Student Spotlight: My time here in Rome
Courage. It’s something we all strive to possess; it’s something that not all of us have. However, without courage, I never would have applied to the John Felice Rome Center. Courage is something, I’m proud to say, my parents instilled in me. So, I made the decision to study abroad.
I traded my small town for the city of Rome in August, not sure what to expect. I boarded a plane for only the third time in my life and traveled five thousand miles to a place I’d only ever seen in movies and read about in books. I traded familiarity for unfamiliarity. How glad I am that I did it. Stepping out of my comfort zone and coming to Rome, I was able to gain a new perspective on my own culture through the eyes of another. Rome offered newness and unfamiliarity and change. I didn’t come here in search of the best pizza in the world or an Italian boyfriend. I came here to really discover myself, and that is exactly what I have done.
Never before would I have thought I’d be so comfortable discovering new things on my own. On any given day, wandering through the streets of Rome is quite liberating. I can visit any museum, monument, church, or ruins I’d like, and enjoy an aperitivo at a restaurant known only to locals. It’s during the times that I’m alone that I have realized how fortunate I am to be here – exploring a country my ancestors left behind a hundred years ago. Being here, speaking the language, eating the food, and drinking the wine of my ancestors, I have reconnected with the past. It all seems to have come full-circle, and I am incredibly grateful for this. In my wildest dreams, I never would have thought that I’d be traveling to other countries . Come Sunday night after a weekend of traveling outside Italy, I board the plane wishing to be back home already. That’s when it hits me – Rome is home. It’s the strangest thing realizing that this city is now my second home.
Before coming to Rome, I dreamed of meeting new people and experiencing other cultures – that is exactly what the JFRC has offered. The small community at the JFRC is one that fuels students’ desires to travel, explore, dream, and discover. Each morning, I wake knowing that I will learn something new or maybe visit an emperor or two. This city offers an environment where we, as students, never stop learning. So, I can sit in history class and learn about Maximinus Thrax and Marcus Aurelius, and then I can walk into the Capitoline Museums and stand face-to-face with them. These emperors are no longer just names in history books when they’re standing right in front of me. History comes to life in this city where its ancient ruins are still a part of everyday life. History aside, the city itself is one that feeds growth and exploration. Every monument has a story and around each corner lies a new discovery. The pagans almost demand my respect when I stand beneath the Oculus of the Pantheon, and Constantine commands my attention when I stand before his Arch. Roughly two thousand years later, and these monuments are still a part of this great city. It’s absolutely incredible.
Aside from this city being beyond what I ever imagined, the Rome Center campus is such a wonderful place to study. While it is a sort of “bubble” outside of the city center, it is not difficult to just step out of the gates and get to know the neighborhood. The faculty and staff do a wonderful job of facilitating this, as well. On-site classes and on-site projects force even the most unwilling students to get to know Rome better – and it is through this, that Rome becomes familiar. As I stated before, the campus itself feeds growth and discovery. Right from the beginning, faculty and staff make students feel welcomed and appreciated here. We are so fortunate to have such remarkable faculty and staff members. Having a conversation with a professor on any given topic, I feel heard. My words and thoughts matter to these professors. They propel us forward – toward something greater than just making “A”s on exams. The staff here has worked to help all students feel at home from the first week on campus – and this campus has become home for me, thanks to them. (Shout-out to Cindy Bomben for you being you.)
All I can truly say to those even considering study abroad is this: DO IT. Do not be afraid of the unknown. Do not be afraid to find a new you. Do not be afraid to step away from the comfort you have found in your scheduled day-to-day lives. Father Al, JFRC's Campus Minister, always says to me, “Coraggio, cara.” Courage, dear. In everything I do – I remember these words. Just have courage. Step away from the wi-fi. Step away from the comforts of home. Step away from expectations, rules, and regulations. Discover yourself in a new country with new people. Coraggio, cari.
By Meghan Allen, Class of ‘16