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RCHS grad enjoys first year of college abroad in Rome Italy
RCHS grad enjoys first year of college abroad in Rome Italy
Anthony Rynes experienced a year of a life time studying abroad.

When Anthony Rynes was filling out college applications he discovered something a little different about the offerings at Loyola University. 

“When I was filling out the application, I saw a link for something called ‘Rome Start’,” Rynes recalled. “I had no idea what it was but decided to click on it and next thing I knew I was headed off to Rome.” 

The Chicago based college touts the program as “Begin your Loyla experience in Rome and Finish in Chicago.”  Students who are admitted will be able to spend their first year of college with Loyola studying in their Rome Center campus in Italy. 

“Rome Start is a great way for students to add a global perspective to their education while earning a renowned Loyola degree,” the website boasts. 

For Rynes, it was an experience like no other. The 19-year-old had previously never traveled abroad.  With plans for a double major in business management and finance, he was excited to take the chance on the program. 

“As part of the education at Loyola, all students must complete a core program to graduate,” Rynes explained. “I was able to knock out 90 percent of that during my time in Rome and I’ll be able to focus on my majors more for the rest of my time in Chicago.  I had never traveled abroad before, so it was a completely new experience, I was a little leery at first. I didn’t understand the language, and there was a lot of culture shock initially. But, I got used to it, so much so when I was on winter break staying in an apartment in the city, I got homesick for the campus.” 

The program is noted to be a “close-knit community” housed at the John Felice Rome Center in Rome, Italy. The center hosts approximately 240 Rome Start and Study Abroad students each semester. 

One of the most unexpected things that Rynes experienced during his time away from the typically pristine Driftless region, was the shock of urban life and all that comes with it. 

“I was so surprised by how much trash there was everywhere,” Rynes explained. “And most people don’t pick up their dog’s poop. So walking off the campus you’d get hit with the smell and sight of garbage everywhere. But on the other side of things, I’d walk past amazingly beautiful and historical places every day like the Vatican and the Coliseum. I was able to travel everywhere there is to go and see in Rome, so much so my friends and I had to get out of Rome on breaks to see more of the sites.” 

Rynes noted that transportation was another learning curve for him, but luckily he caught on quick. “It’s a learning curve,” he explained of traveling by train and other public transportation. “But by the end of it, I had the hang of it, and it was very cheap compared to travel in America.” 

The experience abroad also instilled in Rynes a new perspective on how things can easily be taken for granted in a country like America where abundance abounds on every corner. 

“Often at home, so many people complain that they only have Wal-Mart to shop at,” Rynes observed. “But in Rome, most families just have a small corner bodega to do all of their shopping at, and they don’t complain. The population in Rome is the same in Chicago and that is all they have. There is a large homeless crisis in Rome as well, and I found that my time there made me a much more empathetic person. I would go to St. Peters Square every Thursday to help feed homeless people, talk with them and listen to their stories. That is an experience I’ll hold with me forever.” 

There were many other differences that the young student encountered while traveling, including mountains of paperwork, vast differences in COVID protocol and other interactions. He explained for example that COVID testing in Italy was extremely fast, efficient, and affordable. He also found that throat and nose swab combinations were the most common way of completing the test. However during a visit to Germany he found they utilize a “sucker test” where you suck on a swab for several minutes and receive your results almost instantly. Booster shots and masking was another story however, as Rynes experienced. 

“I found out that I had to have an Italian Social Security number to be able to receive my booster shot that I had to have to be able to attend the university,” he explained. “So I applied for the number but I was told I wasn’t able to get it. I had to fly all the way home for two days to get my booster shot at Wal-Mart during winter break, only to fly back and find out that I had gotten my Italian Social Security number.”  He also noted that during his time in Rome the regulations for masks fluxed, starting with only requiring a regular cloth mask or surgical mask inside and on public transportation, but ramping up to requiring very expensive masks which are equivalent to N95s in the US, both in and out. 

“I had gotten back from Winter Break and saw everyone wearing them all the time, but because of the communication barriers, I didn’t exactly realize it had become a requirement,” Rynes explained. “A professor at the University had let us know that yes, they are required to wear inside and out and if you’re caught without one the fine could be $10,000 Euros, which is about $11,000 USD). 

Although Rynes faced some things that were difficult, his trip helped to open his eyes also to the difficulties of many others around the world. 

“There were mountains of paperwork to fill out,” Rynes explained. “I had to fill out immigration papers and the University helped to make our appointments. But when we went to the office I had to wait in line with numerous refugees and other people who had to camp out there for weeks in hopes of getting a VISA.” 

Overall however, Rynes touted the experience as one he would never forget and believes that taking the chance at studying abroad helped him become a better-rounded person with a fuller view of life. 

“I would urge anyone to consider it,” Rynes noted of studying abroad. “Even if they feel a little hesitant or might be afraid of travel or think it is something they can’t afford, there are so many resources available for people to be able to do it and it is a chance you’ll never regret.”