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Travel Catch Up: The Joys and Pains of Meeting New People While Travelling

Travel Catch Up: The Joys and Pains of Meeting New People While Travelling

Hello all, it’s been a while since I’ve written, but I have a good reason for my absence- my laptop broke and it has been quite a journey to solve my tech issues. So, I come to you from an iPad, which is a little more inconvenient to type on, but I wanted to make another post catching up on the last few weeks!

Last I left off, I was in quarantine still and hoping that I would be out in time for spring break— luckily, I tested negative on Wednesday in time for in-person midterms, and on Thursday I jumped onto a plane!

Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon, oh my!

My first stop was Barcelona, Spain. I met up with my friend Ellie Stotz (who I had also traveled with in Venice and visited with in Paris) and we spent 3 days walking what felt like the entirety of the city, seeing a beach for the first time in what felt like forever, and experiencing true Barcelona culture: tapas and drinks at 5, dinner at 10, and clubbing until 3 in the morning.

Jamie, Ellie and I on our night out together!






One of the joys from this trip is that I got to meet Ellie’s roommate in Paris, Jamie. She was so fun, we went out with her and her friends from her hostel to a club, and met up with them again for dinner the following night. Unfortunately, I have not gotten to see Jamie again, and she goes to the University of Alabama, so it is unlikely that I will get to hang out with her again, which makes me sad. As I have come to learn, this is a theme from my travels, and also the theme of this post— meeting amazing people I want to be friends with, but having only a little time with them before I never see them again.






From there, we headed to Madrid. Ellie only had one day there before she had to quickly go back to Paris for a school project, and I had another 2 days there by myself. Ellie and I explored most of the highlights our first day, so the following two I got my first taste of solo traveling seeing some museums, visiting everything that we had missed, and finding plenty of cafés.

Because I was alone, I decided to take this opportunity to make some new friends (especially because I still am not the best at eating dinner alone!) My first day without Ellie I explored a ton of museums by myself, and revisited our favorite park, and met a boy named Nate who was studying in Madrid on a semester abroad from the University of Massachusetts. I also met a boy from Cornell that I hung out with the following day, so while I guess I was doing a “solo trip”, I wasn’t truly alone.


Then, I headed to my last destination for break, and potentially my favorite city of all the places I have visited, Lisbon, Portugal. It felt like a European San Francisco (somewhere I also love), complete with a giant red bridge, famous trolleys and hills, and beaches– though it had a lot more history and, of course, Portuguese culture.

We stayed in an amazing hostel where we made a lot of friends that we got to spend time with everyday. There was a group of boys from London staying there for a few weeks that we met, and we also made friends with some of the people who worked there. They stayed for free and worked as compensation, and boy was I jealous of that lifestyle— they just got to hang out with their friends and meet people from all over the world and make new friends all of the time.

The “closest” friend I made in Lisbon was a boy from Germany named Johan that was working at our hostel. This was someone I could definitely see myself being friends with, we had the same music taste and interests, and he was really fun, but I got 3 days with him before I came back to Rome. This was the first instance of me being really sad about leaving friends I had made, because this was someone that I truly felt a friendship forming with, but considering that he lives across the world, I will likely never see him again in my life. While I am jealous of the hostel-worker lifestyle, I’m not sure how they deal with people leaving all of the time, it’s hard to comprehend that these people come into then are likely gone from my life so quickly!

One big cross over episode

My next trip with friends was to Amsterdam in the first week of April! The theme of this trip was old friends meeting new friends— as a friend here put it, it was “one big cross-over episode”.

I went with my roommate Cosette, and learned that my friend from high school, Darren who studies at Georgia Tech and is currently abroad in Metz, France, was going the same weekend. He was traveling with 3 of his friends from school, and we met up with them at the Van Gogh Museum. It was really neat to see him again and to meet his friends, and for Cosette to meet him, I had never had college friends meet high school friends in person before! His friends, Emily, Anahita, and Katie were super cool, and I’m sad that I didn’t get to hang out with them more! (Are you noticing a theme yet?)

On Sunday Cosette and I hung out with a girl named Andrea who had been staying with us. She took one of the beds in the room in our hostel, and she is our friend Malena’s friend from high school! We explored markets and got some famous apple pie, and she was really cool to hang out with but it was odd to meet her without Malena being there. I’ll luckily see Darren when we’re both home, but the other 4 I likely won’t, which, again, so sad.

First Solo Adventure

For Easter break, I had my first solo trip! I was headed to London, England for 3 days, and Edinburgh, Scotland for 2 days. My first day in London I walked around as much of the city as I could, finding cute markets and a huge thrift store, seeing the Tate, a modern art museum, and getting dinner with one of the girls from my hostel, Linda who was from Munich.

The next day I did some more exploring, then actually got a cool opportunity to hang out with people! I had made a friend named Ella when I was staying at my hostel in Venice, and she lives in London working for Netflix. Ella invited me to hang out with her and her friends that afternoon/evening. Ella, and her friends Lydia and Megan, took me to Camden, and up to Primrose hill which had a view of all of London. That evening I got to meet their flat-mate Jonah, and they took me along to a going-away party for their friend Monika. They were all very sweet when I had to leave, giving me hugs and making me promise to follow them on Instagram and stay in touch.

I am not sure how people handled making friends while traveling back in the 90s and early 2000s. I am so thankful to have social media to be able to stay in contact with these people. Even if it’s just seeing a glimpse of their life every now and then, it’s still better than in the past, when it’d really just be chance to ever run into them or hear from them again!


My next stop was Edinburgh. I stayed in a really awesome hostel, right at the foot of the famous castle on the hill, and it was in a great area overall. I also had someone to meet when I got there! My friend Christian Kephart, back at Loyola in Chicago, had a friend from high school Dervla, who had moved there from Ireland. She moved back to the UK for university, to the University of Edinburgh, and agreed to show me around the city! The night I got in, she met me outside of my hostel and we went to a popular chain in the UK called Spoons for dinner and drinks. We ended up getting along extremely well (we have the same music taste and sense of humor, and love to tell/hear stories) and I went back to her apartment with her to hang out more! We also texted Christian to make sure he knew that his two friends were getting along.

(stolen from BeReal, the new social media app the 3 of them made me get) Alex and I are in the large picture, with Diego and Dervla in the top left!




The next day I walked, again, what felt like all of Edinburgh (I have a thing with walking 10+ miles while exploring new cities as I have learned). Then Dervla texted me and asked if I wanted to hang out again with her that day, and meet her flat-mates. So that afternoon I spent time in a famous park there called the Meadows with Dervla, and her two friends Alex and Diego. They were really cool and fun to get to know, and we ended up spending the rest of the day together, getting food, showing me things I had missed on my self-guided walking tour, and going back to their place for a movie.


I think that this group of people was the hardest to say goodbye to. How we interacted felt exactly like how my friends and I back in Rome and back in the States interact, and I really felt like we could have been great friends if I got more than 48 hours there. But unfortunately, they study in Scotland, and I study in Rome/Chicago. It was still amazing to meet them though, and I’m so glad I did. It made my Easter break a not-so-solo trip.





So, that’s me all caught up on trips with new people! I have less than 2 weeks now, and will give an update on my last few trips with friends, how I’m feeling about going home, and what finals season in Rome is like. For now I’ll leave some advice for any students that may be reading this who are considering going abroad:

1. Stay in hostels when you travel, don’t exclusively stay in Airbnb’s. It’s the classic way for young people to travel, and it’s an awesome way to meet new people. You can use the website HostelWorld to find well rated ones or ones that are good for young people/partying, and they’re much cheaper than other alternatives!

2. Put yourself out there to meet new people. Traveling with your friends is great, but there’s genuinely nothing better than being able to come back from your time abroad having made friends from all over the world. (Plus, you’ll always have somewhere to stay if you travel to where they live in the future!) Small groups when traveling with friends makes this easier!

3. Be active on Instagram. You may already be, or you may have gotten rid of it as a social-media cleanse, but it is a great way to keep in touch with anyone you may meet, whether it is people from your school studying abroad with you, or people you meet while traveling. It is also a wonderful way to document your time abroad, in case you don’t want to blog about it 😉 Many of my friends, including myself, have made separate accounts to document our time abroad, and it’s so nice to look back on, and is also a great way to keep friends and family updated on what you’re doing! (If you need an example, my account is lauren_goesabroad, feel free to check it out!)


Well, that’s it for now- if you read through all of this huge update, thanks for sticking with me!

Abroad During a Pandemic and War

Abroad During a Pandemic and War


I had been doing so well for 2 years, but I finally caught Covid-19. I am thankful in a way that I got it now because I am fully vaccinated with a booster, meaning that my symptoms have been all but nonexistent, and most importantly I didn’t spread it to any of my friends. I also was not traveling this weekend that I was stuck in quarantine since it was the weekend before midterms. No traveling or money was lost out on! That’s always a benefit.

I have been in quarantine since last Monday, February 21, when I got my test result back. I was in Paris that weekend visiting my roommate from last semester, and I caught it in France because when I came back to campus and did the mandatory testing for going out of the country, that’s when we found out. So, I’ve been in a little room by myself ever since. I am actually going on almost 9 days– I tested yesterday (Monday) after the mandatory 7 days and was still positive to my dismay. My friends and the resident life faculty have been really nice to me since I’ve been in here, friends have gotten me groceries, my roommate has brought me a ton of things that I forgot, and one of the Res Life people, Simone (who we all love here), even bought me a crepe yesterday because he felt bad that I was still positive.

Still, it’s been difficult. I’ve missed being outside and being with my friends, and it has been hard to focus and get a lot done. Considering that it is midterms week, my lack of motivation has not been ideal at all. It doesn’t feel good either, because, in theory, I have so much time, but I simply cannot force myself to do what I need to. I usually am one that needs a change of scenery, some physical exercise, and a good amount of coffee to be productive when I’m in a slump, and I have access to none of that here.

Nonetheless, I’m trying to do the best I can with what I have. When I tested positive, the nurse told me that I was “almost there,” so hopefully I will be okay tomorrow when I test again. If not, I have no idea what I will do! So I’m just trying to think positively for now. I will hopefully be negative, in person for my midterm exams, and on a plane to Spain for my spring break trip on Thursday night. Maybe putting it into writing will help it happen.


The Russia-Ukraine Situation

I have gotten a lot of texts from friends and family making sure that I am safe, and wondering if I will be sent home. Not that long ago, I was wondering the same thing myself. I was not very educated on the relations between Russia and Ukraine, besides the fact that Ukraine used to be a part of the Soviet Union. Since then, I have become much more educated, and I feel that it is my responsibility to.

The irony of being in Europe for this situation is not lost on me, it feels very fitting for someone who graduated in 2020, was told I wasn’t allowed on campus until 2021 and had to change their study abroad location many times over due to Covid. That being said, I do not at all intend to make this situation about me. I have been seeing a lot of discourse about how people in the West, Americans my age, in particular, are making this horrible situation about themselves, saying that “they’re going to be drafted into World War 3,” and that they’re “tired of living through historical events.” I do not intend to be one of these people. The fact of the matter is that we are bystanders to this horrible event, even me and my peers, who are in Europe as it is happening.

What I do know is this:

  • We (myself and the students here in Rome) are not being sent home early, and unless something truly terrible and unexpected happens, we will not be leaving until May as scheduled.
  • We are not in danger. The fighting has been in Ukraine and Ukraine only, and it is highly unlikely that Russia would expand fighting to other countries, given that Ukraine is surrounded by NATO countries, and this would *actually* trigger WWIII.
    • We are not in danger to the extent that we have not been limited in traveling for Spring break besides going to Ukraine. We’ve been warned about potential dangers or complications in the instance that we were traveling to countries accepting refugees such as Poland or Hungary, but that is all.
  • I need to be more proactive about keeping up with world news.

I have been educating myself on the history of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia, as well as looking into ways to support Ukrainians during this time. Donating to grass-root organizations in Ukraine has been one of the most useful things I have found that I can do. Second to this is to not spread misinformation, and do what I can to suppress the “American” in me by not making this about myself, because the truth is, it doesn’t involve me at all and I am extremely privileged for that.

All in all, though, I am safe, the program will not be cut short, and I am doing my part to advocate against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and to support the Ukrainians where it is needed.


On a lighter note, I’ll be posting an update about my most recent travels soon, as well as where I am headed for Spring Break (pending I test negative tomorrow– wish me luck!).

Wondering around the Ruins of Pompeii

Wondering around the Ruins of Pompeii

While staying in Naples with two friends (which I will write about later), we took a day trip to visit Mount Vesuvius and the Pompeii archeological site.

In the morning, we took a minivan from the train station to the entrance of the Vesuvius National Park. It was very windy but we managed to hike up to the top. There we were able to look into the top of the volcano and enjoy beautiful sights of the coastline. In a small shop at the top we had some hot chocolate bought a couple postcards before walking back down.

Then, the minivan took us to the Pompeii archeological site. We bought our tickets, grabbed a map and started exploring the ruins. From the entrance of the park you can see big structures welcoming travelers as you continue into the heart of town. Looking up at the structures and imagining a bustling roman town was a truly memorable experience.


We spent some time walking around and exploring the site. Walking around the main square, theaters, bath houses, gardens, temples, and homes with Vesuvius always in the distance. We were free to explore, enter buildings and get up close to appreciate the details which highlighted the experience.

We also visited the Antiquarium which acts as a museum displaying every thing from household objects and jewelry, to paintings, statues, and columns recovered from the site. This experience gave us more information about life in Ancient Pompeii and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.


It was a lot of fun and even if I did not realize it at the moment, having the opportunity to walk around buildings from 70 AD is unbelievable. It was comforting in a way; learning about the art, politics, society and architecture of the time while comparing it to that of the renaissance and even that of our time offered a fun contrast between how far we have come and how much we share with Ancient Roman society.

Villa Borghese – Art and Luxury

Villa Borghese – Art and Luxury

While reading my travel guide there was a palace that immediately caught my attention. According to the book, Villa Borghese was designed to prove the art of the Renaissance could compete with the classical art of Ancient Rome. I bought my tickets that same day and now I can confidently say the architects and designers fulfilled their vision.

I started my tour by walking around the gardens on my way to the museum. Walking around trees, bushes, fountains, statues, lakes and temples; I encountered some families, people walking their dogs and couples holding hands, giving the gardens a pleasant atmosphere and a sense of community similar to that of public parks in the United States.


I finally reached the museum and stepped into the luxurious rooms, beautifully decorated with columns, paintings, stucco sculptures, bronze busts and gorgeous marble centerpieces. Every room had several works of art depicting Greek stories, scenes from Christianism, and landscapes amongst other themes; giving each space an individual identity. Each piece must have taken such detail and care that my appreciation for artists greatly increased after the visit.


The best known statues are displayed as centerpieces in the rooms by the entrance. They are the Rape of Proserpina, Apollo and Daphne, and the David. The light installations and pillars let you appreciate the beauty of the marble and the details all around the sculpture. These depictions with muscular men, flowing fabric, and intricate details are beyond impressive and alone make the visit to the museum worth a trip.


After touring the two story house filled with art from the mosaics in the floors to the ceiling frescos, I headed back to the gardens for a snack and after walking around I went back to campus. I spent the bus ride imagining what it would be like to grow up in a house like that, surrounded by art and luxury with ample time to explore their secrets and ponder on their meaning. I love studying in Rome and getting the opportunity to witness all these works of art.

How I’ve Been Recently + a Trip to Florence

How I’ve Been Recently + a Trip to Florence

Update on me

These past few days have been interesting, to say the least. At the very beginning of our semester here, the school psychologist talked with us about the different “stages” that study abroad students, or anyone who moves abroad for that matter, tend to go through. The first stage is one of excitement and anxiety; everything is new and slightly overwhelming, and the weeks are a blur of new people, new places, and new experiences. Once that initial excitement wears off, you enter into stage 2, which is characterized by stress, frustration, and homesickness. This is where I’m at, right on schedule. I love the people I’ve found here, but I am definitely craving a hug from my family. Difficult situations from other personal matters have also been coming at me all at once recently, so that’s contributing as well.

That isn’t to say I haven’t still been having tons of fun. That’s nearly impossible to do here– there’s too much to do and see to not find joy in it. However, I’ve also had to remind myself that it’s okay to not be doing something at every moment of the day. For anyone currently abroad or planning to go abroad, I offer this advice that I’ve had to remind myself of recently: it’s okay to say no to things and to still take time for yourself, just like you would if you were home. Sure, you may want to say yes to everything at the beginning, and want to do as much as possible in your short amount of time here, however, no one can go at that pace forever. You are in a new place, with new people, and it can be hard. And it is okay to take some time to yourself, to just stay in, and to find some peace. That’s what I’m doing right now, actually, as I am writing this. It’s hard to not feel like I’m missing out, but I know I’m going to be better for taking this time.


Update on Classes

Classes have been going pretty well so far– it’s been interesting to take an entire line-up of core classes and get a break from studying my majors and minor. I like learning Italian, but as someone who grew up monolingual, it’s a bit tricky to try to keep French (my minor) and Italian (my brand new language) separated in my head. I’ve found myself saying “merci” in response to people here, or only being able to think of the Italian word for something I want to say in French. I had a ton of respect for people who could speak multiple languages before this, and the respect and admiration have grown even more since attempting to do it myself.

I really enjoy my Baroque Art class, as we get to explore different places every week instead of sitting in a classroom listening to lectures. So far, we have seen the Vatican museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. I usually am not one to read every single thing assigned to me in class if it is optional, but knowing the history and context of what I am looking at is something that I really enjoy. I even made my first guy-friend here in that class- it doesn’t sound that impressive, but I swear it is an 8-1 girl to boy ratio here so I take it as a win.

My voice class has been okay, despite my inability to sing. The professor can sense that I am very nervous, and helps out a lot which is kind. I really enjoy my religion and gender class– those topics are things that I can talk about forever. It is really interesting to learn about it from a theological lens too since I am not a religious person myself. My writing class is all about love during the Renaissance, so that too I find pretty cool. I think I definitely lucked out on all of my class choices!

Speaking of classes, we usually don’t have classes on Fridays, but this week we did because the school gave us off on Wednesday to go to the Papal audience!

Pope Francis walking down the aisle through a ton of people leaning in for pictures and blessings (photo from another classmate)

Update on Travelling

Now for the interesting stuff– my second weekend trip! I went to Florence and was there with what felt like half of the JFRC student population. I was with 6 other girls where I was staying, we hung out with 3 others nearly every day, 12 of us went on a wine tasting together, and we saw a variety of other groups there either out in the streets, at museums, or on Michelangelo Hill watching the sunset.

On Friday, we got in and did a lot of walking and exploring. We were staying 2 streets away from the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the main church in Florence! We walked the main streets that were bustling with restaurants and stores, saw the Ponte Vecchio, crossed the river, and walked up to Michelangelo Hill to watch the sunset over the city. That night we found a great restaurant Dante e Beatrice. Our waiter took a liking to our friend Emma and gave us 30% off of our food plus free dessert and limoncello! (I highly recommend this place even without the discount!)

Saturday we went to an adorable café in the morning called Ben’s then walked over to an awesome market called Mercato Centrale Firenze. It had a bunch of stands for produce, meat, pasta, and pastries on the first floor, and on the second was an upscale food court of sorts, with a ton of restaurants and seating. Then we went off on a wine tour that explored the Chianti area, visiting two wineries, learning about the history of the area, and trying great wine that will make it quite hard to go back to the stuff that college kids can afford when I’m back at home.

Sunday our large group got lunch from a good salad place together, then broke off to do what we all wanted. I visited Galleria Academia and the Uffizi museum, and talked to an adorable artist who spoke to me in French and English about his art and what I could do to be involved in French culture while in Rome! I met back up with some others, and we shopped around and got gelato (of course) and food before heading to the bus station to get back to Rome.


This weekend, as I may have implied in the beginning, I am taking time for myself. We had a Friday class day this week (one of only 3) so we had a short weekend that was not the best for traveling. Instead, we are exploring more of Rome, and healing from the busy past 3 weeks. It feels like we’ve been here so much longer than that though! It’s been nice so though, not to get back from a trip and immediately be planning the next. I am even getting to save money because I’m booking things for trips more than a few days in advance, so that’s great!

I’ll sign off for now, thanks for reading.

Exploring the Pantheon and the Church of Saint Ignatius

Exploring the Pantheon and the Church of Saint Ignatius

Last week I took a bus to the city center to explore the area in between classes. I visited the Pantheon, Minerva Square and The Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.

I started by visiting the Pantheon, a Roman temple, originally built in 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa and then rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian around 120 AD. It was later repurposed as a Christian Church dedicated to all martyrs. Its dome inspired the Florence cathedral dome, the dome of Saint Peters, and the US Capitol dome in Washington.  The oculus on top lights up the building and the altars along the walls acting as the only source of light.


Along the walls are a series of altars and tomb stones added in the 1700s once the temple was turned into a Christian Church. They were commissioned by Pope Clement XI and designed by Alessandro Specchi.

The main altar is decorated with gold and bronze elements as well as mosaics.

Statues of San Rasso and Saint Anastasius adorn its sides.

The Chapel of the Annunciation with a fresco painted by Melozzo da Forli.

Tomb of Umberto I, second king of Italy.

Tomb of Raphael, an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance.

Tomb of Victor Emmanuel II, father of Italy.

Afterwards I kept walking around the Pantheon and found the square of Minerva through an alleyway behind the Pantheon. I keep getting surprised whenever I find these churches, piazzas and obelisks around the city. Unfortunately the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva was closed but I might go back and visit it later.


I kept walking and after looking at Google Maps I found the piazza of Saint Ignatius of Loyola was nearby. It felt like a fun coincidence and since I am a Loyola student I thought it would be a great idea to go inside and explore.




After entering the Church I immediately turned to look at the ceiling and I saw this beautiful painting, depicting Saint Ignatius accompanied by angels. It includes an optical illusion of height and looking into the infinite sky.






I then walked to the front approaching the main altar, painted during the late 1600s and early 1700s. The paintings illustrate key moments in Saint Ignatius’s life and his vocation as well as the foundation of the Society of Jesus.




The altars and tombs around the main area dedicated to Jesuit saints. They are decorated with impressive marble statues, golden details, frescoes and spiraling columns. Each altar has a small dome on top with images of the sky and angels, including a light source illuminating the paintings.


I really liked this church, I loved all the detail put into the structure and the way a building itself can embody and honor the life and legacy of Saint Ignatius.

Then I continued walking around until it was time to go back to campus. I enjoyed simply walking around Rome without a clear destination, finding obelisks, fountains, and monuments around the city. There is an undeniable charm to a city filled with so much art and culture at every turn.

Orvieto, Naples, Pompeii… and classes too

Orvieto, Naples, Pompeii… and classes too

Our first week of school felt much more subdued compared to last week, at least until classes ended for the week.

Personally, my classes all went well, I am in a voice class (despite my inability to sing) because my friends convinced me to join it, as well as a Baroque art class that visits sites throughout the city, a religion and gender class, a European masterpieces literary class, and Italian 101– Italian is required for all students here, which makes sense.

Most of the highlights for me came at the end of the week, which I’ll show below!



On Thursday evening, as you can see above, my friends Claudia, Emma, Malena, and I ventured downtown to pick up some of our books for class, then found an adorable coffee shop that I’ve already returned to.




We finished out the night by watching the movie Luca, which, if you have not already seen it, I highly recommend. It’s set in Italy so of course, we had to watch it, and later this semester my friends and I are hoping to visit the town that it is based in! It’s a part of the 5 towns that make up Cinque Terre, which is a collection of seaside towns that you can hike between.




On Friday we had a second day trip to a town called Orvietto, a small town raised up on a hill. The cliff sides that it is on make it look like it’s on top of a natural fortress, and that is exactly how the citizens used the hills over 700 years ago, as natural protection against invaders!



Cosette, Cladia, and I at the old fortress at the edge of Orvieto.


One of the most chaotic parts of this week was planning our weekend trip. Since we only had 2 days, we decided to stay close and visit Naples and Pompeii. Naples most definitely grew on me the longer we were there, and I wish that we would have known some of the history of the city so that we could have better planned our days, but it was still a great first trip! Pompeii was also really wonderful to learn about, and I highly recommend paying for a tour guide if you ever plan to visit.


The harbor and view across towards Vesuvius at sunset. It was breathtaking and we spent a long time here just looking out at the horizon and watching the colors of the sky and water change as the sun went down.


They weren’t lying about the pizza in Naples. We visited Sorbillos, and it was by far my most favorite pizza I’ve ever had





A view of Pompeii and the mountains and greenery in the background that we saw as we were leaving our tour.




Well, that was my second week! Maybe from the pictures, you might not believe it felt less chaotic than the week before, but settling into a routine with school helped. I’ve met such cool people and am continuing and meet more, and I’m excited for the coming weeks!

Orientation Week

Orientation Week

Man, I can’t remember the last time I was as exhausted as I was during orientation week. It was really fun though, meeting a bunch of new people, exploring our new home, and learning about the new school. Here’s a little recap of how the week went!

– Tuesday/Wednesday –

I flew out of the United States from Newark airport, and there were a *ton* of college students on that flight. There were people heading to John Felice like me, both from Loyola Chicago and from other schools like Marquette or Xavier, people from Loyola Maryland heading to their campus in Rome called John Cabot, and even people from an architecture school in Brooklyn! The families just trying to get home must have been so confused.

My flight was the first one in, we landed bright and early at 8 am. We got shown to our rooms and registered, and I met some pretty cool people. My roommate, Cosette, came in in the afternoon, and she was super nice, we got along from the get-go! It was a very long day on very little sleep, but it was capped off by a walk down to a really good pizza place with all of the students, plus Tiramisu for dessert.


The main statue/seating area in the courtyard on campus
Walking through the courtyard with Emma and Claudia
First Italian pizza at our community dinner on Wednesday night!

By this time, I had already met a lot of great people: two sophomores like me from Loyola Chicago, Malena and Claudia, who are both studying nursing; Emma, a junior from Marquette; Anisha, a senior finishing out her college career at Loyola here in Italy with us, just to name a few. Wednesday night we decided to go downtown to explore some places that are popular among students, and got to see the Colosseum at night which was so cool!

The Colosseum at night where my friends and I ended up after exploring Wednesday night.

– Thursday –

On Thursday we had the first two orientation meetings and went to a little café to explore and get coffee in between. Afterward, we wandered around our new neighborhood, Balduina, and found the grocery store near us. That evening we had a walking tour of the neighborhood, getting more in-depth information from the Rome Start kids, who are Freshmen that spend their whole first year of college at the JFRC campus instead of in Chicago!

– Friday –

This was our first day trip as a school! We went to a town about an hour and a half outside of Rome called Caprarola to visit Filla Farnese, a palace built in 1556 by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. This cardinal finished building what his grandfather, Pope Paul III had started, and it is a beautiful structure that showcases Mannerist architecture and decorations. We had a guided tour of it and the gardens, and the trip was finished out with a community lunch at a nearby restaurant that had a great view of the town and mountains nearby.

A fresco on the ceiling of one of the rooms in Villa Farnese
The view of the village of Caprarola and the mountains in the distance


View of the back of the palace from the gardens, which are in traditional Italian style with a lot of “boxy” bushes

– Saturday –

A fountain at Piazza Navona, one of the most famous Piazzas in all of Rome
The fountain at the bottom of the Spanish steps, which is still fed by an ancient Roman aqueduct from thousands of years ago!

The biggest highlight of Saturday was our guided walking tour of Rome, we got to learn a lot about the history of many famous places in downtown Rome that I will definitely be going back to over the course of this semester.

We started at the Spanish Steps, and made our way down through Rome to the Pantheon, seeing cool plazas that had Medival, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture all in one place. Medival is plainer with few windows and no decoration, while Renaissance style has a certain brick pattern and more windows, and Baroque is super detailed and extravagant. It was super cool to see juxtaposed!

Friends at dinner in Piazza Navona– we stayed downtown after our walking tour
Malena, Anisha, Claudia, Emma, and I at the Trevi Fountain



– Sunday –

Me posing outside of the Vatican

Sunday was a semi-free day, that my friends and I capitalized on by going downtown. We actually decided to walk instead of taking the bus, figuring that we would be able to get to know the area and see more that way. We ended up walking over 9 miles, but it was for sure worth it.

Walking south of Balduina, we wound up outside of Vatican city after about 45 minutes. We were able to go in for free, to both the city and Saint Peter’s Basilica, and even caught the end of Pope Francis’ Sunday service out in the plaza! We continued to walk into downtown Rome and found a great little sandwich place a few blocks away from the Colosseum. We finished out our trip by wandering around the Roman Forum, looking at the ruins, and sitting down to read near a band playing on the street, listening to the music and reading books, soaking in the sun (which we definitely wouldn’t be seeing if we were back in Chicago) and the sights.




Overall, it was a very busy and tiring week, but filled with adventure and fun as well, and I was so excited to see what the next weeks would look like.

I have more pictures on my Instagram for this semester, @lauren_goesabroad !

My First Seven Days Abroad – Unfiltered

My First Seven Days Abroad – Unfiltered

As anyone would expect, moving to another country for five months during a pandemic comes with many complications. This is also my first time traveling outside of the United States – I know I skipped a few steps – so I faced whole second set of challenges awaiting my arrival in Paris.

That being said, my journey to get here started fifteen days before my flight when I was exposed to a positive Covid case. Upon immediately testing negative, I began full isolation testing again on day 3, 5 and 7 from exposure. I never contracted Covid (yay booster shots and KN-95s) and spent my last two weeks at home, by myself, toasting to the new year in a bathrobe and slippers. The day before my flight, I took my last negative test, gathered all the necessary paperwork to cross the border and said goodbye to my family (outdoors and in masks).

My flight was relatively smooth (minus the fact that it was a redeye so I did not sleep at all) and I arrived in Paris on January 12th around 12h00. The first moment of culture shock occurred when I was greeted by signs written entirely in French. My brain switched to 24/7 translation in that moment and has yet to switch back. My car arrived at the airport and I was able to exchange niceties with the driver in somewhat broken French. My host mother (Drissia, she’s a main character in my life here and should be treated with such respect) and her dog, Talia, welcomed me as I clumsily carried my suitcases into the apartment. Before I could unpack, I met two other international students who share the apartment and was whisked away to a lunch with friends. A lot of small stresses happened that I will not get into but my first 24 hours in Paris consisted of trying to learn the entire French language in 10 minutes, jet lag, getting a metro pass, validating my visa, purchasing toiletries, getting another negative Covid test, switching my SIM card and meeting a lot of people. Due to the lack of sleep, I may have cried once but it was purely out of exhaustion.

So the language barrier – I speak English and a good bit of Spanish but I have never taken a French class. I taught myself as much as I could using the internet and my roommate at home (shout out to Lauren Pfleuger who is currently in Rome) before arriving but not nearly enough. Many hospitality services here speak English, but the French are very proud of their language and I want to respect their willingness to welcome me into their country by learning their language and culture with humility. At my host home, we only speak French at dinner so I listen to French conversation for two hours a day, and I ask questions as frequently as possible. Drissia, a queen truly, also sits with me for an hour or two every day to teach me to write and read French as well. I have been here for a week and I can now carry out a short, pleasant conversation in French as well as navigate any business interactions without switching to English – a small step but an important one.

On the other side a a few full nights of sleep and gaining confidence in a new language, I have gone out and about with friends and on my own to see the beauty of Paris. I indulged in a few tourist stereotypes (the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré Cœur, baguettes and croissants) but I also explored my new home in the 11th arrondissement finding my favorite pâtisseries, grocery stores, bars and parks to walk in. Also, I must admit that the love for baguettes and croissants is not a false stereotype; every French household I have visited has a baguette or two sitting on their kitchen table and pâtisseries are packed with locals every hour of the day ordering a croissant, tarte or other treat of choice. In general, Paris is beginning to feel like a new home with the big city opportunities of Chicago but a different, beautiful language and culture.

If you want to see more of the glossy, edited highlights of my time here I will be flooding my Instagram with photo dumps regularly @ellie.stz

If you find yourself in the 11th arrondissement of Paris check out…

  • The Dirty Lemon : a small bar with excellent food and drinks, great for grabbing a table with friends or grabbing a stool by yourself
  • Tout Autour du Pain : a fantastic boulangerie with Drissia’s stamp of approval (which is very difficult to earn as she studied the art of pastries for several years and has tried world renowned recipes)
  • By the République metro station, there is an open park for sitting, skating and admiring where you are.
  • Kott Cafe : a coffee place with expensive lattes (so only go if you want to treat yourself) but the kindest owners who love to welcome all people
Renaissance Art and History – A day trip to Villa Farnese

Renaissance Art and History – A day trip to Villa Farnese

As a part of our orientation we went to Caprarola to visit Villa Farnese. The town is surrounded by volcanic hills and the view of the region from the entrance of the villa is breathtaking.

Palazzo Farnese

View from the entrance of Villa Farnese

The house was commissioned by Alessandro Farnese, also known as Pope Paul III. It was designed by a team of architects, artists, scholars and members of the family to represent the power and accomplishments of the Farnese family.

After entering the reception hall and walking to the courtyard, along the walls you can find paintings depicting the coat of arms of other powerful families the Farnese were allied with, demonstrating their influence in Europe.

Painted arch in the courtyard

Then, as you go up the Royal Stairs, you can see depictions of the Farnese’s many territories, these beautiful landscapes reinforced the idea of the Farnese as powerful and influential. In addition, the dome above the staircase includes the Farnese’s coat of arms with 6 lily flowers.

Royal Staircase
Dome above the stairs

Entering the room on the second floor you can see the Loggia of Hercules, a room depicting the story of how Hercules brought water to the land of the Farnese family and made it fertile, providing food and work for its citizens.

Fountain depicting the abundance of water in the region
Hercules providing water to the people of Caprarola

Then you step into the chapel built by Federico Zuccari after his brother Taddeo Zuccari, who was originally working on the project, passed away. There is an alter and in the center of its dome there is an image of Christ creating the world.

Chapel’s dome

Next you can enter the Sala de Fasti Farnesiani where big paintings adorn the walls depicting scenes of Farnese family members marrying into European royalty, the role of the family in the war against protestants and their participation in the Council of Trent.



Walking onto the following rooms you encounter Alessandro Farnese’s living spaces. He studied, meditated, and slept surrounded by art, carefully curated to guide him as he acted to enact God’s will on Earth. In these rooms scenes from mythology and characters from the Renaissance are intertwined to show the appreciation of past and present ideals and how they complement each other.

Room of the Philosophers
Room of Aurora
Room of Dreams

Continuing onto the shared spaces we can find the dining room, decorated with motifs of penance designed to prevent the gluttony and greed often seen in wealthy families of the time. 

Dinning Room Ceiling

Next to this room we can encounter the Room of Judgement where Alessandro Farnese took on the role of judge for the community. This room has depictions of King Salomon, who represents fair leader and an example of righteousness for Christian judges.

Room of Judgement Ceiling

Afterwards you can find the Room of the World depicting several maps of the continents along the walls and the portraits of Christopher Columbus, Americo Vespucci, Hernando Cortes and other Europeans who explored the American continent. It also contains a map of Italy and a map of Judea.  

Map of the World

Finally we visited the Room of the Angels where meetings were often held due to its incredible acoustics. 


After exiting the villa we continued onto the gardens. The Lower Gardens are characterized by hedges in geometrical shapes and rose gardens. 


Then we walked through the chestnut forest to the Upper Gardens decorated with statues of the Citizens of Caprarola at work and fountains often visited during the summer. 



I really enjoyed learning about the history of the family and imagining what life was like during the 1500s and 1600s. The art and sculptures were very impressive and walking through them felt magical. I look forward to visiting more villas in the region. After our tour of Villa Farnese we had a traditional Italian meal in Caprarola and got on a bus back to campus.