My time at John Cabot University was indescribable. The relationships created there were everlasting, and I truly felt like I had family by my side, helping and guiding me. I’m Jesse Smeal and this is my international story.
My International Story
I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. After high school I attended Niagara County Community College, where I earned honors and had the chance to study for a year in Cork, Ireland. I then headed off to Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia to work with indigenous HIV/AIDS prevention and education groups. After returning to the US, I enrolled at Syracuse University, which gave me the opportunity to study and live in Strasbourg, France, and London, England. There, I really began to understand the value and advantage of getting a truly international education.
From there, I started looking into US-accredited universities overseas. That’s when John Cabot University came into the picture. Although I had never really thought much about Italy before, there was something about JCU that immediately sparked my interest. Before I even got there, it just felt like home. And, after I did some research, spoke with the admissions staff, and saw all of the degree options, I was hooked. I headed off to Rome to finish my undergraduate education and I graduated in the Fall of 2003.
When I think back to some of the best parts about studying at JCU, I remember how amazing the professors were. The staff, in general, was always so available and helpful from the day I inquired about the school to the day I graduated. (And they still are, even 15 years later!) That is something I really value. Plus, there was definitely that added bonus of living in such an amazing and historic city like Rome!
Starting My Own Business
After graduation, I left Italy to travel and work some more around the world. But wherever I went, I felt that something was missing. Something just kept pulling me back to Rome. Subconsciously I knew that it was home.
So, I returned to Rome and enrolled in the Master’s of International Relations program at St. John’s University. While studying, I had the chance to work for various study abroad and American university programs in the city. After doing that for about 10 years, I decided to open the first real American eatery in Rome. In 2013, my wife and I opened Homebaked – Grandma’s Kitchen, in the Monteverde Vecchio neighborhood.
Homebaked was an idea I had from my early days attending JCU. I felt that although Italian food is amazing, I sometimes missed that American down-home cooking. So when I had the opportunity to open my own small business, I had that exact idea in mind. That’s how Homebaked was born. We serve all types of American breakfast foods along with sweets, sandwiches, wraps and salads. Seven years later we are still going strong! We actually just opened our second location in the Vatican area, a few minutes from St. Peter’s.
John Cabot’s Lasting Impact
My time at John Cabot gave me a greater understanding and comprehension of the world and people around me. JCU instilled in me a great sense of knowledge, empathy, and understanding of other cultures and ways of life. It taught me that a thriving community can be made up of all sorts of people, and that a collection of everyone’s ideas, thoughts, and backgrounds can create a better “home” for everyone. These experiences definitely helped me in my business. Every day I strive to make sure to carry on these ideas and help to make a better community and home for all of us.
Class of 2003
International Affairs Major
Hometown: Buffalo, New York, USA