Eiffel in Louvre with Paris

Paris was a breath of fresh air – not literally, but it was AMAZING.

I went for the first time this past weekend, and fell in LOVE. Already dreaming of when I will get to go back someday. A couple of rules when going to Paris are:

  1. Say no to the men selling champagne for €30 (you can get it for €5 – trust me)
  2. Say YES to cheap flights

When the Chigi baby crew found the cheap flights, we packed our bags and made Paris happen.

As soon as we stepped foot on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. When I travel, I am always behind the lens. Sometimes too much trying to capture a perfect video (to use down the road), but this moment was different. Yes of course we took pictures, but for the first time in a long time I was truly seeing and LIVING. I wasn’t obsessed with capturing every little thing, instead I just took it all in. I mean who all can say they’ve gotten to spend their birthday in Paris? Yes, it was my birthday (05/18) and an incredible one at that.

Of course, I could go on and on about Paris, but instead I would like to say a few things about the amazing CREW I was with.

Olivia | @livurlife6: Olivia is 4 feet and 11 inches of puuuure sauce. I’ve only known this girl for 2 weeks and DANG can she make me laugh. Those one liners mixed with that southern accent will have you rolling on the floor and probably crying. She truly is the life of the party and I know without a doubt we will be friends for yearssss. Rachel | @rachelsamaras: Let me tell ya, this girl should NOT wear heels in the metro or on any cobblestone street for that matter. BUT Rachel will just sit and listen to anyone’s stories, and comment on them, ask questions, and genuinely want to hear more. She is definitely one you can count on. Abbie | @childish_gauldino: If there is one person that knows her way around a foreign country or a metro, it’s Abbie. She will have you RUNNING (and winded if you’re like me) no doubt, but you won’t be late, will always have your travel documents, and can count on her to save you a seat at the restaurant that she found 19864756408 days in advance. Sarah | @say_ham: HAHAHA gosh I love her. If there is ever a dull moment, she will quickly give the group something to laugh about. She is the KWEEN of sleep and will forever be that person I invite to travel with me. She is down for just about anything. Taylor | @taytaywolf1: Taylor has the most calming presence that is so addicting. She is always in a good mood and is the best conversationalist. She was my favorite person to sit by at dinner or walk the streets with – the conversation just flowed. Taylor, keep doing you and being a positive influence. Kitty | @ kit_king: You can’t not love Kitty. I just automatically gravitate to her. You hear about people all the time, who have a ‘light’ about them, and that is KIT described perfectly. She’s not the loudest one in the group, she’s not the center of attention, but she exudes confidence in such a beautiful way. Thank you for being YOU Kit and not letting anyone change that. Kerry | @kerryanneedavis: If you hear someone saying “YASS QUEEN #WERK IT” while taking a picture, it’s probably Kerry. I. LOVE. THIS. GIRL. Kerry is.. hmmm how do I put this.. A SUPERSTAR (she really does like stars). I could honestly talk to her all day and if there is someone who can positively impact people, it’s her. Sabrina | @sabrinaangelo1: Her snapchats make me CRY they are so funny. She is SO photogenic and a FIREBALL to say the least. She doesn’t seem intimidating, but I promise she’s stronger than you, she’s smarter than you, and she’s from ATL. So, your best bet is to walk way. Christopher | @chvought (aka: THE “TA”): If there is someone who can navigate – it’s this guy (I’m totally kidding – he will have you walking in circles for MILES). On a real note, he is an awesome roommate and probably cares about the group more than anyone I know. If we need something, he will always be right there to help you out. Caroline | @cwalk_23: THE GOAT, THE PEANUT BUTTER TO MY JELLY, THE MVP. Was that too aggressive? I hope so because I meant it!!! Need someone to laugh with? Find Carol. She’s alllll over the place, eats more than a teenage boy going through puberty, always stands up to me, and I listen to her anyway. It’s Caroline. She can turn a bad day around with her presence.

I love these people so much and can’t wait for more trip likes Paris to take place this summer. They are the best BIRGS (friends) I could ask for while living in Ariccia.

Ciao, Bella’s.

– Dalton | @dcparkman

Eiffel at night. Truly stunning.

Settling In

Buonasera (good afternoon) from Ariccia!

Boy do I love this little town so far. After spending a few blurry days catching up on sleep, I think I am finally adjusting to the Italian time zone. Ariccia is the quaintest little town, with hilly cobblestone streets, ivy covered balconies, and quiet farms off in the distance.

A group of us walking on the bridge to the neighboring town, Albano. The Chigi Palace is directly behind us! (photo courtesy of Katherine Morris)

Our very first night, Maurizio, one of our instructors, showed us the many layers of the city. Partially built to confuse plunder-seeking pirates, and partially built as the Roman Empire grew, Ariccia is laid out in a series of winding streets and piazzas (open alleyways). Our first day in Rome we toured the ruins of the Roman Forum and learned that there are 7 different street levels that date back to ancient Roman times. Similarly, in Ariccia, the lower we walked, the older the streets and the homes became. It’s mind blowing to think that we are living in a Palace that is older than our country.

So far we have spent three days in Rome, and while it is rich with history and architecture, it is also full of tourists and solicitors. Getting off the train when coming home to Ariccia incurs a little sigh of relief. Not to say that Rome isn’t an incredible city, but Rome is to New York as Ariccia is to Auburn, and Ariccia evokes a sense of serenity that the New York of Italy just doesn’t have.

One of my favorite things that we did yesterday was visit an elementary school and help a fourth grade class with their English. The children were adorable, and we taught them all about Auburn, DC, and even taught them to sing and write God Bless America! I loved how excited they were to learn about our country.

I couldn’t write this blog without mentioning how blessed I am with the people that have become my fast friends – there is an incredible group here, eager to learn and excited for adventures. Whether I’ve been here a week, or a month I can’t decide, but I’m thrilled that this journey of learning, excitement, and adventure has only begun!

-Sarah Hill

How ‘Bout That Ride In?

Buongiorno from the Chigi Palace of Ariccia!

After landing in Italy a week and a half ago, it still hasn’t quite set in that this will be our new home for the next THREE months! As we approach the end of our second week here in Ariccia, it’s hard to believe what all we have accomplished in such a short amount of time. From seeing the beautiful architecture from places like St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, to simply learning how to converse with the locals in Italian, I am blown away with all that Italy has to offer. Furthermore, reflecting back on this past week only excites me more for what lies ahead.

In a mere couple of days, all 20 of us have explored Rome with the help of Cinzia, but soon after, quickly learned how to maneuver the city by ourselves. It is surprising how fast I have felt comfortable, and at home, here in Ariccia. Walking down the streets more confidently, I no longer feel like such a stranger in a new place. With that, we have all established our “go-to” places around town, and it’s refreshing to see the owners begin to remember us after only a few days. I’m happy that I can already say I have begun to learn how to adapt to new places with ease, and I am sure my peers would agree.

Several of us exploring Rome at the Borghese gardens last Saturday

Another thing I want to mention regarding this experience so far is about the relationships we have built. It is amazing how incredibly close all of us have already gotten since we have arrived. I feel like I have known some of these friends for years, while I may have only known them for a few days. Building friendships with people I had not even met prior to this trip is one of my favorite things about this experience, thus far. While I knew several of the people on this trip before, I am excited to branch out and make connections with not only my peers from Auburn, but also the local people of Ariccia, as well.

I have always had a strong passion for travel and new experiences, as I believe it is one of the most important things we can do at this point in our lives. Immersing myself in such an extraordinary culture and broadening my global perspective is something I am excited to say I have already begun to do, and I strive to continue this throughout my journey abroad!

Cheers to 10 more weeks!

– Sarah Hamilton

From Ariccia with Love

Ciao from Ariccia, Italy!

We are about to enter into our second week in Italy and I don’t think any of us would trade this experience thus far for anything. It was a full week of learning to live in Ariccia and getting from the Chigi Palace all the way to Rome. As a group, we went to Rome on Friday to be lead by our fearless Italian teacher, Cinzia, to all the major sites in the city. We toured the Forum, Colosseum, and the Trevi Fountain to just name a few. The pace of the city was a lot compared to the slow pace of Ariccia so by the end of the day the group was worn out and happy to be back in our new hometown for the next 3 months.

Saturday was another busy day with the majority of the group going back to Rome to complete our scavenger hunt of major sites in the city. Everyone split up and took on the city without a guide. It was that taste of independence that made the day so enjoyable for me because we got to decide where we wanted to go and how quickly or slowly. The three other girls that I went with would stumble upon little hidden gems in the city and we were constantly in awe of the history the city had to offer.

Now it is Sunday and it has been a much needed day of rest. The palace was quiet with everyone asleep till about noon and the day was spent hanging about and some of us going on little walks around town enjoying the beautiful weather. Overall a wonderful first week spent in Italia and it makes me oh so excited for the upcoming eleven weeks!

Best,

Abbie Gauldin

 

 

“These Days, These Days”

“…We’ll sit down together, and laugh with each other, and we’ll wish we could come back to these days, these days…” – lyrics from “These Days” by Rudimental

As I sit here listening to these lyrics on repeat, I realize no song could be more perfect to describe this semester. After spending 12 weeks in Ariccia (for the second time), I am more grateful than ever for this incredible JSB Auburn Abroad in Italy Program and these special days we get to spend here and all over Europe.

When I last left Ariccia at the close of 2016, I knew I had to find a way to return, but I had no idea how I was going to make that goal happen. This town and these people held a special place in my heart—so special of a place that it was something I couldn’t go a day without thinking about. When the opportunity opened up, I jumped in head first.

I have shared life-changing experiences with 20 girls who, at this moment, I can’t imagine not being able to chat with every second of every day. We have had the pleasure of taking on very big tasks that we couldn’t have done without each other. From all the humbling and not-so-fun ones like serving lunch for over 500 people at Caritas in Rome, encouraging each other while we were climbing almost 500 steps of the Dome in Florence, being on the verge of tears, and digging for a passport in the airport trashcans at midnight to very opposite and amazing extremes, like watching the sunset in Positano from our balcony with our feet in the hot tub, riding in gondolas in Venice while drinking wine, and stuffing our faces with the yummiest pizza in Naples.

Because of each and every one of these girls and this experience, I have a new perspective on life I never knew existed. I had no idea how special, yet different this time around would be for me. I could go on and on about how much I learned about myself and the world. Most importantly, I learned how globalization really is impacting my life on a daily basis and that my career opportunities are endless. I learned patience is a virtue AND I became even more emotional (Who knew that was possible?!). Although there have been hard and challenging times, these times have been priceless and I wouldn’t change them for the world. I know we will always be able to look back and laugh, cry, and wish we could come back to these days, these days.

Alexandra Howard

Our very first group picture where we barely knew each other’s name to our last picture

An Easter Rainbow

Ciao!

Holidays away from home are always hard. My typical Easter in the States is full of church, family, Easter baskets, and classic American comfort food. Last weekend I celebrated Easter in a Croatian church with people that until 2 months ago were complete strangers and my Easter dinner was shrimp pasta. However, I still had the best weekend celebrating one of my favorite holidays with friends that have become like family in just 10 short weeks.

JSB gives the opportunity for personal travel on weekends, and since it was Easter, we had a 4-day weekend! If I had to pick a weekend of this semester where I learned the most important lesson, I would choose last weekend. There have been weekends where I have learned to navigate big cities, and weekends where I have learned about cultures completely foreign to me. However, 4 days in Croatia taught me a lesson I will never forget. It taught me that no matter where I am in the world I can choose to feel blessed or choose to be dwell on what I don’t have.

The weekend started off with gloomy skies and inconvenient rain. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. Several of the girls I was with were spending their first major holiday away from home, and we were stuck in a tiny Airbnb hiding from the rain. Then Sunday morning came and we decided to go to church at a small Croatian Baptist church. The service was so foreign to us and nothing like what we were used to experiencing at Easter Sunday church. It would have been easy to walk away discouraged. However, I walked away from the 2-hour service, amazed at the universality of the Gospel!

As our weekend continued, we started to find small signs that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. First, it was a beautiful hike that blew us away and unexpectedly led us to a majestic white cross. Then it was the most amazing sunset over the water. As we sat on the rocks amazed by the beautiful colors, it started to rain. It could have been a tragic end to the day, but instead we turned around and saw a perfect double rainbow! It was one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen and the perfect symbol of our weekend. There is always a rainbow if you wait long enough and look hard enough.

This lesson I will take with me long after I leave Italy, but one that I think sums up this program perfectly. JSB has been one of the most impactful experiences of my life. I have learned so much and grown in a million different ways. However, it is not always the easiest. There have been many times when I have to take a step back and remind myself that while I may not have my favorite peanut butter and the WiFi may cut off my FaceTimes at the most inconvenient times, I get to live in Italy!

That right there is the biggest rainbow of them all. Just like how I will talk about the rainbow in Croatia for the rest of my life yet completely forget the rain, I will talk about everything amazing about JSB and completely forget the hard because it is so beyond worth it! I cannot believe it is almost time for me to go home!

A perfect double rainbow at sunset on Easter

-Anna Beebe

Wanderlust

Looking back over these past few months, I can’t believe that we only have a few weeks left here in Ariccia. It feels like just last week we were arriving at the palace and meeting everyone for the first time. This experience has taught me to not waste any time, and to take full advantage of the opportunities we have here, because it goes by so much faster than I thought.

One of the things that is really unique about the Joseph S. Bruno abroad program, is that we get to see a lot more during the week on fieldtrips and other class activities than many of the other study abroad programs. This has allowed us to spend our weekends traveling to so many amazing places that we may not have normally been able to go to. I think it is definitely important to try and go to all the places that are at the top of our lists, because chances are there is always someone that wants to go there too! However, I have learned that it is also really important to be flexible and compromise, because if plans change, no matter where you go, it is always absolutely amazing!

One of my all-time favorite places that we have gone to so far was Greece this past weekend. I have always wanted to go to Greece, and it was even more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. We rented a car and drove around the whole island of Crete through the beautiful mountains and gorges. Another one of my favorite parts was visiting some of the famous beaches, including Balos Beach with beautiful blue water, and Elafonisi Beach, which is the beach with pink sand! These are a must-see if you ever are in the Chania area, because they were absolutely beautiful. Greece was definitely one of my favorite weekends abroad so far, and one of the trips that I will never forget. These last few trips are going to be some of the best yet and I’m so excited for the weeks to come!

Balos Beach!

— Allie Billock

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Week 10 in Italy provided me with one of my favorite experiences we have had abroad. On Tuesday, we loaded up the buses and headed to Rome for the day. We started off at an organization called Caritas. Caritas is an organization started by the Catholic church that helps the impoverished by providing meal and support for them through various services. One of their main purposes is to inspire Christians “to place charity as the central motive of the Church’s life, and mission.” We were given a brief overview of their system by one of the head coordinators, then we all prayed together with the rest of the volunteers and staff before the lunch guests arrived. Sharing a moment of prayer in another language, but in unity, is always such a moving moment for me. It gives me chills that regardless of language barriers and different cultures we can all praise one God and have him understand fully. After the prayer, we were assigned our stations and started setting up. I was assigned to the milk station to pour cups of milk for them and hand out cups for water. All at once, the guests started pouring in for their lunch. It was so special to get to serve them and see the excitement on their faces when receiving this delicious, hot meal. One would think that serving milk would be one of the easiest tasks, however it quickly proved to be a minor challenge when a language barrier Is included. We were instructed to hand out either one cup of milk or an empty cup for water to each guest. They were not allowed to have both. Many of the guests were upset about this, but we didn’t know how to explain to them in Italian why they couldn’t have both. We quickly figured out a way to overcome this challenge by learning small Italian phrases to explain or by recruiting help from some of the staff or regular volunteers. After 4 hours and over 450 guests served, it was by far one of my favorite experiences I’ve had during class days.

After cleaning up, we headed to the World Food Programme headquarters.  We went through the intensive security required for a UN organization and headed to one of their meeting rooms to learn about what WFP is all about. We were greeted and taken care of by the nicest men that work at WFP. They started the presentation with a video that played ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ that highlights all their biggest accomplishments. It also symbolizes that they have conquered so much, and continue to serve so many different countries. WFP helps feed over 80 million people a year in around 80 countries. They shared with us their goal from 2015-2030 to completely end world hunger. WFP operates through 5,000 trucks, 20 ships, and 92 planes working daily throughout the different countries they serve. They are an incredible organization, and I loved getting to learn more about it in their headquarters. We have learned so much about the history and ancient civilization of Rome, but it was so refreshing and fascinating to get to have two experiences that were about modern day issues.

The lobby of WFP that provides guests with some of the main statistics

 

-Hannah Binion

Moher and More Adventures

Salve!

Goodness, what a whirlwind this study abroad journey has been! Today marks the beginning of the final 30 days I have here and I am already feeling so sentimental and sad as I watch the weeks fly by so quickly. A bit of advice: if you ever find yourself on this study abroad trip or on another similar experience, do NOT let your mind begin imagining what the last night on the trip will be like. It is actually one of the most depressing thoughts I can conjure up right now! The best thing to do is to really make the most of each and every magical moment here… and luckily, there are many of them!

One of my very favorite places I have visited so far was the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland on my personal travel time during spring break. The day I went there did not start out or even finish as planned and many mishaps occurred that day, but they were all worth it because I still got to see one of the most frightening, yet beautiful scenes in creation. Frightening because I was standing on the edge of some of the tallest, most treacherous, deadly cliffs. Beautiful because, well, if you have not been to these cliffs, just take a look at the photo attached and you will see!

I truly appreciate Ireland for its green grass and beauty. Its colors are so vivid and its views are incredible. Even the city of Dublin was beautiful and visually pleasing. However, right before walking away from the Cliffs of Moher to go back to the bus, I looked back and saw the most beautiful, vibrant rainbow stretching from behind the cliffs and diving straight into the waters before the cliffs so that I could see exactly where it ended. I don’t think I had ever been able to see the end of a rainbow, but there’s a first time for everything, and it is no disappointment of mine to have seen such a sight and at such a breathtaking place. It was an experience like no other and I was thankful to have had the chance to experience the beauty and the miracles of creation on a different level than before.

I will always be grateful for my time abroad and the opportunities for personal travel that allow me to see the coolest of places, like the Cliffs of Moher. I recommend for anyone who hasn’t visited those cliffs to visit them, but if you find yourself standing close to the edge at the same time a huge gust of wind is coming through, back up and sit down immediately or may the Lord have mercy on your soul!

-Carrie Johnson

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Spring With a Bit of Break

My mom and Me at the Castle!

Well, spring break has come and gone, leaving us with only five weeks left here in beautiful Italy. I honestly cannot believe that we have completed seven weeks here and have done so much. I did not think that I could become so close to these girls in this short amount of time. The break was so nice and I loved seeing my parents. One thing I did not think about when signing up for three months in Italy was how much I would miss my family. A week away from the palace seemed like such a long time in the beginning of the week, however, it went by so quickly. My mom and dad planned a full week. We travelled to six countries, nine cities and drove 1600 miles (I did not count the steps because it would be too many). My favorite place by far was Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. It was such a unique place to visit and I was fascinated by both the interior and exterior design. My favorite room inside the castle was the king’s artificial grotto, which had an artificial indoor waterfall. My family rode on horse and carriage up to the castle and then back down, but we walked to the Queen Mary’s Bridge, which allows for the perfect photo background of the castle. Overall, it was hands down, the best spring break I have ever had and I am so happy that I was able to experience it with the ones I love the most. I am so excited for the next upcoming weeks and I am so happy to be back together with all the girls in the palace.

~Abigail Benz