The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Samantha Jurvich

I'm a Sophomore at Loyola with a major in English, and I'm studying abroad in Rome. I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, and, while I love my hometown, I always knew I wanted to travel. This will be my first traveling experience outside of the country, barring a day trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. I'm thrilled to share my experiences of Rome's culture, particularly those of Italian food. 
London Calling

London Calling

When my best friend and I decided to go abroad at the same time, I was ecstatic. I’d imagined we’d meet in Paris for brunch or go to Ireland and explore the cliffs each weekend. It wasn’t until move-in got closer that i had to start being a bit more realistic. She was going to live in London, and I’d be in Rome. People always tell you that everything in Europe is so much more accessible than back in the States, but they tend to oversell it a bit, especially when you’re as far south as Rome. When I finally booked my tickets to London, a good month and a half into the semester, I was understandably excited. London would be my first flight in Europe, and I’d get to spend the weekend with my best friend. What more could you ask for?

I have to say, seeing a friendly face, especially your best friend’s, after months away really does live up to the hype. Although I’ve been loving my time here, the further I get into the semester, the more I start to miss family and friends from back home and the comfort of a familiar culture in the city. In that respect, London was exactly what I needed.

London is a big city and the first I’ve been to in Europe. The atmosphere, while completely different from Chicago, reminded me more of my home city than Rome or Venice. It was, admittedly, nice to see some chains and stores I was familiar with; never has walking into a Starbucks been so therapeutic. Even the food – burgers, fries, tacos – was a nice call back to my life in the US.

The comfort of familiar things aside, London was a fascinating city in its own right. Travelling with a Londoner had its perks; she knew all of the best spots, foods we had to try, and how to get around on the Tube. We took a whirlwind tour, passing the Globe, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and countless double-decker buses in a matter of hours. The whole weekend was a balance of sightseeing and spending time doing the things my friend would usually do – going to pubs, the Borough market, hanging out around Soho. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip – something to cheer me up with the dread of midterms looming around the corner.

While London was a beautiful city that I’d wanted to experience since reading Harry Potter and listening One Direction as a child, by far the best part of the trip was seeing someone I loved and had missed since we went away. Even seeing Platform 9 ¾ couldn’t compare to laughing with her over pork sandwiches on the street. Being separated from loved ones can make studying abroad difficult, but it also makes the reunions that much sweeter.

Solo Travel in Ljubljana

Solo Travel in Ljubljana

The prospect of travelling alone both excited me and terrified me. Back home, the closest thing I’d done to a ‘solo trip’ was taking the train from Chicago to the suburbs alone. Still, it was something I’d wanted to try. When I’d decided to take a trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia, I knew I’d be going alone.

It was important to me to experience the country that my family is from, hear the language my last name comes from, and eat the food we only have at holidays back home. Needless to say, however, Ljubljana isn’t on most people’s European bucket list. After experiencing this city for only three days, I can say with certainty that it’s a great trip for anyone looking to be immersed in nature, architecture, and the culture of a capital city that lacks political statues, instead favoring to memorialize their national poet.

Ljubljana was the perfect place to explore on my own. The city’s center is extremely walk-able, and there’s always a cultural event or a castle to explore. Travelling alone gave me the opportunity to talk to locals about their love for the city, great places to eat, and about our shared Slovenian roots. I learned that my last name is spelled Jurjevčič – it was Americanized when my family moved to America. I also had the opportunity to learn more about the country’s history, and the people’s pride in their relatively new independence.

(The famous pink church in the center square of Ljubljana)

The food was comforting to say the least. Sausages and cabbages were all over every menu, along with some of my favorite desserts like potiča, a sweet nut bread. Eating alone was an interesting experience; it’s not as lonely as one might suspect, especially with the anonymity of a crowd. It was an opportunity to take in my surroundings and listen the language more than an embarrassing or rushed event.

Ljubljana was also a sort of spiritual experience for me; one I’m not sure I would’ve had if I’d been with a group of people. Little things, like the accordion players in the town square, brought me back to memories with my grandfather. It was bitter sweet to be in the place he’d wanted to visit without him, and, I’ll admit, I was a bit emotional at times. I don’t know if I’d be able to work through and appreciate the weight of the experience if I’d felt the pressure to move along to the next thing that accompanies group trips.

Solo travel allowed me to do what I wanted without regard for the group’s idea, which was a nice change. While I love travelling in groups and don’t have a strong desire to do many more solo trips, being alone and deciding things for myself was what I needed after weeks of being surrounded by other people.

(The Dragon Bridge –  the dragon is Ljubljana’s city symbol)

In my opinion, everyone taking their time abroad should plan at least one trip alone. Whether it’s a day trip to Florence or the eight hour hike to Ljubljana (worth it, by the way), a solo trip is a breath of fresh air between the chaos of school life back at the JFRC. If you are considering Ljubljana, between the art at places like Metelkova, the food, and the beautiful hikes both in and just out of the city, it’s the perfect getaway.

Feeling at Home in Rome

Feeling at Home in Rome

I’d decided I was going to study abroad during my senior year of high school when the decision was, arguably, easy. I was leaving for college the following year, so I didn’t have any ties to life at Loyola’s Chicago campus yet. Even as I applied for the John Felice Rome Center my sophomore year, my nerves were at a low in anticipation of all the new experiences to come. When it came time to actually board my flight to Rome, however, my faith in the decision began to fumble. I was worried that I wouldn’t love Rome the same way I loved Chicago or that I wouldn’t make any new friends to travel with. My relief was palpable when, in just the first few weeks of my JFRC experience, both of my doubts were set aside.
Orientation was pleasantly exhausting. We spent most of the first week venturing around Rome, seeing everything from the Colosseum to a whole in the wall restaurant that served authentic pasta for four euro. The near constant immersion in the city made me fall in love with Rome and its contradictions; I’ve always loved Chicago, but even when I moved there for university, I never felt quite as at home as I did dodging puddles in the cobblestone streets near the Forum.

While I was discovering that Rome was the place I’d been looking for, I was surrounded by people who felt the same, the majority of whom had not come to the JFRC with a pre-established group of friends. I expected making friends to be the most difficult part of the journey, but everyone at the JFRC is there to meet people who share this same desire to see the world. During a scavenger hunt wherein we ran around the city taking pictures of all of the quintessential Roman sites, I made friends with a wonderfully positive group that shared my traveling desires and a few of my classes.
There have been nights where I miss my family and friends back home immensely, but the experiences that I’m having during the day make it much easier to cope with. As the days go on, I find myself reflecting on the cappuccino that blew my mind or the breathtaking view from the top of the Spanish Steps instead of how badly I miss Chicago. There are so many things to love about Rome; the hills are nothing like I’ve seen in the suburbs, pasta here is never overdone, and historic churches and ruins are always a few steps away, offering an insight into the city’s history, present, and future. When I do connect with my family and friends, they’re always anticipating stories about my life here and encouraging me to continue chasing personal growth in the eternal city. Connecting with a time change is easier than I’d thought, and the distance has made hearing about life back home is even more entertaining than before I left. I will never not miss my life in Chicago, but I’ll be back within four months. I’ll only have a life here in Rome once, and I can’t wait to live it to the fullest.