Being in Rome Isn’t Enough: Loyola needs to improve the JFRC student experience

For all the excitement with which Loyola promotes study abroad in Rome, the reality falls short.

Two euros might not seem like a lot for doing your laundry. But after a semester filled with extensive European travel and weekly intramural soccer, the idea of a clean shirt and pair of pants starts to sound like a luxurious spa day. The two euro price, roughly $2.15 in U.S. dollars according to Forbes, begins to feel like a burden.

At the very least, it’s reasonable to expect to have access to functioning laundry machines that are mostly available when you need them. It’s also reasonable to expect cash exchange machines where students can reliably trade in their five or 10 euro bills for the coins used to start the machines. 

For students at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center this isn’t the case. In addition to the difficulties plaguing the on-campus laundry system, students routinely complain about the food provided on campus, an especially sore subject given Italy’s reputation for cuisine. The lack of study spaces and the abundance of insects in the buildings are also frequently raised issues.

Currently the campus isn’t even big enough to house the number of students who were admitted to the program this semester. Some JFRC students were housed in an off-campus hotel for the entire spring semester.

It’s worth noting the ways the needs and uses of the JFRC differ from the Chicago campuses. Save for some Rome Start and a few other full-year students, it only houses most students for one semester — a European pit-stop on the way to a Chicago-based graduation. The campus isn’t designed as a four-year destination in itself.

Despite this different timeline, it still houses students. It still needs to function as a school and campus, and it still needs to provide students with the essentials to get by.

The mere fact that students are given a bed and access to a bathroom isn’t enough if they wake up every morning with new mosquito bites or have to step over a line of ants to get into the shower.

The studying experience, especially during midterms and finals, is impeded when all but two classrooms are locked overnight, forcing students to choose between studying in the usually-busy student lounge or the cramped library.

As most students measure their time at the JFRC in weeks or months and not years, many don’t feel the need to complain, and these pervasive problems continue from semester to semester.

While the campus largely fulfills students’ basic needs for the time they spend there, its inadequacies detract from the overall study abroad experience. Time that could be spent with friends is instead spent scrounging for a reliable source of coins and students’ travel budgets are eroded by delivery orders because they can’t stand another dining hall dinner.

Despite the positive aspects of spending a semester in Rome, Loyola has a lot of room to improve the JFRC experience. The campus is frequently highlighted in Loyola’s advertising. Its status as a satellite Loyola campus, and not a partnership program with an Italian university, eases some of the traditional burdens of studying abroad and is a big draw for prospective students.

For all the excitement with which Loyola promotes the study abroad experience and its campus in Rome, the reality falls short.

As students navigate Rome’s notoriously unreliable bus routes through streets paved with history, they also navigate the winding halls of the JFRC, trying to find the equally unreliable laundry rooms. As they learn, through trial and error, to navigate the hodgepodge of family restaurants and tourist traps, they also learn which dining hall meals are good enough and which to avoid.

This burden of hardship and discovery is an important part of the study abroad experience, but it is experienced enough outside the campus. On campus, students shouldn’t have to navigate an equally foreign environment to find some comfort.

Featured image by Hailey Gates | The Phoenix

Holden Green

Holden Green