Gone But Not Forgotten

When I found out that I had the last blog of the semester I must admit I was excited. I knew that having all semester to get to know this group of young women would make writing this post easier.

In these last twelve weeks there has been laughter, tears, singing, sweating, and most importantly bonding. One can never be quite sure what to expect when living with 21 other people under one roof and it was an experience I would never trade or probably repeat.

This summer has opened my eyes to new cultures and stretched my patience further than I ever thought it could go. As the TA for this semester I had an interesting position within the house. Not only was I a figure of authority, but I had to learn to also be a friend; a fine line I had to learn to maneuver. I think the best way to achieve a level of respect is to give respect. None of these women were ever going to take me seriously if didn’t take them seriously.

This summer has been a complete learning experience for me. I come from a very independent family, taught to always take care of my self. This has somewhat hardened me and made me not so sensitive to others feelings and needs. I quickly learned that this would be a challenge for me this summer when on the first night my insensitive nature hurt someone’s feelings. I am pleased to say that at the end of twelve weeks I head back home with a new outlook and a new way of looking at others.

When in the palace often girls are giggling and talking about plans they have for when they get back home: food, family, friends and pets that they miss. One thing reigns above all others – “I didn’t spend all summer getting to know you not to hang out when we get back.”

To me that defines it all. This program is as much about friendship as it is about learning. I have been blessed with amazing European adventures and experiences this summer, things I never want to forget. I leave a small piece of me in Italy, but I take 21 new pieces back with me. We may be leaving, but we will never forget.


Our last weekend together in Cinque Terre!

Our last weekend together in Cinque Terre!

Miracle in the Sistine Chapel

Knowing I would be traveling to the Sistine Chapel today, I kept hearing Will Smith’s voice from the movie Hitch in my head. In the movie, he is meeting with an ‘undateable’ friend to try to prepare him for a date with a beautiful woman and he tells him, “Heard of Michelangelo? Heard of the Sistine Chapel? (Points at himself) Michelangelo. (Points at his friend) Sistine Chapel. Let’s go paint that ceiling.” The Sistine Chapel is the story of conquering seemingly impossible realities. This is where my mind was preparing to walk into Vatican City today.

Alone and unobstructed by other viewers, I imagined my experience staring up at the beauty and serenity of the chapel to be nothing short of inspiring. As Professor Ruth prepared me however, getting a peaceful, serene experience at the Sistine Chapel is as difficult as painting the ceiling itself. The chapel has about 25,000 visitors per day and has tight security insisting absolute silence and no photographs. To block out the sound of “Silenzio!”, Professor Ruth suggested we plug in headphones, find a spot to sit, and zone out. So as I walked into the Sistine Chapel today, headphones in, and heard Chris Martin of Coldplay declare,

“From up above I heard
The angels sing to me these words
And sometimes, in your eyes
I see the beauty in the world”

I looked up and found myself directly underneath the gap between God and Adam’s fingertips. Right there I got a glimpse of the Miracle of the Sistine Chapel.

The center of the Sistine Chapel ceiling "Creación de Adán (Miguel Ángel)" by Michelangelo

The center of the Sistine Chapel ceiling
“Creación de Adán (Miguel Ángel)” by Michelangelo

I must overlook the chaos of life to see how God is reaching out to touch me.

In the midst of stressful jobs, complicated relationships, and periods of constant busyness, I will remind myself of the Sistine Chapel, and to just look up.

Mary McMullen

A Few of My Favorite Things

During my personal travel time while I’ve been in Europe, I have explored many different locations that could make the most accomplished world traveler’s jaw drop. Don’t get me wrong; I have also explored many beautiful and amazing places within Italy with my class. But, this is a story about my travel time outside of Italy and how the people I met made the lands I visited even more interesting.

It all started with my first weekend away in Munich, Germany. I have never met more friendly people (even in my sweet home, Alabama)! More than once, when we asked for directions, they would get out their iPhones for addresses and take us to the spot we were looking for. Whether in a museum or a biergarten, I was amazed at the Germans’ helpfulness and hospitality.

My next weekend to travel was a flight to Greece. I was skeptical when we were going to a small island called Aegina, but I went along because it was a last minute decision. Little did I know, it was the best decision I could have made. The quietness of the island was calming, and the scenery was beautiful. My travel companions and I found our own Greek family while we were there! We got to experience their culture to its fullest by having dinner with them as we all celebrated a birthday in authentic Greek style. I’ll never forget trying to learn the traditional dances!

I decided to explore Seville, Spain next. I was pleased with the weather and the atmosphere of this colorful city. I loved how alive it was, and how the people all seemed to enjoy their life there. Mealtimes were fun; I especially loved the tapas we ate. I think it is such a lovely idea to have a meal where everyone shares each dish; that shows such a sense of community!

The most extended time I have spent away from Italy this summer was with my mother when we went to France. In Nice, we took a night tour of Monte Carlo and Monaco with a skillful and talkative driver, who took us on the route of the Grand Prix. In Avignon, our small hotel was truly our home base. The owners took an interest in us, advising us on places to go. They even sat down and had a glass of wine with us! I loved the hospitality in Avignon, and I enjoyed getting to learn my way around the city. Each market in all the French towns and villages we visited had its own charm, made more memorable by the conversations we shared with the sellers.

The next place I visited was gorgeous Austria! My friends and I had fun singing along to the songs on the Sound of Music Tour with our hilarious British guide. We even ate some yummy Austrian food. The lady who hosted us was so caring. It was almost like having our own Austrian mother! The views were amazing; Austria is a place I want to visit again!

Finally, I toured London and Newbury, England. I have grown up with a love for all things British, but the last time I visited there, I was only seven years old, so, it was time to go back! Renee and I had tea at The Orangery, toured Kensington Palace, and even saw a show in the theatre district! Kensington Palace has a fashion exhibit happening right now, so I was particularly interested. (My major is Apparel Design and Production Management.) I enjoyed seeing garments worn by Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, and Princess Diana. The dresses were beautifully constructed of gorgeous fabrics, and as you can imagine, every detail was perfect. We headed off to Newbury next to see the famous Highclere Castle, better known by television viewers as Downton Abbey. What an amazing experience that was! Being a huge fan of the show, I thoroughly enjoyed walking where the stars walked and seeing the rooms where they film! I found myself thinking in a British accent!

As my summer abroad comes to an end, it is nice to reflect on all the awesome trips I have taken this semester. This program has given me an amazing view on culture of many countries. I am forever grateful for this opportunity to see the world and experience a taste of so many different places. My next adventure will be the one back home, and I look forward to seeing my family and telling them about all the places I explored. Goodnight from Ariccia!

Sarah Crouch

Girls in white dresses without blue satin sashes touring Salzburg while singing our favorite Sound of Music Songs.

Girls in white dresses without blue satin sashes touring Salzburg while singing our favorite Sound of Music songs.

Traveling: Bring It On

Studying abroad has many benefits, among them being personal development, cultural experiences, and becoming a traveling expert. One of my favorite parts of the JSB program is the chance to travel to different European cities on the weekends. But the opportunity to travel every weekend has also brought along the challenge of planning trips in foreign cities and then successfully navigating those cities.

Most people would have second thoughts about this, questioning how they would get there, where they should stay, and how they would communicate with the locals. After only 10 weeks of study abroad, I can honestly say that not one of these concern me and the stressful aspects of traveling no longer intimidate me. Instead, I see these matters simply as part of the adventure and I believe that adventure is the best way to learn.

Not only does weekend travel give me the chance to explore new cities, but it also allows me to experience cultures completely unique from the others. This is important for me as a young adult because now I am more prepared and eager to work with those from cultures completely different from mine.

I have learned more about history and culture in the last 10 weeks of classes and tours than I ever have in 21 years of textbooks and movies. It is truly amazing to learn about Rome’s 2000+ years of history in class one day and then go see it in person the next. Or to take a walking tour in Barcelona, and discover more about the city and Catalonians than I ever thought possible in just 2 hours.

I have found no greater joy in life than traveling and a new adventure, and that’s exactly what I get to do every day while abroad. So if ever the word “travel” comes into conversation, I say “bring it on”.

-Emily Barrows

travel essentials

Travel essentials

Why Not Give Opera a Chance?

Coming to Italy and not seeing an opera is like going to New York City, New York and not getting tickets to a Broadway show. The magic of an Italian opera is similar to the joy with which Americans love Broadway. Spectators travel from all over the world to see these shows and either leave loving the opera or Broadway or decide these types of entertainment simply are not for them. Either way, there is no way to know what type of entertainment is for you without giving an Italian opera or Broadway play a chance.

During my time here in Italy, I have tried my best to try everything in the Italian culture, as well as the cultures of other countries I have visited. When Linda Ruth told my class that we were going to see an opera, I was a little skeptical of how the evening would turn out. I have seen an opera before, and decided the art was not for me. However, the more Linda explained about the importance of the opera in Italian culture, the more I opened up to the idea.

When we arrived to Terme di Caracalla, the venue of the opera, I was awestruck with how cool the amphitheater was. The ruins of ancient Roman baths host concerts, operas, and much more, but only during the summer months. During Madame Butterfly, the opera we went as a class to see, it dawned on me just how lucky I am to experience one of Italy’s most popular operas in such a fantastic setting. Sarah Buhler

JSB Summer '15 Girls at Madame Butterfly

JSB Summer ’15 Girls at Madame Butterfly

The World is Flat

We all know that the world has changed, but what we might not appreciate is just how fast that change is happening. Our summer in Italy has shown us all the power of social media and the media, in general, in making our long-distance voyage not seem so long distance at all.

When our parents spent time abroad, they had to lug guidebooks and detailed maps of the cities they visited—or risk ending up very lost. Now, we all have that information at our fingertips—literally. Our phones have become powerful guides for the travel experience. Whether that means that we downloaded Rick Steve’s latest guidebook or audio tour of the Vatican or simply use the maps function to determine where we are (and where we are going), it is all right there in the phone. Those are the obvious applications. There are other resources for twenty college girls traveling in Europe—local resources. For those aware of Tinder, an online dating app that is popular on college campuses in the US, rest assured that it is international. If we need information on the places that locals go, a swipe to the right provides us with the opportunity to meet up with other local students and a chance to end up in just the right local restaurant with our friends that we never would have found on our own!

Miles away from home and a shift in time zones can potentially leave one feeling a bit homesick. While totally normal, it never hurts to get just one good look at the family pooch to make you feel a little better! FaceTime has taken the world and made it flat for all of us. Instead of writing a letter or simply talking on the phone with Mom and Dad about the Palace and our classrooms, we can take them on a virtual tour.

When I talk with my parents about European travel, back in their day, it involved travel agents. With online bookings and the awesome perk of discounts airlines in Europe, we are lining up weekends through Ryan Air’s online portal, finding hotels, reading the reviews from other travelers, and then identifying the best spots to visit from travel apps. It is amazing how easy it is to find the best off-the-beaten-path places.

What about friends? With social media at my fingertips, I have been able to find friends from other schools and from Auburn who are visiting the same town that I am. I have been able to reconnect with people who I haven’t seen or talked to in over 4 years!

Despite being over 5,000 miles from home, it’s incredible to see what a small world it is after all.

Yoga on Mount Vesuvius

Yoga on Mount Vesuvius

Sarah Cassady

What An Adventure Its Been

I often pinch myself and try to remember that I am living and traveling throughout Europe all summer. It has been such an experience so far. We never stop moving, but this program has blown my mind in ways that I never knew it would. We have seen more and done more than I ever thought we could in just two months!! There is so much work and well thought out plans put into this program and it shows and has encompassed such dynamic things. I am so thankful for getting to travel all around and learn so much. I can’t believe what an amazing opportunity this has been. The program has exposed me to so much life. So many new perspectives, so many new places, so many new friends, so much newness. It has been wonderful. I will never forget my summer abroad in Europe. The Palace has truly begun to feel like home. When I am traveling out of the country on the weekends, it is always so refreshing to get to come back to my bed in the palace. At first I thought that living with 21 girls would be challenging. But to my surprise, it has been incredibly fun! There is so much life consistently surrounding me. I love getting to always say “hi” to someone, and there is always someone to grab a coffee with! Something I loved getting to do was go to Genzano, which is about 10 minutes from Ariccia. We went on the day they had the flower festival! It was incredible! They lined the streets with beautiful designs all made of flowers. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Cooking together in the palace has also been one of my favorite parts of the program. We get to learn from a local, Mrs. Mary Lou, and she is absolutely wonderful. It’s like we are one big family all enjoying a meal together. I truly am so thankful for this incredible opportunity.

Genzano Flower Festival
The Genzano Flower Festival

-Renee Guidry

4th of July Minus America

When I think of 4th of July, I usually think of fireworks, the lake and grilling out with family but guess what- we spent ours listening to a U2 cover band at the Hard Rock Café in Florence, Italy.

With so much going on in the world, a lot of the girls on the trip are nervous for us to show our American pride. However, patriotism won out in the end and we walked around the streets of Florence waving our flags high above our heads. Amusingly, Italians were more receptive to our excitement than planned and many told us to “Enjoy our holiday.” As we walked through the streets in our red, white and blue some even yelled to our surprise, “God bless America!”

At Auburn, we always hear about “War-Eagle-Moments” happening across the globe. We experienced something similar seeing people, mostly tourists, dressed like us and knowing they were missing what we were missing back at home.

Being in Italy during the 4th is different and admittedly bittersweet. While it made us all a little homesick, we knew that everyone else back home was wishing they could be doing what we were doing. Nachos, cheeseburgers, Coca-Colas (with ICE- which is a big treat here in Italy), and music videos presenting Elvis and Bruno Mars, made our hearts and bellies very happy to say the least! All twenty-two girls will tell you that the 4th of July (minus America) was one that we will never forget.

Ciao, Courtney Day

Showing off our American pride outside of the Hard Rock Cafe!

Showing off our American pride outside of the Hard Rock Cafe!