My JWU Transfer Story: Rence Loboncz '23

Choosing the right college on the first try isn’t always easy — that’s why many JWU students have transferred from other institutions that weren’t the right fit. For them, the second try was the charm but for Rence Loboncz ’23, it took a few more tries before landing at JWU.

“As I list them off, I always forget a school every time I talk about my college journey,” Rence said with a laugh. “But I was technically enrolled in four schools before JWU.”

This unique journey to JWU had many twists and turns, from financial aid falling through to the pandemic cancelling classes to gathering credits from different community colleges. But along the way, there was always one constant: Rence knew they belonged in the kitchen.

Rence Loboncz standing in a JWU kitchen

“I've been working in restaurants since I was 14,” they shared. “But I really grew to love it, and I knew that there was nothing else that I wanted to do.” 

A triplet, Rence was born in the U.S. before moving to Hungary for the first eight years of their life. Then, their family returned to the U.S. where they spent some time living in New York, North Carolina, Texas and most recently Connecticut. Despite moving around quite a bit (a trend that would continue with colleges) Rence considers Bridgeport, Connecticut to be the closest thing to a hometown.

“I’m the first person in my entire family to go to college,” said Rence. “It’s a bit of pressure, but I see it as I’m doing it for all of them. Finishing my degree and walking that stage is not only for me but for all of them and their contributions towards my education.”

The College Journey Begins

After finishing high school one year early (while also earning some college credits from two different universities in Connecticut), Rence applied to several culinary schools, including JWU. But a promising scholarship offer brought them elsewhere — until it didn’t. “The day before classes started — I had my dorm room, my classes, everything — the school told me I would not be getting the help with financial aid,” they said. “So, I had to pack everything up and leave.”

This unfortunate turn of events left Rence with no other option but to take the fall semester off and use the time to work and save money. Their drive to continue their education brought Rence to a community college in upstate New York. Then COVID happened.

“I really didn't get to experience all that much there,” Rence shared. “We all got sent home about halfway through the semester. With the uncertainty around the pandemic, I decided there was no reason for me to go all the way back to New York, so I picked up classes at my local community college in Bridgeport.”

Transferring to JWU 

If you’ve already lost track of the number of schools involved in Rence’s journey at this point, you’re not alone. But this hard-working student figured out a way to achieve their goals and not be deterred by any setbacks or complications.

“I took all the classes I possibly could while in community college,” said Rence. “I went there for two semesters, until they basically said ‘We have nothing more for you. You can graduate with your associate degree’ — but I wanted a bachelor's, so I knew I had to move on to a four-year school.” 

Rence and another student cooking in a kitchen

The search was on to find the right four-year institution. At the time, Rence’s partner was about to start her first year at JWU, and she encouraged Rence to apply. With a world-renowned reputation in culinary education plus the opportunity to take courses in other disciplines as well, JWU was a great fit for Rence’s interests. They applied and were accepted to the Culinary Arts and Food & Beverage Management program.

At first, Rence was wondering how JWU would be able to sort through all their credits from previous schools, but they quickly discovered that the JWU transfer process was a lot easier than they thought.

“I feel like even before I knew what was going on, JWU knew what was going on,” Rence recalled. “I thought it could get complicated and things could get lost transferring all the credits from a bunch of different schools, but it was so smooth. I never had to worry about it – it was so easy.”

With their credits taken care of and a JWU Transfer scholarship in place for their good grades, Rence was ready to continue their college journey at JWU. “That's when the excitement of actually having the opportunity to go to culinary school hit me,” they said. “I realized I've been doing so many other things for so long, but now I get to go to a school where people want to do the exact same things as me. I get to learn from professors who have worked in this industry for so many years and know so much more than I could ever figure out on my own just working in the industry. I was really psyched.” 

Rence’s JWU Experience

When talking to Rence about their experience at JWU, it’s clear that, aside from a great transfer process, it was the professors who made JWU feel like home. “I immediately felt so connected to the school because instructors took the time to get to know me on a personal level,” said Rence. “Chef Valeria Molinelli has been my number one since I've started here. She helped me get a scholarship to come back after my first semester.” 

Famous French chef Jacque Pepin and JWU student Rence Loboncz posing for a photo in front of a blue curtainRence met world-famous chef Jacques Pépin at JWU's CFIT 50th Anniversary Gala

In addition to Molinelli, many other instructors had a huge impact on Rence’s experience.

“Chef David Petrone was my very first instructor and is still my faculty mentor,” they shared. “He helped me gain so much more confidence in myself, and within the program that I'm in. I think there’s just no other place that would care about a student like the instructors do here.”

After so many different experiences at other schools, Rence knew from the start that JWU was the perfect landing spot — and there was no doubt that the dream of working in the culinary world would become a reality. 

 “It was cool to hop into the culinary labs and feel that this is where I should be, this feels right,” they shared. “I don't care if I'm up at four in the morning every single day. That's what I’m meant to be doing, and these are the people that I’m meant to be learning from.”

Looking Ahead 

As many JWU culinary students know, there is a whole lot more to the culinary industry than just making food. The variety of careers and opportunities to express oneself artistically is an exciting prospect for Rence, who also loves to paint, make ceramics and play musical instruments. They consider themselves an artist – food just happens to be their favorite medium.

“The reason why I got so attached to food is because you can affect all five senses,” Rence said. “When you sit down and have a meal, you can be interrupted by literally anything — the smell of something, how it looks, how your bowl feels, how everything kind of interacts together. And that idea of creating an experience was very cool to me.” 

JWU student Rence Loboncz working with a professor and two other students sitting while sitting at a table in Bistro 61

With Rence’s love for art, food and the collaborative nature of working in a kitchen, we had to ask them: what is your dream job? Some would guess a chef — but if you know Rence, their answer makes perfect sense. 

“I guess my dream job is just doing what I'm best at, which is communicating with people and creating ideas together,” they said. “I want to create a place where artists from all realms can come together, collaborate on big projects and be inspired by each other’s work. I don't know if there's title for that.”

If their college journey is any indication, Rence will have no trouble finding a way to make this dream job happen. But for now, Rence has earned their degree and also recently accepted an exciting job opportunity at a luxury hotel restaurant in Montana. 

Advice For Students Thinking About Transferring

“Do your research, do your research, do your research! Not only on the school, but the surrounding area, because that's where you're going to live,” says Rence. “And, if you have the chance, go visit the campus. Talk to the instructors, talk to whoever's there. It's not weird to stop a student in the elevator and ask them what they think about their school. They'll be real with you!”

For students interested in transferring to JWU, you can take a tour of campus with one of our student tour guides and ask them all about their JWU experience along the way.

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