Tastes of Italy

Borgo San Jacopo, Florence, Italy, October 10th, 2017

As a Hospitality Major, there is much to learn from the various experiences that I have enjoyed while traveling and living abroad. I have learned far more about the tourism industry and what it takes to qualify and excel in that career than I ever could have if I was sitting in a classroom. I have obtained a new appreciation for the hotel industry and the efforts required to stand above the rest. But most importantly, I have seen and tasted a food industry that, in my opinion, out shines the rest of the world. While I had previously focused my major specifically on event planning, living in Italy and traveling around Europe has opened my eyes to a new passion for food and restaurant management/ownership. I have accumulated many ideas that I would love to bring home and one day make into reality. While I don’t plan to share all my ideas with you, I do hope that sharing a few of my experiences with European food will encourage and excite you to one day make the trip yourself to this amazing country to try the unique and exciting flavors that have inspired me and many others.

I recently traveled to Florence with my parents and some close friends to celebrate my parents 28th Wedding Anniversary*. Based on my experience I highly recommend Florence be at the top of your Italian itinerary. The art is inspiring, the streets and piazzas are beautiful, and the shopping just might lessen the weight of your wallet. However, since this is about food please keep in mind that just like in the States, good food comes in all different settings and prices here. In my case, since we were celebrating a very special day, we went for elegant and uniqueness at Borgo San Jacopo. Perched on the Arno with an amazing view of the Ponte Vecchio, this restaurant is known for their tasting menus that allow you to sample some of the finest Italian dishes “enhanced with innovative twists”. The restaurant encourages their guests to “savour the freshness and utter quality of the produce and ingredients hand-selected by the chef, Peter Brunel, himself before being skillfully prepared and presented in inventive dishes.” What an amazing experience this was. The menu offered three specific category choices, each with seven, petite, carefully selected courses encompassing one central theme: My Tuscany, Potatoes & Potatoes, From the Garden, or you had the option to order a la carte. For an example, the Potatoes & Potatoes tasting menu is described and presented below. Each course was perfectly portioned, perfectly plated, and perfectly tasteful. Every dish had a distinct flavor I have never tasted before and I admired the chef’s attention to detail and the presentation within the plating. While some of our big cities back home may have a tasting restaurant here and there, they do not compare to the ones over here. Italian food is so much more than pasta and pizza, trust me or you can come here to see for yourself. I promise you, if you have an adventurous palate, you won’t be disappointed and you won’t be bored. This restaurant has inspired me to bring these ideas home and one day create my own version of a unique restaurant such as this.

xx, McKenzie

*Mom & Dad, thank you for an amazing week. Thank you for sharing your special day with me; your love and dedication to each other inspires every day and I hope one day I will find what you two have. I love you both.


Seeking New Opportunities


Studying abroad is about seeking all the opportunities I can while I have already taken advantage of my first amazing opportunity: studying abroad. Almost everyday that I’ve been here I have a conversation about how lucky we are to be apart of this program. And truly we are some of the luckiest college students in the world. How many people can say they have spent a whole semester traveling Europe? Think about it: with the JSB program we are not only exploring Italy 4 days of the week but exploring other countries 3 days a week some weeks. Take advantage of this! The chances of ever having the freedom to travel like we are are slim. I think the biggest thing I have learned during my time abroad is to be open to anything. I came with a very open mind – I had three places I knew I wanted to travel but for the most part I was open to traveling wherever the wind blew. Some of the most important things that studying abroad has taught me so far are:

Not sleeping is not a problem

Yes, I am tired some days but I can sleep during the week. I’m the person in the group that wants to be leaving by 10 because we have such limited time in some of these places and I want to see as much as I can. Some days I am so tired on the bus back from a field trip but I have to remind myself that this opportunity is once in a life time and for me if I am a little sleep deprived for a semester it will be well worth it.

Spending money is inevitable 

We all come in with a budget and after the first 2 weeks I felt like I had spent half of it but that’s okay because by then I had almost all of my trips planned. The first week I felt like I was throwing money left and right between booking hotels, flights and train tickets but really I had so much done and I won’t have to spend that money twice. My biggest suggestion is to spend the money on the experiences not things because those memories are priceless.

Don’t let fear get in the way

If I were to say I’m not traveling to places where something could go wrong, I would never walk out of my house let alone be abroad. We cannot control everything but we can take precautions. I want to experience the world and I cannot let the fear of “if” stop me from doing that.

Be open/Try new things

Coming here I made it my goal to try new foods, explore new places and meet new people. I am used to living life in the US in my little comfort zone but if there is a time to step out it is now. I went to Croatia, a place I had only heard about once or twice, and had one of the best weekends ever. Being open to all the opportunities we have here has really let me set out of my comfort zone and experience things I never knew I wanted to do.

Talk to everyone

Everyone here has to have some thing in common (other than all of us being crazy enough to sign up to live in Italy for a semester). The whole group is probably hilarious and so nice that I want to travel with a different group every weekend so I can get to know everyone.

Write it all down

This is the hardest part for me. Some nights I am so tired and I’ll be weeks behind but I know I want to remember these days for the rest of my life so writing down some of the best memories of the days is a great way to look back on my time abroad.

~Oliva Frazier

My favorite weekend by far exploring Paris, France


Never Coming Home

I am somehow already on week six of my study abroad experience and I am shocked. Everyone told me how quickly it will go by, but I honestly did not believe them because twelve weeks sounded like such a long time. But oh boy, was I wrong! My time in Italy, so far, has been unbelievable. I can truly say that I have already learned more being abroad, than a whole year’s worth of school at home. I learned how to make a fresco, cook Italian dishes, speak some Italian, had genuine conversations with locals, experience the night life, gone to countless churches, seen the Pope, and much more. I really have felt connected in the Italian culture, especially in the little town we are staying in, Ariccia.

I have also become a world traveler outside of Italy. Before coming abroad, I had not been to many places outside of the United States and the places I went I was always with my parents. It is not even halfway through the program, and I have traveled to Barcelona, Rome, and London with girls I did not know very well. I was nervous at first but now I am so confident in booking flights, hotels and traveling in unknown territory with these girls. I am much more aware of my surroundings and know how to get by, especially in stressful situations. My favorite place that I have been to so far was London. London was very pretty and had so many parts to it we obviously did not get to see everything we wanted to see in one weekend, but the places we did go to were unbelievable.

Overall, I have had the best time so far and I cannot believe it is almost half way over. It makes me sad thinking about going home. I have made great friendships, seen amazing places and eaten outstanding food. Please do not make me leave!

XO, Sutton

Caroline Hargreaves and I on our last day in London!

Papal Audience

On Wednesday, September 13th, the students of the JSB Auburn Abroad in Italy had the awesome opportunity to attend the Papal Audience. This day was especially important to me because I have been raised Catholic my whole life. To have been able to visit the Vatican City, let alone see the Pope, was such a blessing. We arrived in Vatican City early enough to beat the crowd, and we were fortunate to find seats to be able to see the Pope pass by in his Popemobile.

To start the event, groups and pilgrims from around the world were announced and welcomed. I was shocked (in a great way) when they called out “And welcome students from Auburn University representing the United States.” I couldn’t believe our group was recognized in Vatican City during a Papal event! I remember watching Pope Francis after he had been elected Pope in 2013 like it was yesterday, and to be within feet away from him, when he came through the audience, was life-changing. The picture below is my view of Pope Francis, and it shows how close he was to me. I will always remember this day and how beautiful it was to see him smile, wave, and even kiss little babies as he drove through the crowd.

Before this study abroad trip, I never imagined having the opportunity to attend the Papal Audience, and I am so thankful that I was there to experience it with such an amazing group of girls.

My view of Pope Francis as he rode in the Popemobile through the crowd.

Erin Maher


The Red Checkered Diary

We have officially begun our fifth week abroad in Italy, meaning I have spent more than a month away from the U.S. I feel like I just arrived, and at the exact same time, like I have been here for much longer. One month down, two to go. In just one month, I have traveled throughout Italy, to the Netherlands, as well as Germany. I have experienced the challenges of beginning to learn a new language, traveling by public transport and the inevitable travel fails that sometimes you cannot control. My credit card was hacked and my airline lost my luggage all within a weekend away- despite these hardships, Amsterdam was my favorite place I had visited yet! A month in, I am finally well adjusted to my new Italian way of life of fieldtrips, class days, checking budget travel sites, and ordering pizza in Italian.

The highlight of my experience so far had been traveling to the Netherlands with a classmate. Amsterdam, as described by my airbnb host and Dutch native, was ‘dazzling’. This city was diverse, culturally significant and beautiful. The iconic architecture of the buildings surrounded by canals, the pancakes and stroopwafels, as well as visiting the Anne Frank House all made my short weekend in Holland one I will never forget. I will always cherish the opportunity to see where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II, the museum was touching, heartbreaking, inspiring, and most of all worth the two-hour wait. After reading the Diary of Anne Frank in school years before, seeing her original little red checkered diary in Amsterdam was a very special experience and made me incredibly thankful for the opportunity to study, learn and travel through Auburn Abroad.

The Amsterdam Canals

Bailey Mersereau

All is right when in London

I don’t think that it’s even begun to hit me that my new home for eight more weeks is Europe. This trip so far has been so surreal that I constantly feel as though I’m living a dream on repeat. I can’t even begin to put into words what these past four weeks have been like for me, but I can give you a little taste of what has been my favorite so far.

To wrap up week four, my best friend and I traveled to London. It is seriously the little things that get me through day-to-day adventures. London has my heart forever and I could honestly picture myself living there. There is so much beauty and love in this huge city. There is night life, city life, country side, and peaceful parks. London really has it all.

I got to visit and walk through the Green Park and oh my goodness, it took my breath away. This park is so magical and peaceful. The Green Park is something that you would see in a movie – there are dogs playing with each other, squirrels coming up to you waiting to be fed, and people strolling by. I had time to just reflect on my life and realize how fortunate I am to be living the life that I am. London has so much to offer and so many things reminded me of America, so much that I felt at home right when I stepped off the plane.

When I earlier said it’s the little things that get you by – it truly is. What I mean by that statement is that I’ve been craving M&Ms the whole time I’ve been here, well we stumbled upon M&M world and I literally could have cried tears of joy. I was so ecstatic that I customized my M&Ms to have my face on them. Some times it’s nice to get away from the group and have some time just to reflect upon yourself and be able to soak everything in. I can 100% say that I’ve fallen in love with London, and it will not be my last time there.

I’ll forever be grateful for this trip and all the experiences that I’ll gain along the way.

Morgan Rice

Green Park

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

5 A.M. and there goes my alarm again trying to pull me out of my warm, cozy twin bed. Who knew traveling could be so exhausting? I’ve always considered it one of my passions, but you never truly understand all that goes into a trip until you are off to a new place every weekend and realize you have to figure out all the plans yourself. We have currently been in Italy for a full 4 weeks and it has been a whirlwind of activities from day one. However, people keep telling me I am “living the dream” or that I “have it easy” because I’m in school, in Italy. And they are completely right in some aspects, but I also don’t think they realize how much work we put into school and travel. I’m a bit ambitious and before I even stepped foot in Italy for this trip, I already had planned out 12 different cities I wanted to visit, figured out the cost of each, and organized what weekends it would work out best to visit. What I think most people don’t realize is how much work we as students in JSB put in during the week for our classes and then during the weekends for our trips. As soon as class ends it’s time to work on our journals or study for quizzes all while trying to book our flights for weekend excursions and trying to make sure the airlines don’t cheat us out of good deals. Most of our sleep consists of short naps on trains, planes and the bus. Although I have been fortunate enough to travel the world with my family, I always took for granted how much work my parents put into those experiences. Trying to book plane tickets for 4 people at one time, along with a place to stay in a safe area, and make a schedule of things to do is very time consuming and more stressful than one would think. I guess I’ve gained more of an appreciation for all the work my parents have put in over the years so I could experience everything without stress. But also I know I never could have been so comfortable over here in Italy without them making me try to figure out public transportation and travel ever since I was about eight years old. Even though I am constantly moving or traveling, I wouldn’t change a thing. Definitely can’t stop, and won’t ever stop loving travel.

Picture of me in one of my favorite places in Italy: The Amalfi Coast!

Kirsten Rice

Make A Wish

There’s a legend that says if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder, you will return to Rome someday.

Two years ago I had graduated high school and was visiting Europe. I remember being devastated upon seeing the Trevi Fountain because it was being renovated and was not the picturesque location I was expecting. However, my sister and I still tossed our coins into the fountain, and moved on.

Here I am now writing this in the basement of a palace and going on my fourth week of living in Italy. Although I did expect to return to Italy when I threw my coin into the fountain two years ago, I did not expect to be living in Italy with twenty unique, passionate, and caring girls for three months. I did not expect to return to the Trevi fountain so soon and see a completely transformed, beautiful Italian landmark. I did not expect to have travelled to a different country almost every weekend for twelve weeks, each more amazing than the last.

The unexpected has brought me some of the most memorable experiences of my short life, and I am so grateful for all this trip and these people have done for me already. Two weeks ago I threw my coin in the Trevi fountain for the second time in my life, and I am excited to see what the circumstances are next time I return to Italia. Ciao for now!

Caroline Hargreaves

Trevi Fountain 2017


Che Bella Vita

Walking around the streets of Rome, visiting world-famous sights, and traveling to all over Europe during the weekends still feels so surreal to me. When I think about summing up these past four weeks, all that comes to mind is “che bella vita,” an Italian phrase which translates to “what a beautiful life” in English. It’s such a dream to be able to be a part of this program and experience Italy while also getting college credit for it!

In class, I can tell the lecturers are passionate about what they are presenting. They prefer for us to ask questions during class and want us to get engaged. With the classroom being composed of only eighteen other girls that are sharing this experience with me, it is easier to get involved during the lectures as well. It’s much more of an inviting atmosphere than a normal class in Auburn with hundreds of students and a distant professor.

The field trips we take make the learning experience unforgettable. They allow me learn to more than I ever could by simply sitting in class or reading a book. It blows my mind to think that I’ve visited the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pompeii, and many more sights in these past four weeks. Those are experiences I will never forget. Whereas if I were to just read instead of actually experiencing them, I’m sure I’d forget about the facts shortly after.

I believe the weekends allow me to grow the most. Being able to travel on my own with a handful of girls I didn’t even know a month ago has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. Doing so has allowed me to become more independent and outgoing. It’s extremely hard figuring out how to navigate in a foreign country, especially when you don’t speak the language. It also allows us to become so close with one another in such a short period of time. The experiences we share together are what make our friendships so special and unique from those in the States.

With all that being said, I’m learning more than I could have ever imagined on this trip while also creating lifelong friends and becoming a better version of myself. The Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program has been the journey of a lifetime and I’m only one quarter of the way through. What a beautiful life. Che bella vita!

Marybeth Johnson

My new friends and me at Villa d’Este in Tivoli