How do I begin to sum up the last three months? How can simple words on a page capture the marvelously challenging adventure that is Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy? It is a tall order, but I will certainly do my best.
As I reflect on this semester, a word comes to mind: unfolding. Just as the spring flowers slowly but surely unfold their tightly wound blossoms after the harsh months of winter, so too have these girls blossomed amidst the challenges that come from adapting to a new experience.
In the beginning, there was the expected clinging to the familiar and safe: small groups formed based on previous acquaintances from majors, girls pined for all things American such as Starbucks coffee and Chipotle. The program facilitators helped navigate every aspect of this new Italian lifestyle for the 22 “Chigi Babies.”
Slowly but surely, something wonderful happened. A beautiful unfolding occurred as each student stepped up and continuously embraced the unfamiliar. New friendships formed through room pride (the girls live in one of four rooms in the Chigi Palace named after cities in Italy) that blossomed through competing for the coveted Chigi Award. Cultural awareness increased through learning to appreciate Italian habits such as leisurely dinners filled with wine, laughter, and pasta carbonara. Confidence grew through planning and executing weekend trips to various European countries while balancing a full semester of school, new friendships, relationships from back home, and much needed downtime.
It has been a joy to see each girl shine in complex and challenging situations. From witnessing a Chigi baby navigate the city of Rome using only a map, a Rick Steves Italian phrase book and a cheery smile to woo any local for directions– to marveling at a group of students from various majors come together to create and pitch a concept for a hostel to an accomplished interior designer from a Rome firm in under 15 minutes.
As my time in Ariccia, Italy comes to a close, I am certain of this: this unfolding is just the beginning. There will be many more unknown experiences that will allow for tightly budded hearts to grow, expand, and unfold into the mystery that is life. You, my Chigi babies, have so beautifully illustrated this concept to me through courageously embracing your time here, and riding the wave of the adventure that is life. I thank you for allowing me to witness and be a part of your own, unique unfolding process.
I am not one for goodbyes so, to my Chigi Family: A presto: see you soon.
With love and gratitude,