Food for Thought

Living in Italy for the past month and a half has been much more than educational. I have met so many great Italians and even Auburn students; therefore, I cannot wait to see these new friendships develop. My Italian family is really interesting and is always really kind to us. They are always willing to go above and beyond to help us out and show us hospitality. One of my other favorite aspects of the JSB program is learning about the Italian cuisine.

Food is a big passion of mine and being able to dive deeply into this aspect of Italian heritage has made me appreciate it even more. I have always thought about starting a food blog or food Instagram account. After Carmen from Aina Giving came to speak to us for a leadership workshop, I decided to go through with my food account. This program is giving me a lot of great content for my food page, and I am excited to see what other new exciting things will arise from this summer.

So far, we have had two cooking classes and this past week one of our instructors, Ms. Mary Louise Gray, taught us how to make two pasta dishes and nutella cake. We all enjoyed the process and learned a lot about Ms. Mary Lou. She encouraged and empowered us with her stories and advice all while giving us new recipes to bring back home to the states.

Lastly, a week ago we received a great lesson from Cucina della Terra on making pasta and ragù. Something I learned was, “Never clean a pasta roller with water, always dust it with a brush”, and “If you don’t cook the onions long enough before adding an acid, like tomato juice, then the onions won’t taste sweet”. These are all just a little taste of the valuable things us students are learning in the Joseph S. Bruno program.

A tasty lunch after Cucina della Terra’s cooking class.


Monique Burton

This Romancing

As I reflect on this summer, I can only sit here and marvel at everything we have seen and done. I think everyone here has experienced life through this program and can agree that we have already seen more than any of us could have ever imagined; and I am grateful for it all. Despite these seemingly satisfying visions and awe-inspiring moments, I have come to realize something that makes me view these captivating scenes drastically different. This monumental truth is wrapped up in God’s glory. Without seeing the earth’s beauty as God’s creation, these sights and experiences are void. As I give up my agenda and selfish heart’s desires for this summer, my Father continues to open my eyes to things unseen- things more beautiful. 

This realization and answered prayer remind me of a book I read two years ago. From Stasi Eldridge, “Every song you love, every memory you cherish, every moment that has moved you to holy tears has been given to you from the One who has been pursing you from your first breath in order to win your heart. God’s version of flowers and chocolates and candlelight dinners come in the form of sunsets and falling stars, moonlight on lakes and cricket symphonies; warm wind, swaying trees, lush gardens, and fierce devotions”. Is this not in accordance of our reality here? This romancing is immensely personal… if it had been exactly scripted for your heart. 

I feel known and satisfied in Ariccia, Rome, Budapest, Barcelona, Sorrento, and Paris. This is because I know my God is whispering love through the visions He gives me as I travel from place to place. Through the nature He has designed for me, He speaks ‘You are known. You are loved. And all this is for you’. Through the little moments where I doubt Him or entertain a negative thought, He shows me an intriguing color or pattern in nature and I laugh at my wayward heart and thank Him for anchoring my soul to His goodness. I know that He alone satisfies the world. This is why I am drawn to experiencing this summer’s adventure with Him within me. He coddles me in His glory. I never want to leave. And I never have to. 

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:1, 3-4

In His love, Virginia Ramsey

Ninfa Gardens, described as “the most romantic gardens in the world”

Reaching New Heights

Before coming on this study abroad I was warned by a previous student of the friendships I would make, of the challenges I would face, of the adventures I would embark on and of the person I would become. To this I responded, “super, now bring on the wine and pasta”. But upon my arrival, l looked across the room seeing many familiar faces, as well as a few unfamiliar and a sense of standing at the edge of something exciting came over me. Maybe this student was on to something. Maybe this summer wasn’t going to be so much about finding the best pasta or cheese but more about exploring myself and how I want to live in this world.    

That night I nestled into my bed (which by the way is surprisingly comfortable) and prayed for courage. My hopes for the summer were to make real memories, filled with real conversations, real experiences, and real people. I knew I would have to be fearless in my pursuit of these goals. I may have added in there a little request for pasta, wine and cheese but it was definitely a secondary supplication.

As the semester began, I started to realize just how much time we’d be spending together. I made the conscious decision to throw privacy to the wind and embrace the opportunities to build meaningful friendships. This decision has paid off in spades. This experience has pushed me past any boundary that I thought existed and shown me that we are only limited by our own minds and incessant need for security. I will admit that I look forward to my own private bathroom back in the States, but the tradeoff has been well worth it.

Touring the small town of Ariccia as a class would soon turn into visiting the Sistine Chapel, which would then turn into hiking the side of an active volcano and eventually flying to Greece in a group of 22 girls. One may ask, how do you travel with a group of 22 seamlessly? The answer is, you don’t. But it’s the seams and cracks along the path we travel that make life most interesting and memorable.

We all miss our moms, we all miss Chick-Fil-A, and we all want to explore Europe. We are a diverse group. We do bring a broad range of attributes to the table. But we have built a culture of 22 very different girls who have found common ground and are building life-long friendships through the exploration of new and different cultures together. I’m certain this summer will rank as one of the greatest experiences in my life.

Being surrounded by these girls has brought out sides of me I had no idea existed. I’ve learned a lot about each one of them but more importantly I am beginning to discover my own true nature.  I have been introduced to my adventurous spirit and I like her.  My terrible sense of direction has been confirmed, but who knew I enjoy listening to Chinese love songs and I was cooking basically everything I eat incorrectly.

This experience has been wrought with extremes. My luggage was lost on the way here, I arrived with the flu and came close to cutting my finger off in a cooking class. But I also have stood beneath the work of Michelangelo, strolled La Rambla in Barcelona and shopped until I dropped in Paris.  It seems I have taken the leap off the edge of something exciting and even though I have hit a few jagged edges, the air is sweet up here and I plan on sticking the landing.

4,203 feet later!

Jordan Hill

Fight off FOMO

Ah, good ole FOMO. For those who are not familiar with the term, FOMO is an acronym for “Fear Of Missing Out”. An example of this would be if I was invited to go out for dinner and drinks at a new restaurant, but I am completely exhausted from the day, or I didn’t get any sleep the night before. Suddenly, even though I am exhausted and would love to just relax at home or got to bed, I am engulfed with FOMO. What if I miss out on something really fun? This could possibly be one of the best nights of my life. And, not to mention, I don’t want to feel lame by choosing to stay in instead of going out and being social. So, what do I do? Should I listen to my body, telling me that I really need to relax and take the night to recharge? Or do I give in to the feelings of FOMO, taunting me, filling me with thoughts of “what if’s” and anxiety. Well, I am here to say that FOMO will travel along wherever you go, and it is absolutely okay to not give into it.

FOMO has really been a problem for me so far in this program. I mean, I am in a beautiful country, so why not do everything humanly possible? I think that is everyone’s thought process when coming into this program, as it certainly was mine. However, now that we are entering week four, I have a slightly different attitude regarding FOMO. I, for one, am someone who needs some alone time to survive. I have sacrificed a lot of that needed alone time because of FOMO. In turn, I was more drained and exhausted than ever before. So, I decided that I would try my best to ignore the FOMO harassing me, and listen to my body and mind. Since I made that decision, I have felt so much better. Of course, the FOMO still lingers when I decide to say no to something, but I know that I am truly doing it for my well-being. I am not saying that people should just lie in bed and watch Netflix half the time, or to be an anti-social hermit. I am just saying that it is okay to do your own thing every once in a while. And I am saying that it is more than okay to take a step back and say no to something when your body and mind are telling you to take a small break.

It is easy to get caught up in the world of FOMO here, and it can quickly run you down. Take some time to look after your mental and physical health here. Ignoring the FOMO every once in a while has made my experience here a whole lot better, so do not feel pressured to do every single thing. Know yourself and know when to ignore the FOMO.

Don’t let FOMO control yo life no mo’,

Emma Rose

Smiling behind the pain of this hike

Gracious Love

Before leaving for this study abroad opportunity, I was scared of becoming homesick, nostalgic, and negative. I have only been in Italy for four weeks now, but I know that none of that is going to become a truth. I have learned and am working on putting into practice several values that I think have helped the four weeks go smoother than I expected. The first of these is staying true to myself. I know this sounds so cliche, but it can truly effect a friendship. When we first got here, we were all thrown into the chaos of having to bond with the other 20 girls. I have come to quickly love and respect every girl in the group because of the amount of vulnerability and love I see they have for themselves. That brings me to the second value I think is so important: the ability to love yourself. It is common knowledge that the negativity of one person can bring down the morale of the whole group, and I think that a lot of the time negativity stems from not being able to love yourself well. Being a group of girls, I know that we all struggle with loving ourselves well- girls are full of insecurities. But the moment that we let those insecurities take the front seat, we let jealousy and unhappiness rule in our lives. I am so thankful for the group here on this study abroad session. Every girl is so incredible and is constantly building someone up and there has been little times that negativity has had the ability to rule. I think that if our group continues to stay genuine and love well, the rest of the summer is going to fly by in the best way possible and we will always be able to look back on this summer with a smile on our faces.

Love, Ellie

Six Mountains, Three Sisters, and a Star

Almost nine years ago, my oldest sister, Hallie, left behind family, friends, and the famous 2010 Auburn football season to participate in the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad program. Our family likes to think that she made it to Italy by luck after an academic advisor gave her some bad advice, which resulted in her having to enter the elementary education a semester late. With that semester, she could have either stayed in Auburn dilly dallying around, not enrolled in classes or she could go abroad. Ultimately, with a little encouragement from my parents, she decided it would be best for her to study overseas for a semester. Her summer was nothing short of remarkable, so remarkable that a Cam Newton football season could not even compare. In fact, this goes down as one of the best decisions she has made in her lifetime. From then on, the Joseph S. Bruno program became a family tradition for the Christensen family Auburn- goers. 

In 2016, another Christensen sister returned to Ariccia. Ansley had the summer of a lifetime bringing positive energy to everything she did during her own “Grand Tour”. The program, the people, and the overall experience had such a positive impact on her life that she returned to Ariccia in 2018 to visit some of the people and places that hold such a special place in her heart. 

Now, here I am returning to Ariccia for my second time. This time for 3 months rather than a quick visit to see a sister. I am ashamed to admit that before I got here, I thought I knew it all. Funny, Emily. First of all, I thought three months was a long time. It’s not. Although the days sometimes go slow, the weeks come and go in what feels like a matter of seconds. This adventure that I keep telling myself is like a marathon, is somehow feeling like the fastest sprint I have ever run. I often find myself laying in my nest wondering how I can stop the clock. Another misconception that I had was my belief that this summer abroad was going to be some type of sacrifice as I left behind what felt comfortable. Twenty- two days later, I realize that this is nothing short of a great privilege—a privilege that I did nothing to deserve.

As I look back on my time here thus far, I think about how my experience is so unique from some of my other friends who are studying abroad. The Joseph S. Bruno program is not about being “legal” a few months early, or becoming the biggest adrenaline junky, or taking the perfect Instagram picture. It is about learning about where the history of the world started and realizing that you are standing on the grounds where incredible people stood, and still stand today. As Chigi Palace Sister Number 3, I guess I owe a debt of gratitude to the incompetent advisor who told my eldest sister to take the wrong humanities course. She accidentally changed the way my family sees beauty, history, and the world. So here is to a summer like no other. Here is to a program that is one of a kind. Here is to all the people who made it possible. Finally, here is to all of the past and future Chigi babies.


The Third and Final Christensen Sister—Emily 

Left to Right: Maggie Leigh Faulk, Ellie Polk, Emily Christensen

Full Camera, Full Heart

Going into college, I knew that I could not let myself graduate without studying abroad. Everyone that I had talked to before coming to Auburn said that they had either studied abroad, and had the most amazing experience, or had not, and regretted it. When I signed up for the JSB program at camp war eagle during the summer of 2017, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t research the program, I honestly was not even sure of the minor that it would give me, all I heard was “Summer in Rome” and immediately knew that I needed to sign up.

Fast forward 2 years, and here I am. This short month that I have spent in Ariccia has changed my life completely, these girls have changed my life completely. Coming into the palace I was unsure of what to think. I felt like most of the girls knew each other already, whether from their major, their sorority, mutual friends, etc. and I was intimidated. But, I couldn’t have been more wrong, every single girl on this trip is so special and genuine, everyone makes an effort to be friends with every single girl. Having all of these different and unique friendships is something that has played a huge part in making this experience so amazing.

In addition to that, being able travel all over Europe is one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. There is so much culture and history here everywhere you look. From the Roman Ruins, to the Vatican City it is amazing to think that you are walking in some of the same places that various famous rulers, popes, artists, and many more once walked on. Every single field trip that we go on and sight that we see gets more amazing. My camera is full of pictures from every single place that we have traveled, in the hopes that I will capture enough of them to be able to relive this experience through the photos once I return home. Although, it’s not going to be easy to make me leave this wonderful place.


Isla Stewart

Almost all of the girls on a sunset boat cruise in Barcelona

Cheek Aches and Challenges

On May 7th, 2019, I hopped off a bus in front of a giant, white palace in the town of Ariccia. I had no idea what I was doing halfway across the world, away from friends and family, or what I was about to get myself into. I was too jetlagged to see the numerous cars barreling down the road, almost running me over, too tired to realize how astonishing the view was from the bridge, and too out of place to take in where I was standing. Grabbing my suitcases (yes I brought 3), I headed down the steep cobblestone driveway to the front door of Auburn’s international campus, took a deep breath, and walked inside. Ever since taking these steps, I’ve had cheek aches from smiling too much.

I never knew how much happiness living abroad would bring me. As a nutrition major at Auburn, I am challenged solely through academics. Here, I am challenged not only with academics but also socially, physically, and mentally. Many classes and field experience activities have forced me to step out of my comfort zone such as navigating through Rome with solely a map and teammates, public speaking in our leadership class, and ordering dinner at a restaurant where no one speaks English. I should also mention getting used to living with 21 other college girls. Everything I have been forced to do while abroad, either in Ariccia, Rome, or on a weekday trip to a spontaneous Italian city, has pushed me to be a better version of myself. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer holds, and I am anxious to seek the adventures that remain undiscovered. 

Here’s to continuing to be challenged, facing my fears, laughing until I cry, and smiling until my cheeks ache!

From Ariccia with love,

 Chapman Giles

All smiles when successfully navigating to The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument!

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

During the past three weeks in Ariccia, I have learned a very important lesson: open your mind and step out of your comfort zone. 

I will not forget the first few days in the small town of Ariccia. I was dumbfounded by the buildings, the view from the bridge, the art, and of course by the food. I remember being overwhelmed by the cultural differences and almost timid to fully immerse myself. I have come to realize how important it is to open my mind and appreciate every piece of this town and the culture surrounding it. Some of my favorite times that we have had on this experience are when we are able to interact with actual residents of the Castelli Romani. For example, when we visited the high school, I was blessed with the opportunity of meeting some fourth-year girls and hearing their thoughts on their hometowns, learning about their day-to-day activities and having the opportunity to compare it with my thoughts on my hometown and my day-to-day activities. This experience was so impactful to me because I was able to learn from girls that were close in age to me, about the way others live outside of my comfort zone and outside my bubble 

I have not been in Ariccia long, but this experience is beginning to make me not just change the way I see the world, but to actually see the world and appreciate places that are outside of my bubble and my comfort zone. I am looking forward to learning more important life lessons over the weeks to come!

an image of us immersing ourselves in Italian culture learning about Italian aperitivo and trying new foods!

Being Present in Appreciation

About four weeks ago, I was in Auburn, Alabama, stressing about final projects and how much school work was on my plate. I was running around like a crazy woman not able to truly think about or appreciate what I was doing, just trying to get through it all. Sooner than I realized, I would be headed to Ariccia, Italy to take on a great adventure!!

As I have been here in Ariccia for almost three weeks now, it has been pretty surreal to me. There is so much culture and beauty around me I fear that I won’t be able to take it all in! Almost every single day I have learned something new whether that be about the beautiful church across the street, a painting in Rome, an Italian phrase spoken with partial accuracy, or a new discovery about my own self. Being here in Italy has made me realize what a gift education is, especially when it is interesting and applicable! I appreciate the information that our Italian professors are giving to us, more so because you can tell the excitement and pride they hold in their hearts for what they are teaching. They love to share the beautiful nooks and crannies of their country and, seemingly, never grow weary of it. I want to bring this energy and motivation to learn back to Auburn with me when I return. We all have learned so much here in Italy, and there is still much more time to learn even more! I hope that we can soak in this gift to its full capacity.


Claire Darnall

Our first trip to the Ariccia market! Learning to appreciate the little things like fresh food and simple Italian phrases like “how much does this cost?”.