By Elisabeth Mistretta Loyola University Chicago Class of 2000 People would constantly ask if I was excited to go to Rome. And my answer was always “I don’t know.” For me, it was hard to feel anticipation or a thrill over something completely beyond anything I’ve ever known. I did not really understand what Rome looked like or the scent of its air. I wasn’t even certain how well I would fare with the budding Italian speaking skills I’d gained through classes at Loyola’s Chicago campus. So I focused on the bustle of everyday life until I stepped off the plane at Fumicino. And on the bus ride to the John Felice Rome Center I began to see why everyone at home seemed so thrilled at my opportunity to study abroad. Even the most mundane of Roman scenes seemed as if they’d popped out of post cards. Everyone, including garbage men, possessed a keen sense of appearance and fashion. Even the sun at the end of August, one of Rome’s most oppressing months of heat, felt somehow better. It was no surprise, then, that the Rome Center, tucked away from the city center in Monte Mario, also felt just perfect. Its front courtyard garden, the old-school dorms and even Rinaldo’s café proved immediately inviting. My four classes focused on the theology of Jesus Christ, Italian-American cinema, Italian culture and Dr. John Nicolson’s Art in Rome. The latter took us on-site to some of the world’s greatest art and architectural treasures, where we studied their history and symbolism. Very quickly, I found myself earning high marks on tests and papers because I was so enamored with the concept of living in the place I was learning about, and vice versa. Everything I studied in class came to life as I walked Rome’s streets, met its people and visited its churches and monuments. Through this combination of classroom and practical learning, I was falling in love with Rome every day. And to prove it, I ultimately earned straight A’s with what seemed like no effort. After all, every assignment was a labor of love. During my semester I visited 13 other cities in Europe, a privilege that humbled me as I struggled with language barriers, learned to navigate strange cities and different cultures and budget money wisely. Most importantly, these travels and my time in Rome helped me understand just how big the world really is. I gained a broad perspective that still guides me in my current career as a journalist. Cities like Barcelona, Vienna and Berlin could have tempted me to live there, but ultimately I always felt a pull to return to Rome. Truly, it had become my new home. It makes sense, then, that much of my heart still remains in the eternal city and at the Rome Center. If life had worked out as I’d liked, I would have never left and remained as an English teacher, a tour guide – anything that would let me stay connected to the profound growth I experienced at Loyola. But at home my single mother, who struggled with a rare heart condition, needed my help raising my 6- year-old sister, Megan. Plus, how could I miss all those school plays? Ultimately, I was needed for much more than elementary school milestones. My mother’s heart disease eventually won and, at 26, I found myself a single parent to Megan, who was just 11 at the time. But even amid my grief and adjusting to my new role, I quickly planned a visit the city and campus of my heart. When words and even family could not bring me peace, I was certain I would find solace in the place that first taught me where I fit in on this earth. And when I returned home, I was ready to rise to the challenge of my new life as a parent. Today, a decade later, I am comforted and inspired to see the newest crop of students each year stumbling through Italian sentences, mastering their way around Rome’s winding streets and showing off their newfound art history knowledge to their visiting parents. Someday, I hope Megan will be lucky enough to share this experience and leave the Rome Center knowing where she fits into the world and how she can impact it – in the words of St. Ignatius Loyola – for the greater glory of God. But for now, I always aim to remain involved with the Rome Center so I might help other students discover its blessings. And, of course, I will always come back to my second home.
Pages to are hidden for
"By Elisabeth Mistretta"Please download to view full document