“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Charles R. Swindoll
After spending a semester in Europe, I will return to the United States with a better understanding of this famous quote. Several students and I enjoy having a rough idea of what is going to happen. Unfortunately, some things this semester did not go according to plan:
Positano Hotel Problems
Every semester, students have the opportunity to go to Positano, which is a beautiful beach town on the Amalfi Coast. Our three-day Positano trip took place in early September. When we arrived at our beach-access hotel, we were greeted by an unpleasant surprise. There was a problem with our hotel reservation. We were supposed to have four rooms with space for eighteen people, but we were given two rooms that could hold sixteen people. Because of an Italian-English language barrier, we were unable to discuss this issue with the hotel staff.
Some students and I contacted Cinzia (our program facilitator) and Roberta (our program coordinator). These two ladies are bilingual. They were able to listen to our concerns and communicate them to the hotel workers. By our second day in Positano, we had an adequate number of hotel rooms and beds.
Despite our hotel issues, we had a wonderful time at Positano. We went on boat rides, swam in the ocean, tried fresh seafood at restaurants, and went to a dance club.
Program Director Situation
JSB Auburn Abroad in Italy gained a new program director, Lacey Armstrong, this semester. Lacey is from the United States, so to work in Italy, she had to get a visa. A few weeks into the semester, we learned that there were problems with Lacey’s visa. Due to these issues, she had to leave Italy for a few weeks.
Before she left, Lacey asked Dr. Harriet Giles (the first director of the program) and Abbi-Storm McCann (two-time GTA for the program) to replace her. Dr. Giles was with us for one week. She graded a major assignment (students’ journals, which contain memories made in and facts about different places) and accompanied us on a tour of Vatican City. Abbi-Storm was with us for three weeks. She led classroom activities, graded assignments, and went with us to Florence and Venice.
We missed Lacey, but we enjoyed being with Dr. Giles and Abbi-Storm. Dr. Giles connected well with us during one-on-one conversations. We thought that Abbi-Storm was friendly and energetic. We also appreciated her advice on what to see and eat in Arricia, Florence, and Venice.
Cancelled Weekend Trip
Throughout the semester, most of us dealt with at least one travel-related problem. When she first arrived in Italy, one student had passport issues. Luckily, she was able to get new documentation from the U.S. Embassy before going to Budapest and Amsterdam. When returning to Arricia after being gone for a week, another girl lost her luggage. Thankfully, she had enough clothes to wear while she waited for her bags to arrive at the palace. A couple students dealt with flight delays when flying to Barcelona. Even though they arrived late in Spain, they were still able to see several attractions.
The most memorable travel-related problem involved four students. These girls planned to take a weekend trip to Siena after our overnight field trip to Florence. When they arrived at the train station, they learned their train was cancelled due to a strike. After evaluating their situation, they chose to return home instead of getting another train to Siena.
Back home in Arricia, these students had a weekend that was both fun and productive. They worked on upcoming assignments. They went to apertivo with Abbi-Storm, and they had a “The Greatest Showman” movie night.
In each of these three situations, we had the choice to complain and be pessimistic about our current situation or to “go with the flow” and be optimistic about how a situation could improve. Thankfully we chose to do the latter.