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Tag: Loyola University Chicago

History in the Making

History in the Making

This past weekend I took a trip to 1944.

Utah was the NCAA basketball champion, Pensive won the 70th Kentucky Derby, the Oscar for best picture went to Casablanca, FDR was re-elected President, and Dwight D. Eisenhower was a five star general for the American Army serving as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe as World War II started to wind down.

The United States has been very fortunate not to have had many modern wars fought on domestic soil. Europe, however, is a different story.

For two days, myself and 40 other students witnessed first hand the graves, troop landing sites, battle sites, and museums of WWII. It is one thing to read about these things in history books; it is quite another to see the actual battlefields and read all of the names, ages, and hometowns of the men and women who fought and died. It is a strange and sobering feeling that creeps into your stomach when you realize that you are the same age as they were.

On the first day, we visited Pomezia, the German War Cemetery. The sheer simplicity of the layout, the entrance, and the tombstones perfectly reflect a classic German style. The space is somewhat small for being the final resting place of 2,740 soldiers, but it looks that way because three individuals are buried in each plot. I found two soldiers that I share a birthday with. They died at the young ages of 21 and 22–only one and two years older than me. If that doesn’t make you appreciate the life you have, then I don’t know what will.


Our next stop was the Museo Piana dell Orme. This was no ordinary museum. This museum had life-size replicas of scenes from the war, complete with real artifacts and chilling sound effects. There were authentic uniforms, war vehicles, audio tapes of bombs exploding, men shouting, planes, cars, and tanks. We went scene by scene through the war exactly as it happened in Italy: from the invasion of Sicily in July of 1943, to the Allied landing at Anzio that began in January 1944, and finally to the liberation of Rome on June 4, 1944.


After the museum, we traveled to the site of an actual battle, Isola Bella. While the area is now occupied by houses and farm land, it was once littered with bullets and ash as the Axis forces residing on the hills surrounding the area targeted the Allied powers down below. The only remaining clues that a war was fought there 71 years ago, are two columns that had obvious damage from the conflict. Otherwise, Isola Bella is a now quiet and peaceful street.



It was then time to visit another cemetery. The Sicily Rome American Cemetery is located in Nettuno, just outside of Rome, and is the site for 7,861 American servicemen burials. In contrast to the German cemetery in Pomezia, the Sicily Rome American Cemetery had larger crosses, a fountain, a two room memorial, and only one person buried in each grave space. It was a peaceful and moving tribute to the fallen soldiers.


As a group we laid flowers at the grave of John Burke, a Loyola University of Chicago student who was killed near Cisturna in January of 1944. We also saw and read about others buried at the site: Ellen Ainsworth, a nurse who died while helping patients during a gun fight; Sylvester Antolak, a Medal of Honor recipient, and Henry T. Waskow, whose death was emotionally depicted in a widely-read column written by Ernie Pyle (who died in Japan in 1945).

We placed a wreath beneath the Brothers Statue (one man represents the Navy and the other represents the Army–they symbolize the bond American service men and women have) in the memorial, and were able to lower and fold the American flags as representatives of the John Felice Rome Center. It was an incredibly moving experience, and one I won’t soon forget.


Next on the itinerary was the beach at Nuttuno, close to where the Allies stormed the beach in Anzio. This was a nice change of pace compared to the rest of the day. The sound of waves replaced the loud roar of bombs, and the view of a luminous sunset replaced the visions of wounded and dead soldiers, the destruction of bombs and tombstones. After recounting my trip later to my dad, I found out that my great-great-uncle (my Grandpa’s uncle) had been a part of the landing at Anzio. This was so exciting! My dad said that my great-great-uncle lived through the fighting and made it back to the United States in one piece. I had no idea that I had a personal connection to WWII in Italy.


After the beach it was time for pizza and bed. To say that I was tired would be an understatement.

Day two was spent in Rome as we recounted the events that took place on March 23 and 24, 1944. Our first stop was a neighborhood in the city that houses a memorial called Fosse Ardeatine. This is the location of a massacre of over 330 Italian men on March 24, 1944. The events that occurred on March 23rd lead to the mass killing: A group of Italians bombed a German police force as they marched along a narrow street in Rome called Via Rasella, killing 33. The Germans sought reprisal for the attack: 10 Italians killed for each German killed. You can walk through the underground caves to see where the Italians were shot.

Interestingly enough, the group of Germans responsible for the massacre had never before killed anyone, and so it is said that they were most likely pretty drunk when they shot the Italians. The victims were concealed in the caves when the Germans set off explosives to seal the openings. The bodies were found after the war and given proper burials. Each of the victims had a plot in the large memorial that included their name, age, occupation, and pictures. The eerie silence that surrounded this memorial was chilling.


After Fosse Ardeatine, we went to the Museo della Liberazione. The entire museum was just the three small floors that were the German SS headquarters during the war. Prisoners, and those involved in the resistance of the German occupation in Italy, were imprisoned, interrogated, and even tortured there. Two of the floors were small, windowless rooms that looked like closets. These rooms acted as solitary confinement spaces, where a prisoner would spend hours, or even days, in the room. It was chilling to walk into these rooms and see the carvings the people made on the wall.


The building was abandoned by the Germans when they found out the Allies were going to liberate Rome. They took a lot of important papers (the Germans were incredibly good at keeping records-for instance, all of the people killed in the Fosse Ardeatine massacre were listed by name and checked off when they were apprehended). Many other items in the building were well preserved.

The final stop for day two was Via Rasella. This was the street where the bomb went off on March 23. Our two leaders for the trip, Jim and Phil, (who both attended the JFRC as students), recounted the story of the bombing for us while we walked. After the explosion of nails and other shrapnel, the Germans started firing their weapons at anyone and anything around the site. Their bullets hit houses and buildings along the narrow street. There are still holes in some of the structures today.


What struck me the most during the tour of Via Rasella, was that I had ventured along the same streets two days before, but I was completely unaware of the historical significance. Friday. I decided to venture into the city by myself, partly as a challenge to see if I could navigate my way around, and partly because I was restless and anxious to be in the city center after a long week of classes. I started off by the Vatican and made my way to Via del Corso. I eventually found myself in front of the Trevi Fountain. It was breathtaking to be honest- partly due to the realization that I was standing next to the Trevi Fountain, and partly because there were hundreds of people in that tiny piazza and it was hard to move. Anyway, I then thought I would get to the Spanish Steps and take the metro train back to Balduina and JFRC. However, I was completely lost somewhere in between the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps with no wifi and only a package of blackberries I had picked up at a market earlier. That was when I stumbled upon Via Rasella. Of course I had no idea that it was the site of an infamous bombing that lead to a massacre. During my time living in Rome, I have found that this is the case with most of the city. You walk around and admire the ancient architecture that so naturally blends with the modern tones, then you find out there is a story behind everything. Maybe that story is from the age of Constantine in the fourth century, or maybe it’s from the year 1944 and the end of WWII.

This weekend was an emotional one. Seeing cemeteries, battle sites and museums dedicated to the deadliest and most destructive war of all time definitely stirred my emotions and brought out feelings that I cannot begin to accurately describe. There was pride, mixed with sadness, mixed with wonder. Next weekend will also be a busy one for me because it is the start of Fall Break! We are very fortunate to get nine days off from class to go out and explore. I will be traveling to to Munich, Vienna and Prague!

Ciao! Until next time!


The Big and the Small

The Big and the Small


My first 20 days in Italy have been extremely busy but productive! Since arriving all of us at the JFRC have been learning how things work in Rome and on campus, and we all got to spend a weekend in the beautiful region of Umbria! Now that classes are picking up and routines are settling in, I have found I have more time to relax.

This past friday I spent the day roaming around Rome; shopping and sipping cappuccinos in a cute cafe while watching the rain. Friday night, however, was one of my favorite nights so far. Earlier in the week we had the chance to sign up to distribute Panini’s to the homeless in St. Peter’s Square. I signed up, excited about visiting Vatican City.

When I first walked into the square, I was taken aback by how massive it is. I have been in some pretty big stadiums and buildings, but combining the size and historical significance made it feel tremendously magical. It was strange knowing Pope Francis was somewhere in the Papal Apartments right above me.


I was assigned to bag fruit for the homeless to take with them after they got their meal. A few of us set ourselves up in an assembly line and started filling bags with apples, peaches and plums. They all gladly accepted the additional food and thanked us profusely. It was eye-opening how a few small pieces of fruit put such a big smile on their faces and hopefully, eased some of their stress. Everyday at the dining hall there are apples to take and I don’t blink an eye, but there in the middle of Vatican City, apples were revealed to be much more valuable than I assumed.

After that night I could not stop thinking about how important small things are. For example, on Saturday a few friends and I took a day trip to Pompeii. Last semester I took a class on Pompeii for my history minor, so walking around the streets I had read about was something I had been looking forward to for a while!


Toward the end of the day, we were standing in the forum when something caught my eye. On the ground in the middle of the large open space was the imprint of a sea shell in the stone. It was so small and the only reason I saw it was because I noticed a hole in my shoe.


It was such a sharp contrast to everything else we had seen. I felt like I had been looking up the whole day, admiring the mountains outside of the city and the architecture that had been so well preserved after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. After seeing the shell I started to notice details that I might have missed, like the carving of a gladiator in a home and a stone that looked like a lego.

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Overall I had another amazing weekend!

I am excited to get to know Rome better in the coming weeks and will hopefully notice more of the small and unconventional details while still gazing at the bigger things.



My Roman Bucket List

My Roman Bucket List

Buongiorno! My name is Amanda and I will be writing about my adventures on this blog while living in the beautiful and eternal city of Rome! I had never been to Italy before, but I have to say, I am entranced. The people, food, architecture and overall atmosphere are unlike anything I have ever experienced! While I have been able to spend a little bit of time exploring the most famous sites of Rome, I still have a lot of things I want to do. Keeping this in mind, I wrote a “bucket list” to try and complete before I leave in December. A few are popular tourist destinations, a few are things I saw online, and the rest consists of anything my mind could dream up, but I want to do it all!

1. Get aperitivo (appetizers) at a rooftop restaurant.

2. Watch the sunset from the top of Piazza del Popolo.

3. Stare up at the Sistine Chapel for such a long time I get neck pain.

4. Buy a water-colour painting from a vendor in Piazza Navona.

5. Visit the Trevi Fountain while it is under construction and again when it re-opens in October.

6. Eat the largest size gelato I can get while people-watching on the Spanish Steps.

7. Get lost.

8. Tour the Castel Sant’Angelo at night.

9. Stand under the dome in the Pantheon.

10. Watch a sunrise over the whole city somewhere.

11. Buy my own Vespa.

12. Befriend Pope Francis and get invited to dine at the Vatican.

13. Discover an ancient artifact while strolling through the Roman Forum.

14. Get asked if I am Italian by a local.

I am very determined to finish all the things on this list, and will post updates all the time! Sadly I’m only kidding about the Vespa…

Nonetheless, “When in Rome” is truly a phrase I am living out for the next few months. So if that means getting gelato every night, so be it!

Even after living here for about one week, it still takes me by surprise when I wake up and realize that I am in a whole different country. Small occurrences keep me from forgetting where I am! For example, while I was typing this, the computer auto-corrected water color to water-colour. I am definitely not in America anymore!

As I get ready to go to class, I will leave you with a beautiful shot of the Spanish Steps I took two days ago.








Two down, Two to go!

Two down, Two to go!

你好! I have officially been living and studying in Beijing for two weeks and have two more weeks to go! I have to admit that I can’t believe it’s already the third week, it really has flown by. I have looked forward to going to China for as long as I can remember and thanks to China Encounter it was made a reality. These weeks have been filled with fun and fascinating trips to popular tourist spots, restaurants, and “real Beijing” locations.

My goal before coming to China was to really dive into Beijing. This is my first time travelling abroad and I really wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. Whenever I am out and about in Beijing, I always think to myself “People, Places, and Food!”. Yes, this thought may be broad, but whenever I get a little overwhelmed and a feeling of culture shock comes upon me, I remind myself that I want to learn, see, taste, and really enjoy everything relating to the Chinese culture. So far I believe I have succeeded! Although I wish I could spend all day discussing everything, I know that would make for a not so enthralling blog so I have decided to make a few entries with some of my favorite highlights. I will start off with one of my favorite food experiences.

Food checklist: Peking Duck and Hot pot. In preparing for my arrival in Beijing I made a very small food checklist. Of course I knew I would try many different meals that I haven’t heard of, but Peking duck and hotpot were a must do, well actually a must eat. As of now I can check one item off the list: Hot pot! I will admit, I did have high expectations for hot pot, but this experience completely blew me away. Last week, a group of us headed to a hot pot restaurant a few blocks away from campus led by some UIBE Chinese students. I was excited but did not realize what would come next. The host greeted us at the door and took us up the elevator and into the restaurant. There was a room next to the restaurant, where guests were welcome to partake in FREE MANICURES! The service was top notch. We were even given aprons to wear and ziplock baggies to protect our phones.Two boiling pots of broth were placed in front of the twelve of us, and then we dug in. The assortment of food included: shrimp, beef, lamp, potatoes, noodles, tofu, and a few more items that were very tasty, although I am still not sure what they were. I definitely let my adventurous side take over. We all gathered around the pots cooking our food while being entertained by masked dancers and noodles throwers. This was definitely an experience I will never forget.

Hot Pot!
Hot pot!
The Beijing Center
The Beijing Center


Rome for the weekend.

This past weekend a few of my friends and I stayed in Rome. We explored the city and spent the day soaking in the sun. We got to relax by the Tiber near Castel Sant’Angelo and have a picnic. Literally we bought fresh cheese, wine, and bread and had ourselves a romantic little picnic for Valentines Day.

To top it off there was a little man playing his guitar and singing… It was like we were in a movie. I absolutely loved it.

The next day I decided to branch out a little and try something new. I hopped on the train after breakfast and headed to the beach. I jumped on the train to Lido and spent the most beautiful relaxing day wandering around. The train that took me to Lido was called “freccia mare” literally: Sea Train. Omg… I was in love. So I spent the day around this little sea side town.

This weekend was nice because I made memories, simple memories, had so much fun, and everything I did was unplanned. It’s nice knowing that you don’t have to go to another country every weekend to take full advantage of studying abroad. Especially here in Rome.


photo 2 photo photo 1

The Vatican

The Vatican

I got to see the Pope.

Wait… what.

On Wednesday Loyola cancelled classes and got all JFRC students tickets to see Papa Francesco.

5 AM and my friends and I are beginning our 3 mile walk to the Vatican in the pouring rain. What time does the papal audience start? 10:00 AM. It’s ok though. When we reach the walls of the Vatican we are one of the first in line, which means we got the best seats. It paid off because Papa Francesco literally rode directly by us. All the while though, little old ladies and nuns became suddenly vicious and started throwing elbows to see the Pope up close…. Understandably so.

He spoke in 6-7 different languages, blessing the audience, our families, and any articles brought with us.

He truly is a contemporary Pope. When he passed a group of Loyola students, they got him to throw up some deuces for them. Talk about a cool Pope.

That’s it for this post.


Papa Francesco
A Month of Vacation

A Month of Vacation

Tomorrow I leave for vacation for almost an entire month. I’m heading to Puerto Varas in the south of Chile to do some camping, hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities with Theo. We’ll be there for about five days, and then we leave for the island of Chiloé to meet up with some of the other people in the program. From what I’ve been told, the island has a very laid-back culture and is completely different from the rest of the country. After Chiloé, I’ll head to Coyhaique with Theo. It’s a small town in the mountains that is globally known for its fishing. Finally for the last five or six days, I will be in La Serena with Dee and maybe Gaby. La Serena is a beach town on the Pacific that is north of Santiago. Once everything is finished, I’ll arrive in Santiago on March 5 to begin orientation.

Those are my plans for the next month, now on to some things I’ve done in the past two weeks. Probably the most fun and most authentic cultural experience I’ve had is when I went to a salsa club last Friday with some other gringo friends. We paid 4000 pesos to enter, or about $8. The dance floor wasn’t that big, but the place was packed with people. We were definitely the youngest ones there – most people seemed to be in their 30’s or 40’s. I had taken some beginning salsa lessons before, so I thought I would be okay and be able to blend in. What a joke that was! I spent most of the night bumping into people and trying to learn how exactly to dance. Despite the learning curve, the night was a ton of fun and all of us thoroughly enjoyed it.

Another memorable moment, this past Sunday a few of us went hiking in the Andes. The park was about ten minutes from my house and we completed the three hour loop. For the first half, we basically walked uphill and into the mountain range. Although there were still plants, the environment was the closest I have been to visiting a desert. The ground was dirt/sand and there were many dry plants and even cacti! At the halfway point, we descended into the valley and found a small creek running with much more vegetation than on the sides of the mountain. There we had lunch, ate some wild blackberries, and even drank water from the stream! It wasn’t my idea, in fact an employee there told us it was perfectly safe. After seeing others do it and her telling us that she drinks the water often, we filled our bottles with the water. After a long, hot hike, it tasted delicious!

Once again, I cannot thank God and my parents enough for this incredible opportunity. To those reading who have not traveled abroad before, I highly recommend it, even if only for a short period of time. Every day I am learning more about Chilean and Latin American culture. Hopefully I can figure out how to post pictures and allow people to comment and follow me. To everyone in the states, stay warm!

Nos vemos!



Paris, Versailles

Paris, Versailles

This past weekend my friends and I hopped on a plane to the city of love <3 

Getting to Paris was definitely an adventure in itself. It began when the night before we were supposed to leave, we received an email from Ryanair (the most elite airline in Europe) that our flight had been cancelled. Why? Because the entire airport (Ciampino) decided to go on strike for the day. No biggie, Italians on strike is nothing new. I mean even today, they decided that tomorrow they are going on strike so none of the buses will be running. Except this is a huge inconvenience because we have the Papal Audience tomorrow which means my roommate and I will have to walk to the Vatican at 5 in the morning tomorrow. NBD.

So anyway, 3 of my friends were able to rebook their flights for free for the following day. But then there were two of us who couldn’t. Knowing the Italians are pretty chill, we decided to just show up at the airport (without tickets or even a reservation) and beg them to let us on the flight…

After explaining our situation to the ticket lady, she got her supervisor and the fun began (all of this took place around 5 in the morning). The supervisor came and promised us he would do everything he could to get us on the flight with our friends. He rushed us through security and within 5 minutes we were by the gates…. What.

And to top it off, one of my friends forgot she had brought her expensive lotions that were over 3 oz. But no worries, she made friends with one of the workers and she got her through security, cutting everyone in line and even stopping the x-ray machine so she wouldn’t have her lotions confiscated.

It was definitely an experience I’m never going to forget.

So that was the basic summary, details were left out that you probably would not believe unless you had been there. But hey, we made it to Paris!

Side-note: the French men are by far the the most polite, handsome, and respectful.


Naples, Amalfi Coast, Pompeii

Naples, Amalfi Coast, Pompeii

One thing I learned over this weekend was that Loyola will NOT let you starve. All of that walking too and from the Zone was pretty much all for naught. Literally, I don’t think there was one point during our entire stay this weekend that I was hungry.

So yes, Loyola does Wine and Dine you before raising your tuition.

We were taken to see temples and shrines and mountains. The place I want to talk about most though was the Amalfi Coast. Here’s a picture just so you can see why I am dying to talk about it.

View from my wonderful hotel room

So we were taken to this gorgeous hotel on the seaside and I fell in love.

That night we ventured down the mountain to a little town where the nightlife wasn’t too shabby. We wandered, just as college students do, and we found this amazing little hole in the wall. We all piled in there. It was like a Moroccan themed getaway. Instead of chairs, pillows were piled along the walls and mirrors surrounded us.

It was perfect since Loyola took over the place and it was fun to simply hang out with our friends in a close way. We literally sat crossed legged around tables. Talk about taking in the culture…

The next day we visited a buffalo farm which was probably the best thing ever. The buffalo were allowed to do whatever they wanted and they had little massage machines for them. They also got to listen to Mozart all day and they decided when they wanted to be milked. They were some pretty bourgie buffalo.

Our last day there we got to visit a winery next to Mount Vesuvius, where Leo and Bradley Cooper visited. I tasted some of the best red wine I’ve ever had and then we headed down to Pompeii. We ate at a restaurant near Pompeii and then headed home.

Before heading home though, I ran off with a few friends and we explored Pompeii a little more. I mean, we ate in Pompeii so why could we not see it?? We got to see some amazing sights and really see the damage caused by Mount Vesuvius. It was truly an experience.

Pompeii ruins

Loyola, kudos. You did well