Ricci Scholars takes two Quinlan students to Rome and Beijing


Two Ricci Scholars Olivia Muszynski and Alaina Miller studying in Beijing
Olivia Muszynski (left) and Alaina Miller (right) in Beijing as part of the Ricci Scholars Program.

Olivia Muszynski (BBA ’20) and Alaina Miller (BA ’20) spent their junior years together in Rome and Beijing as Ricci Scholars. There, they studied different facets of real estate – and laid the groundwork for international careers.

The Ricci Scholars Program funds students to study abroad during their junior year, spending one semester at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Campus in Italy, and one semester studying at a second international Loyola campus. When Muszynski and Miller studied abroad, the second Ricci semester was spent in Beijing, China. Today, the second semester is spent in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Students conduct cross-cultural research while abroad and finish their project throughout their senior year.

Researching abroad

Muszynski was not entirely sure about studying abroad for a whole year when she first heard about the Ricci Scholars program. “I was scared to apply. I thought ‘Do I really want to spend a year abroad and write a 100-page paper?’ But I had this idea that I wanted to pursue, so I decided to apply.”

Miller, on the other hand, was set on studying abroad. “Freshman year, I started looking at programs that would let me study abroad as much as possible. I started talking to people who’d been through the program. The Ricci Scholarship was the perfect program for me.”

Because of their research, Miller and Muszynski were able to connect to locals in Rome and Beijing, attend local events, network with businesses, and take a deeper look into the two cities.  

“We acquired new connections we wouldn’t have otherwise and experienced the cultures from new perspectives, but also had a great year of study abroad traveling and venturing out of our comfort zones,” says Miller. “I recommend it to everyone.”

“I’ll second that 100%,” says Muszynski. “It kept me busy, but you really are in touch with the community in different ways. Alaina went to migrant camps and conducted interviews with the people who lived there. I got to see a side of the business community and interviewed people at prestigious law and commercial real estate firms in Europe and Asia. The Ricci Scholarship Program expands your network and exposes you to more than a normal study abroad experience.”

Housing and development trends in Rome and Beijing

Muszynski and Miller chose real estate and housing, respectively, as their areas of research given the radically different cultures surrounding development in the United States, Rome, and Beijing. However, they considered the subjects through different lenses. Muszynski, a finance major, focused her research on commercial real estate taxation and investment that would benefit investors in the commercial markets. The United States has unique tax codes through real estate investment trusts (REITs), which are investment vehicles for owning commercial property. Muszynski was curious to see how tax codes in other areas of the world compared.

She found the tax codes in other cultures to be extremely diverse. She says, “Since Rome is such an ancient city, there are many regulations in order to preserve history. The commercial real estate regulations are very strict for good reason.

“In China, there’s no formal taxation that reflects a REIT structure, but many Chinese citizens are lobbying for one. Basically, Chinese investors understand that their real estate investment is lagging in certain areas and are trying to develop tax codes to match other countries’ developed versions of REITs.”

Miller, an international relations major with minors in international business and finance, focused her research on migrant housing availability and gentrification. In her research, she discovered that while gentrification is not a major issue in Rome, it certainly is in Beijing.

In Rome, there is an emphasis on preserving historical sites, so gentrification and modernization does not occur as rapidly.  However, migrants moving to Rome still face affordability and availability challenges when looking for housing. “Rome has many migrants from North Africa, and the migrants are required to apply for housing when they arrive. This results in a huge housing demand, and a large population of people waiting for or left without housing.”  

However, China is still considered a developing country, and the Chinese government wants to develop it further. Immigration patterns in China tend to be intra-national, meaning the majority of migration occurs from rural to urban areas. However, due to China’s strict housing allocation laws (Hukou System), many rural migrants are not eligible for urban housing.

Those who do find housing in the cities are faced with displacement due to gentrification. “The Chinese government has been implementing reconstruction and ‘re-beautification’ of Beijing,” Miller says; “so a lot of these gentrification measures are to ‘beautify’ the city and restore historical architecture, as well as create new infrastructure for business.

“This involved moving a mass number of inhabitants out of the historic center districts in the city and restoring the buildings. Many migrants live in these older structures, so this process implemented forced shut-downs of migrant run businesses and removed them from their homes.”

Preparing for a global career

Beyond having an impressive research project to feature on their resumes, Muszynski and Miller found that the skills gained from Ricci Scholars were an invaluable part of the program.

“I practiced writing, interviewing, and overcoming language barriers,” says Miller. “In general, it helped me become a well-rounded student, researcher, and person. The research content developed my understanding in international law, human rights, and real estate.” 

“I’m not sure about the exact career I want to pursue, but I know I want to work internationally. This program has given me the foundation to be an adaptable worker with skills I would need to work abroad.”

Muszynski agrees that the program helps prepare students for an international career. “The skills and experiences acquired through this program helped me grow personally and professionally in ways I wasn’t expecting.”

Muszynski has already begun her career, working full-time at a Chicago based retail commercial real estate firm.

“I’ve always been interested in real estate and through the Ricci Scholarship Program, I feel like I have a major in commercial real estate as well. It confirmed my desire for an international career path in real estate.”

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