Earning my degree in the College of Agriculture, and especially the School of Fisheries, I have grown used to learning in an environment where the male-to-female ratio skews drastically towards the males. I’m lucky if there are two other girls in my fish classes for me to associate with. All in all, though, I feel like I do quite well for myself. I seem to get along better with guys; they usually don’t venerate the Kardashians or gossip for sport. They speak one at a time and actually listen to what the other has to say; it’s a good time for everyone.
Now throw me into a situation where I live, eat, and sleep with seventeen other females for twelve straight weeks. I’m a fish out of water.
I almost feel like an anthropologist observing a completely different culture. They like to talk about clothes, beauty products, and dieting. The words ‘like’, ‘cute’, and ‘literally’ are used in pretty much every sentence. Photo ops are a must everywhere we go, especially if we’re somewhere ‘cute’.
Before coming to Italy, I just knew that coexisting with this many females was going to be the worst part, and even had the potential to ruin my whole trip. It turns out I was wrong. Girls can be pretty awesome to hang out with. We can go swimming and hiking and do all the stuff I like to do, and at the same time talk about shopping and nail polish and Lizzie McGuire. Photo ops, it turns out, are very helpful for my ‘Insta game’, which is a really good way to keep my family and friends updated on my time here.
So, it turns out that girls really aren’t so bad. And even though I’ve only been here for five weeks, I know that I’ve made friends that will last for years.
From left to right: me, Emily Klippenstein, and Lauren Lynch having a wonderful weekend on the shores of Positano, Italy
My bags still packed a week later
Friday, September 23rd will be one of my most memorable days on the Joseph S. Bruno trip for a number of reasons. My friend Morgan and I planned a weekend trip to Geneva, Switzerland starting on the 23rd and ending on Sunday the 25th. We started our day off in good spirits as we toted our bags to catch the train to Rome. After arriving in Rome we had a great lunch at a restaurant in the train station called WOK that makes great Asian stir fry. We bought our train tickets to Fiumincino Airport and headed on our way.
We arrived at the airport about 2 hours before our departure time and decided to explore the shops a little before going to our gate. After walking around, we went to our gate and sat for about an hour and a half while waiting to board. They started to board the plane about fifteen minutes late and only called people with disabilities and priority boarding to get in line. For about twenty minutes there was a consistent line of people boarding the plane and they still had not called for our section to board. It was getting pretty close to time for the plane to take off so we were getting a little worried. We finally stood up and got in line, but we noticed that the screen at our gate had changed to another flight and both of the airline workers were gone. After running to the nearest information desk, we were informed that we had missed our flight, and were sent to the airline ticket desk.
At this point, we were shocked and very upset. We spoke to at least three people at the ticket booth and they were all very rude and short with us and told us there was no way we could get our money back. Of course, this made us even more upset, and it didn’t help that we were all alone in a foreign country that we’ve only been in for a few weeks. After calling our parents and the airline’s customer service line, we decided to talk to one more person at the ticket booth. We finally got the answer we were hoping for and were told that we could submit a claim online to try and get our money back.
By the end of the day we were so over the entire mess that we couldn’t help but laugh about it on the way back to Ariccia. We even decided to stop and get some of our favorite gelato in Albano on our walk back to the palace. This day was definitely a learning experience for me and I will certainly never forget it.
I. Love. Umbria.
Tuscany better be pretty dang good, because personally I think the book should have been titled Under the Umbrian Sun. Or maybe it was and the publishers thought Tuscan Sun had a better sound. Regardless, I left my heart in Umbria. The cooking class we went to on Tuesday far surpassed any and all expectations. During the class, Gerry’s passion was so contagious. She was literally living out her dream and I had the honor of experiencing it with her and, by the time we left, I was considering trading in my Auburn degree for a culinary degree. Making my own real Italian pasta was, until Tuesday, something only the incredibly lucky got to do. Never in my own life did I think I was going to be able to learn that skill. I’ve already looked up how much a pasta maker costs on Amazon because I never want boxed pasta again.
Assisi was incredibly gorgeous. I was incredibly reluctant to leave. Everywhere I looked, I wanted to take a picture. The white and pink marble and the tiny winding hilltop town made me smile so much my cheeks hurt by the end of the day. I made sure to get the staple products of the city, olive wood and pottery, before I left and I know I will treasure my cutting board and mug forever. I think my favorite part of the day was just sitting, eating my gelato, overlooking the city for an hour before we left. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the rolling hills and how the buildings fit in so perfectly with the landscape. In my opinion, Umbria is Italy’s best kept secret and I hope it stays that way so more visitors can fall in love with it as I did. Pax et Bonum translates to ‘peace and happiness’ in english. Pax at Bonum is exactly how I felt in Assisi!
Every day that I have experienced thus far while participating in the Joseph S. Bruno program has been full of life-changing, eye-opening experiences that have positively affected my life in both personal and professional aspects. For myself, the highlight of this past week was the cooking class I was given the opportunity to participate in located in Umbria, Italy. I was raised by an Italian father so I have always had a strong passion and love for food, especially Italian food. The class was taught by two professional chefs who thoroughly explained and taught us the proper techniques on how to cook ravioli filled with sheep’s milk ricotta and basil cream sauce and pappardelle with wild boar. I was definitely not prepared for the amount of time and effort it took to create these dishes but after hours of slaving in the kitchen, the food only tasted that much better. Once the feast was finally ready after what seemed like days, we were able to enjoy all of our hard work on a beautifully set table outside with a view of the countryside. The view looked like it came from a postcard. This was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I, and I am sure the rest of the class, will never forget.
Having the opportunity to experience different things such as this cooking class has already taught me a great deal about myself and what I truly want to do with my future. I plan to become a journalist, so participating in all of these unique cultural experiences is giving me the international knowledge I need to write articles about different parts of the world. I will be able to more easily explain to my readers who are not able to venture around the world how people from different cultures live their daily lives. I would not change anything about this program and already know this will be the best few months of my life.
The final product of all our hard work: ravioli filled with sheep’s milk ricotta & basil cream sauce, pappardelle with wild boar in sagrantino & house salad with shallot vinaigrette
Our cooking professor, Mary Lou Gray.
While there has been a plethora of awe-inspiring historical sights that we have seen, one of my favorite parts of our adventure here so far was our cooking class with Mary Lou Gray. Mary Lou is the most darling South African lady who has been living in Italy since the 1960s. She moved here after marrying her Italian husband and has been gleaning the techniques of Italian cooking ever since. Intermittently throughout her instruction, Mary Lou would share stories of her time in Italy. She explained to us how when she first got married she was an inadequate cook, but with the help of her Italian mother-in-law, she learned the skills she is now passing down to us.
For our first cooking class, we made pasta with an Amatriciana sauce and another with a pesto sauce. For dessert, we iced a cake with Nutella icing and another with jam and bananas. While I myself didn’t cook, there was so much to take in just through observation. She shared with us that the proper way to cook pasta is to have enough water for the noodles to be able to move around and to make sure you add plenty of salt to the water. After we finished cooking the meal, we got to sit down and share it together, reaping the rewards of our collective labor. That first bite satisfied our grumbling stomachs and our anxious taste buds. My friend Noa and I liked the pesto so much that we went and bought the ingredients to make it for dinner that weekend.
My expectations of this trip have been thoroughly challenged. While I was right to expect to see incredibly beautiful things every day, I didn’t foresee the sheer amount of exhaustion we would all accumulate just by the three-week mark. Because of this, I have learned that it is important to know myself, and how much energy I can expend experiencing amazing things before needing to recharge.
This past weekend’s trip to Positano was no different. Let’s just say that when I found out that heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death in Italy, I decided to blame that on all the stairs. Stairs to go to dinner, stairs to go shopping, stairs to come back home. It was a bit overwhelming. However, I got some much-needed “Me Time” by lounging on the terrace overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, re-reading a favorite book. There was a quiet comfort in it, feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, soon replaced by a soft breeze.
The view from our terrace in Positano on which I re-read a favorite book
Now, amongst the hustle of touring Italy, I find small things to be grateful for, whether it’s the increasingly cooler weather, buttered toast (a rare occurrence!), laughter with a new friend, or a shady spot to simply sit and be alone with my thoughts for a while. Then, I can go and hike Mt. Vesuvius or admire the Amalfi coast from a private boat and truly soak in all the beauty this country has to offer.
By: Olivia Todd
Culture shock (noun): the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
Before we left for our study abroad program, we were warned that we may experience culture shock once we get here and should be prepared for it. I thought it would come because of the language barrier or because we are living in a small, traditional Italian town but I’ve actually thoroughly enjoyed living in Ariccia rather than a “tourist-friendly” big city. It has forced me to get out of my comfort zone to interact with locals by learning the language, following their customs, being on their time schedule, etc.
The way that culture shock has hit me is in regards to food. Don’t get me wrong. I’m loving pasta, pizza, and wine galore but being here made me realize just how much variety we have in America and how convenient meals can be back home compared to Italy. I miss having restaurants serving Mexican, Chinese, burgers, BBQ, sandwiches, wings, etc. just right down the road from me where I can drive-through or order ahead instead of sitting down for a 2-hour meal.
Although living in Ariccia can be tough in regards to food variety, the group finds relief every time we visit Rome. For example, the very first day we went into Rome as a group, most of us got McDonald’s for lunch because it was something familiar and we missed having meat that wasn’t ham (Ariccia is known for its prosciutto). That night we wanted something even more familiar and decided to find a good sushi place, and just a couple of nights ago I went to an Irish Pub that served American food. Overall, we love Italian food, but it’s nice to have some Roman relief when we need familiar food varieties. I look forward to finding my favorite Italian and American food places over the next 9 weeks!
Casey Van Hout
This is a picture of the sushi (Roman relief) that we got the first weekend we visited Rome. Doesn’t it look delicious?
The view of Vatican from St. Peter’s Squre.
If there’s one day that will live in my memory forever, it is the day we visted Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. This church and this experience were so breathtaking and surreal. When I first approached St. Peter’s Square, I was impressed by the largeness of the building, the square, and the many sculptures surrounding the square. However, I was not blown away or astounded. It was very much like everything else I had seen. That is, until I went inside. When I walked in the building, my jaw dropped and I couldn’t speak or even think; I could only absorb. The different chapels inside, the sculptures, the history, and the realness of elements from my Christian faith were almost too much to bear. Our tour guide was phenomenal, transporting us to different points in history without so much as a time machine but with the clarity and understanding of someone who lived the moment. When I was outside, I couldn’t have imagined how large the church would be until I was inside. As people swarmed, both tourists and those of the faith, a type of dance was created between flesh and blood. I never thought I would see, with my own eyes, Michelangelo’s first masterpiece, a saint’s body that would not decay, the tomb of Saint Peter, or the largest Catholic church in the world. Everything in the church was given so much detail. Even the floors were historic, with pieces of marble that have been crossed by diplomats from all over the world. I wish that I could have recorded all the stories that our tour guide told us so that I could replay the stories and reimagine how I felt walking through the church. I will never forget this day, nor will I take for granted the opportunity that I had to go to The Vatican.
I feel like I have been waiting for this trip for what seems like forever, and I still cannot believe it is finally here. We arrived on Tuesday, and after some initial orientations and tours, we are finally all settled in.
This past weekend my friends and I decided to try and get ahead on a class assignment – a scavenger hunt around Rome. On Saturday morning, we all boarded a train from Albano to Rome and decided to spend the night in the city, since we had never been. Little did we know, this class assignment would be so much harder than we expected. We were in a city we had never been to, with no GPS, and little to no knowledge of the Italian language. We were really pushed out of our comfort zone and were forced to lean on many kind locals for directions. Needless to say, by the end of the day I perfected the phrase “Scusi. Dov’è il ___?”, which means “Excuse me. Where is the ___?”. Our day started off interesting when we were in search of our first stop, the Palazzo Chigi, and found ourselves lost in a park for an hour and a half having no idea where we were in regards to the city. After eventually finding our way out, we were on a roll, finding stop after stop, until we were in search of Trajan’s Market. We couldn’t find it anywhere, so we stopped to ask for directions from a tour guide. Turns out, we were standing right next to it and he sent us an hour in the wrong direction. As expected, we were upset to find that out, but every single one of us stayed positive the entire day. My group decided to do the whole scavenger hunt on foot, since using the public transportation was intimidating to us. So 7 hours, 40,000 steps, and 16 miles later, we finally finished. After one of the most exhausting days of our lives, we headed to the place we were staying for the night – a hostel right next to Vatican City. It was definitely not what we expected when we learned that we were rooming with an Argentinian guy named Gus, who ended up being very nice. On top of that, when my friend Hailey sat down on her bed it collapsed underneath her. However, we decided to laugh about it and make the best out of the entire day. All in all, the weekend was definitely a learning experience that we will all look back on with humor and fondness.
If the rest of the semester is anything like the first week was, I am confident this will be the best semester of my life. I am so excited to see what it has in store for me!
THIS JUST IN: Megan Healy and Ali Klebous take the gold in the chariot race!!! My friend Ali and I pretended to be a chariot at one of our scavenger hunt stops: the Circus Maximus. This is where the old chariot races used to take place.
Posted on September 5, 2016
This weekend was the first weekend of personal travel time that we have had here in Italy. The first night, we decided to stay in Ariccia for the Porchetta Festival. The festival was almost comparable to a festival in the states; there were tents, rides, and tons of food!
But here is where the story starts of the eventful weekend. We, as a group of nine, decided to take the 10:23am train from Albano to Rome. We arrived in Rome and needed to figure out our bus tickets to our Airbnb. Let me back track. We had already had two Airbnbs cancel on us. We got on a bus that was taking us to Vatican City. By the looks of the map, it looked relatively close to where we needed to go, It for sure wasn’t in close proximity. We did end up in Vatican City with our suitcases, which was a funny way to experience the Vatican. It exceeded my expectations of how beautiful it was.
We ended up walking 4 miles just from that bus stop to our Airbnb. I was already at 7,000 steps and we hadn’t even started the Scavenger Hunt assignment! The Scavenger hunt was the main purpose for visiting Rome that weekend, which is an assignment when you first get to Italy. We grabbed a quick lunch and got on a new bus. The Scavenger Hunt went pretty smoothly other than a few missed turns, posing in front of the wrong palace thinking it was the Chigi Palace of Rome, and getting on the wrong bus a few more times. By the end, we had walked 14 miles and had endless amounts of fun. In the end, we were all exhausted but we all stayed positive, stuck together, and knew by the end of these next three months, we would be family. This weekend in Rome we came, we saw, we conquered.
By: Hannah Gord
Last stop but we were all still smiling!!