’s unreliable buses to show up at the station adds an extra 30 minutes to your journey at the very least. Sure, the CTA is wild at times but at least it’s pretty much always fast and reliable.

To add to that, you get more bang for your buck in Chicago. Loyola gives students access to CTA metro cards, which have unlimited swipes for the school months. For students who want to go directly in between the Lake Shore Campus and the Water Tower Campus, there’s a shuttle strictly for Loyola students to use as they please. 

At the JFRC, you’re expected to purchase bus and train tickets out of pocket so you can go to your mandatory on-site class located at the Pantheon.

And as far as the actual academics go, I’ll just say this — I’ve had more trouble in my four classes here (three of which are core) than I’ve ever had in my typical 18-credit semesters at Loyola Chicago.

While Loyola has about 14,000 students, the JFRC has under 200, making it a close-knit community where everyone is in everybody else’s business. If you loved middle school, the JFRC might be the perfect place for you.

Loyola Chicago offers tons of extracurricular activities and student organizations to get involved in. Whether it’s joining Greek life, doing club volleyball or writing for the best student-run newspaper in the country, you can find your niche somewhere.

Natalie Doyle | The Phoenix The John Felice Rome Center houses less than 200 Loyola students.

Due to the Rome Center’s small size, there’s a limited number of things to get involved in — although the JFRC rec soccer teams actually made me enjoy watching the sport for the first time in my life and their games were a highlight of the weekdays.

As for life in Rome outside campus, I can’t complain too much. Rome is prettiest in the evening and has some great nightlife at cocktail bars, not to mention amazing food.

If you want said amazing food, however, you’re going to have to venture outside the campus’ enclosure. The JFRC has one dining hall that serves up Italian lunch and dinner every day. The menu is extremely limited, especially for people with food allergies like me. While the food is certainly subpar back at Loyola (here’s looking at you, Aramark), the variety at Lake Shore is much wider and caters to people with allergies and dietary restrictions well.

So, would I encourage other Loyola students to study at the JFRC? This is a complicated answer. 

As someone who had never been able to travel to Europe, I’m extremely happy I studied abroad for the opportunity to visit so many cool places — the JFRC just isn’t the fit for me. While Loyola is far from perfect, I feel at home in the fast-paced city environment with a bigger pool of students.

To put it simply, I miss you, Chicago.

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