Loyola University Chicago Global Centers

Program Reviews

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Sarah
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I absolutely loved being able to spend my freshman year abroad, which is an opportunity not usually granted by most universities. The staff was very helpful and supportive of not only my studies, but of all my learning and growth while I was abroad. It was a different first college experience in comparison to that of other students, but well worth it. I was able to explore Rome and learn the culture and language, as well as travel to other places on the weekends and breaks, giving me the chance to see new places and visit old friends. It was also a good fit for me because everything I needed was available on campus or somewhere close-by, but I could also go into the city if I wanted a different experience. The hustle & bustle of Rome is unlike anything I have ever experienced, and I loved the on-site classes offered by the university. I can never eat gelato or a plate of pasta without thinking about my second home, which is what the JFRC became for me. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don't be afraid to explore on your own! Sometimes a solo trip is the best thing that you can do for yourself, especially if there's a specific place you want to go or if it is difficult to coordinate a trip with friends. You can do something as simple as taking a bus downtown, a train to Florence, or create an entire adventure. Just do your research, keep an eye out, and keep your attitude high. It sounds cheesy, but it's truly life-changing because of how much you learn that you can do on your own.
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Reginald
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This was not my first time overseas, but it was my first time in Italy and in Rome. The food was great, the wine was great as well - and I am (was) not a wine drinker, and the people were very nice. Rome has quite a few things to see and do, and because it is a truly international city, one can find a small touch of home in various places and with certain activities. I found a touch of home at a beach party, an outdoor concert and a night club, as well as a record shop (yes, the place had vinyl records!) On the flip side, Rome is a big city, so there are also big-city problems such as traffic congestion and slow running busses. In spite of those things I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience and treated every day like a new adventure.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I took a bus thinking that I could get off at a specific Metro station. When the bus arrived at the bus stop I got off and made my way to the front of the Metro station only to see that it was closed for repairs. A souvenir shop was only a few feet away so I went window shopping, but eventually found some nice items for my friends. I then took a bus on the same route in order to figure out an alternate plan to get back tot eh JFRC and ended up getting off at a bus stop that was near another souvenir shop, and this one had some gear that I was going to search for the next day. I ended up getting two items since there was a special sale: 2 for 45 euro. The best part was that I remembered the location of the first souvenir shop so two days later I went back to that one and got a couple of caps to coordinate with the new gear.
Read my full story
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Katie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had an incredible experience studying in Rome for the summer, and I think a large part of that was due to the JFRC community. From the beginning of my exploration of the program to the day of my departure, I was impressed with the faculty and staff. It’s clear that they sincerely care about their students and want to do whatever they can to make each student’s experience one to remember. The campus was beautiful, and it’s location in the charming Balduina neighborhood helped me feel like I was really a part of the Roman culture. The classes that I took brought me out into the city of Rome, and getting to learn about this amazing place with knowledgeable professors allowed me to deepen my appreciation for this place. I loved my time in Rome and at the JFRC!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Get to know Rome! Don’t be afraid to go out exploring or spend the weekend in the city!
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Joey
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had a great experience. The advisors planned some really awesome trips with the class and took us to some great dinners. I got to see all of Rome thru my theology class. It was beautiful to see all the churches around Rome. I’m so thankful to have met the people I did and see the places I saw. I got to go to Malta, Naples, Venice, Florence, Verona, Pompeii, and of course Roma.

My only objection was with my European masterpieces. Since I was studying abroad, I wanted to see places in Rome. My theology class went above and beyond in achieving that. My Euro-masterpieces class did not leave the room once; making it a lot less inspiring.

All In all I had an amazing time and would do it again in a heartbeat!

Thank you!!
-Joey Lonardi

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advise to a future traveler is to budget your money and get off the beaten path. It is sometimes hard to do that, but when you do you find the best food and most interesting experiences. I dont even speak Italian and that was so much fun.
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Jana
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Going to Vietnam was amazing and a great experience! All of the staff in the program were very helpful and kind. I felt like I could go to them whenever I had questions about things. I enjoyed having professors that were from a variety of backgrounds so we could get multiple perspectives of Vietnam which I really enjoyed. I also enjoyed having a staff member that lived in the dorm with us. It was helpful since he could easily translate things between us and other local Vietnamese. It was also helpful when we went on trips throughout the program and he could translate and he also helped us with experiencing traditional foods. The trips we took as a program were fun too. I liked learning about different cultures and then traveling to those cultures. The culture in Southeast Asia was so different than culture in the US or even in Europe and that is partly why I chose this program. All the people in Vietnam were so welcoming and nice. Even when we did speak the same language, we made connections with local Vietnamese. I loved getting to know a different part of the world and its culture. Before going to Vietnam I knew almost nothing about that area of the world and while there I learned so much. I also learned things about the US which I wasn’t expecting. I learned about the perspective of America from the Vietnamese and from the other countries I visited. While abroad, I was able to connect with a couple of my classmates from my home college because they are international students from Vietnam. They gave me tips of things to do or places to see and I was able to experience their home country. It really helped my friendships with these Vietnamese students grow. I did not think I would fall in love with the country as much as I did. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I cannot wait to go back to Vietnam some day! For now I hope to inform my friends all about Vietnam and hopefully convince other people to visit the country!

What would you improve about this program?
One area that the program could improve on is communication with people who are coming in from schools other than Loyola. I am not a Loyola student and it made it a little more difficult for some things. I would have liked to have more information about things such as the different online programs used because I was not well informed. It was hard to figure out things such as Sakai and the email since I did not get much information before hand how to work them. I would have also like to have more details about the Loyola program and Vietnam, because the Loyola students seemed more prepared than me for what to expect. Another thing that could be improved was that we had midterms and then we had finals only a couple weeks after the midterms. It would have been better if we had more time between our finals and midterms because the last month or so was stressful for all our classes.
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Alison
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I received only quizzical looks when I shared the news that I would be traveling to Vietnam to study, and it is a common misconception that all there is to the country is the history of the Vietnam War. People seemed to think that I would be living in the jungle and obtain Dengue fever, and so I think one of the benefits of my time here is educating those at home about the complexities of Vietnam, and how they would like to be looked at as more than a country associated with past conflicts.
Reading my title "Stuck in Vietnam" may give the impression that I am being held here, unable to get out, when in reality I chose to remain here completely due to my own desire and love for this country. I am stuck here because I was granted the most incredible study abroad experience that I then extended several months due to a medical internship that I was able to acquire. If it was not for my need to finish school, nor my mother’s intense sadness over not seeing me for half a year, I am not positive I would return. Whether that is the goal for a study abroad program I am unsure, but the Loyola Vietnam Center was the initial connection that allowed me the opportunity to travel to Vietnam. Pre-departure to Ho Chi Minh City consisted of the usual precautionary tales and advice on how to cope when you hit that "homesick" mark. After completing month five in Vietnam, I can say I have yet to hit that mark. My comfort level in Ho Chi Minh City, or preferably "Saigon", has granted it the status of feeling like “home”. The past several weeks I have been trying to reflect on this progression in Vietnam. My culture shock lasted about a day in which I adjusted to the overwhelming traffic, unkept streets, and stares of the Vietnamese people. But, through my time studying the history, culture, theology, literature, and language of Vietnam, those initial observations shifted. I have become deeply attached to the lovely noise of the bustling city, with the lively nature of motorbikes zooming about. The unkept streets give me a "homey" feel of being lived on, and the stares of the Vietnamese are simple curiosity which I can now respond to with limited chatting.
I have been gifted with infinite stories that have defined my time here, but since my experience has been longer than the average trip, I will choose to reflect on only several of the most significant moments. The more minuscule, yet no less important events and interactions, will remain my own, as it is often difficult to convey their meaning in writing. I will begin with a story about my initial education in Vietnam, something that defined how I viewed the country and interpreted what I was seeing. Within month one of Sociology class we were asked to write about our first impressions as well as take a picture of something on the streets in order to analyze some deeper concept. The picture I chose is included below and depicts a woman on her motorbike surveying the hectic scene on the streets. It portrays the adrenaline she feels as the U23 Vietnam Soccer team had just advanced to the AFC Finals. I took this picture as I walked back to the dorm in which we were housed. Initially we had hopped in a taxi, but after traveling five feet in the span of fifteen minutes me and two others opted out, as the excitement in the streets was too much to only experience in the backseat of a car. It was undoubtedly one of the most amazing experiences in Vietnam and something I talked about for weeks. We walked down the streets weaving in and out of traffic, and when the flow became too much we simply cheered louder at the incoming motorbikes who then stopped to let us pass. They cheered back at us screaming the popular "Việt Nam Vô Địch" which means “Vietnam Champion". The scene reminded me of when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, with nothing but smiles and everyone instantly became your friend. The major difference I was able to pick out between these two types of celebrations came the week later when Vietnam lost the finals to Uzbekistan. Despite the loss, the streets still flooded with people at night. One might think that the loss would bring anger and overwhelming sadness, and while the country was heartbroken, the cheers were those of pride for the country and what they had accomplished. It was these moments that were most special because it helped me to learn more about the Vietnamese people, their willingness to forgive, and the intense love they hold for their country. It is through this that I can come to understand their kindness and how it takes only one short conversation to become instant friends.
This kindness was exhibited everywhere I went, from food venders outside the dorm, the men drinking beer on the streets, and the Grab (Uber) Bike drivers that transported me to and from class. On my first night in Vietnam the table behind us at the local beer corner bought us food they termed the "welcome" gift, and I met an older man named Binh whose children studied abroad in the United States. The following weeks I would run into him and give updates on my status and the various adventures I had completed. As time progressed, I was able to converse more in Vietnamese and make very limited small talk with those that I met. Every single town or province I visited I made friendships and learned more about what makes the Vietnamese people so special.
While it is hard to choose my favorite part of the program, the Service Learning portion in which we had to choose somewhere to volunteer, quickly became something that I looked forward to every week. We had several options, the first teaching English, the second at a boys’ orphanage, and the third at a health clinic. I chose the health clinic as a would like to go into medicine in the future, and so hoped to learn something about healthcare in Vietnam. The clinic served the impoverished people of Vietnam and most who came were older women from the countryside. It specialized in holistic medicine with procedures such as Paraffin wax for arthritis, leg compression sleeves to relieve swelling, and acupuncture among other things. These aches are extremely common with the types of work that they do and so any bit of temporary relief is beneficial. I went in with the impression that I would receive mostly health knowledge, but I came out with a completely difference experience, and what I believe was the best possible outcome. While I could have rotated and worked in some other aspects of the clinic, I have to admit I stayed in the same place for the majority of the time; the reason being that I made some very close friends within the priests, nuns and med students who worked at the clinic, as well as with the older patients whom I began to recognize every week. I specialized in helping the patients with the paraffin wax treatment as well as assisting with the leg compression sleeves when needed. My exchanges with the patients was limited as most did not speak any English, but through a mix of limited Vietnamese and gestures or smiles, I was able to communicate. Towards the end of the day when the clinic was near closing, I would be told to sit down and proceed to learn Vietnamese from my Priest friend Thang. He was eager to learn English as well, and so we would often switch off reading and taking turns to teach the other the pronunciation. I clearly remember one day in which I was told to sit and then surrounded by Vietnamese women all astounded by the fact that I was learning a little Vietnamese. I was stuck on saying the Vietnamese word for "hotel" and had more than five women all yelling the word “Khách Sạn” at me in hopes that I would pronounce it fluently. Their excitement over teaching me, and then in wanting to learn English, was only one of the reasons I would return every week. Proceeding the Vietnamese/English lesson I would be told to join them for food. Once more the hospitality of the Vietnamese people was shown as they cut up Guava (ổi), Plum (mận), and watched in excitement as I tried the assortment of foods they had prepared by hand. My three hour volunteer session quickly turned into four, but I was never in a hurry to return home.
I could write pages on my experiences, but there were too many excursions and numerous tiny moments in each day, all of which will make it harder to detach myself from this place when it comes time to leave. From the time I am writing this I have less than two months left. Currently I am working at a hospital in Saigon in order to gain experience for my post-grad career, hopefully as a Physician's Assistant. A common misconception is that you cannot study abroad if you are a pre-health student with the rigorous course load. But, without this study abroad experience I would never have looked into internships in the hospitals and learned as much as I have so far. My future goals are starting to take hold, with a return to Vietnam definitely part of the plan. It has gifted me with patience and allowed me to uncover qualities that I never knew I possessed.
I have never been on a trip so far from home, and have yet to frequent Europe, but after spending so much time in Vietnam, it will be hard to top. While I am sure each country has its charm, each day I am assured that Vietnam is where I should be. I am often told by my Vietnamese friends that I know more about Vietnam than even they, except the language, of which I have continued my studies. While the program has ended, I owe the new experiences I am having now to the previous program and the wonderful job they did of giving me the tools to live comfortably in Vietnam and make handfuls of friends along the way. I miss the beer corner nights with our Vietnamese "partner" students, the soccer games on Sundays, karaoke, getting smoothies, and all the smiles I was gifted.
If I had any piece of advice for future students, it would just be to just be open to any experience and friendly to everyone you talk to. Also, to smile. Sometimes the stares would get overwhelming, but a simple smile real opened the space and invited conversation. I appreciated any instance that someone would come and chat with me as it enabled me the opportunity to share with them my experiences and reasons I like Vietnam so much. Secondly, don't make judgements based on what someone tells you. Especially in Vietnam, everyone will have a different experience, each special in their own way. I was initially told that the health clinic was lots of work, and I nearly chose a different site due to this. While it was much more self-taught, it became all the more beneficial because I could choose what to make of it. I have come to appreciate the flexibility of each day and how you never know what interaction you will have. If there is a discouraging day, or stressful moment, have hope in the fact that it may turn around in an instant. For me it was chatting to a new friend for more than two hours in a café. Say hello to those who smile at you, or perhaps “Xin Chào” if you want their smile to grow bigger. The time I did I ended up making friends with two young girls who were eager to practice their English, yet were too shy to approach me. Try all the food and savor every bite. That is what I will miss most after the people. Lastly, don’t be too scared of crossing the street. It is not nearly as hard as people make it out to be.

What would you improve about this program?
Nothing
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Michael
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I loved my experience at the JFRC. I made countless new friends, many of which I am still in touch with and have actually visited a few times since returning to the states. The staff at the JFRC were wonderful. The professors truly cared about all of the students which can be attributed partly to the size of the program (which is a good thing). Many of my friends who went abroad spent alot of time partying and going out but I am glad I was challenged academically having taken two of my favorite classes abroad at the JFRC (International Monetary Relations and Intro to International Business both taught by Marshall Langer). The number of study trips offered at discounted prices (vs. individual travel) was definitely a great aspect of the program. No class on Fridays was an excellent feature of the program as well since it allowed for an extra day of personal travel on weekends. Overall, I would not trade my experience for anything in the world. I got to see many beautiful places and meet some truly wonderful people, some of which I am still close friends with even though I am in NYC and NJ. It was one of, if not the best experience of my life thus far. The critiques I have are minor and pale in comparison to the many great features and overall experience of the program and I have already recommended the program to other Fordham students.

What would you improve about this program?
I only have 3 small critiques of the program. The first would be the food at the JFRC itself. Some of the food was great at times but alot of the time the food was underwhelming to say the least at the cafeteria, especially given we were in the food capital of the world! The hours of operation for the cafeteria and Rinaldos as well need to be extended a bit. I often times found myself starving at 7 or 8 pm on many of the nights I ate on campus. The staff was wonderful at the caf and Rinaldo's but the food needs to be better at the caf and hours for both need to be a bit longer. The second critique would be that there needs to be more information provided at the beginning of the program on public transportation and how to get around. The first week we were there the SLAs had us do a "treasure hunt" around Rome at night without really giving us directions or information on how to use the public transportation system. I believe this is poor design on behalf of the staff. But again this is minor, we are all adults and were able to figure it out but a little more guidance would have been useful.

The final critique I have is actually not about the program itself but the application process for non-Loyola students. I attended Fordham University with whom the JFRC is a partner program. I had to go through two separate application processes, one for Fordham and one for Loyola. Fordham's process was easy since all I had to do was apply to study abroad, and I was approved or denied based on my GPA. However, once I was approved through Fordham, Loyola's process and instructions were very confusing. I had watched all of the presentations online which gave instructions about applying for my VISA, which some of the slides had contradicting information. I even called Loyola's JFRC office in Chicago and could never get the right information regarding the Visa Application requirements. I showed up to the NY Italian Consulate with my paperwork and ended up not needing 3/4 of the documentation I brought for which I ran all over the place to collect. The instructions for sending transcripts to Loyola needs to be simpler as well. I was given two different addresses and I had sent 3 copies over the course of a week and Loyola had claimed they had not received it when my university provided proof of delivery. The application process and instructions for applying and acquiring a VISA needs to be much more concise and streamlined for non-loyola students because I ended up having to find the required materials on my own through the consulate itself (which was not easy either).
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Richard
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I have never been to Europe and Rome was the perfect place! The citizens, students, and professors I met were all amazing. This is honestly one of the best experiences I've ever had. I miss being able to walk down to the local shops and bars to grab a espresso. I spent most of my time abroad in the city of Rome and not in other countries and I do not regret it. There is so many things to see and do and eat in Rome that you cannot fit in a semester abroad. I will definitely miss all the things Rome had to offer.

What would you improve about this program?
The social and academic portions of the program were great, but a couple things I think could be improved is the lack of Wifi in the rooms, the fact that we had to pay for laundry when we are already paying for our travels. I also think it would be great if Mensa hours could be extended. There were days when I would be out exploring all day and by the time I returned to campus, Mensa would be closed. Giving the student SIM cards would also be a great idea because the burner phones we had were not the best working phones.
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Bryan
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Vietnam has provided a unique opportunity to explore a culture unlike any other. Future participants should come with an open-mind so they may best appreciate a new lifestyle. This program has helped shape the way I view the world. Visiting a foreign country has shown me an entirely new and beautiful side of life. The class excursions were some of my favorite memories from the trip, because they allowed us to explore the areas surrounding Ho Chi Minh City.

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Kaitlin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience was so special to me because it was the first time I had ever left the United States and the second place I’ve traveled outside of my hometown in Ohio and where my college is located in Chicago. Vietnam defied all expectations. The teachers were caring and truly wanted to create valuable and buildable class discussions. The Vietnamese Student Partners became some of my closes friends in only a few days and I was able to learn so much about the history of Vietnam and it’s outlook for the future. I traveled all over Vietnam
from the Mekong Delta to Hanoi... along the coast in places like Hue, Nha Trang, and Mui Na. Being back from the program I have realized how much I appricated the study of other cultures and I have began studying other cultural backgrounds and languages. Some of the cultures I am looking into right now are Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India. I find it so important to learn about a countries history before traveling there and my travels in Vietnam has only enforced that mindset. For future participants I would tell them to embrace every second even the bad days because there is always beauty to be seen and opportunities to be experienced. 4 months of course isn’t enough to completely understand another nation, it’s history, and it’s culture, but I challenge all new participants to learn and grow as much as they can in the time they are given. One major tip I suggest for new comers is to keep their phones in their pockets. Of course a picture here or there will not hurt, but being in the moment and experiencing everything without a digital screen between you and the world makes it a more wonderous experience. I promise you that you can live without your phone for a few hours and not miss it a bit. Vietnam truly helped me grow into a person who wants to see change in the world and will stop at nothing to make any impact, even the smallest impact, to help change this world for the better for all its people.

What would you improve about this program?
One improvement I would suggest is to create better communication about excursions and the expenses that some students may face for each excursion.