Cultivate Our Garden

I’m fascinated by the way our experiences weave into a perfectly knit-together story, often without us even realizing, until we take the time to reflect. When I first arrived here in Ariccia, Italy, I took on the title of Momma Mela, the Italian word for apple. The students were divided into fruit groups (bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes) for the purpose of sharing responsibilities for chores here in the Chigi Palace. I spent the semester studying Galations 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” As a nutrition student, I have always loved fruit, with apples being my favorite food since childhood. This was a topic I could easily connect with and share with the students.

By the final week of classes, our history lecturer, Marco Antonini, left us with a quote by the French author, Voltaire, “We must cultivate our garden.” Marco recently turned 90 years old, and is still sharper than most tools in the shed. He’s lived a full life, and he documents it all in a daily journal he’s been keeping since the 1940s. Marco encouraged us to find a moment and a space to develop something of our own, hence cultivating our own garden. Marco stressed the importance of being present throughout the fleeting nature of our lives.

“One can be with your feet in the past, and your head in the future. Use the new technology, but don’t forget the old ways.” –Marco Antonini

As I reflect on this semester abroad, I am proud to say that I have cultivated a garden of brightly colored fruits, fresh ideas, and everlasting values. I am my own garden. I have grown, I’ve been pruned and nourished, and I’ve blossomed. This experience has taught me more than I could have ever taken away from a textbook. They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but now I say a mela a day helps cultivate a garden along the way.

Lauren Lynch
Fall 2016 Graduate Teaching Assistant

The students pictured with Marco Antonini and his wife, Mary Lou Gray, at their home in Ariccia, Italy

The students pictured with Marco Antonini and his wife, Mary Lou Gray, at their home in Ariccia
(L to R) Top row: Roberta Londi (Program Coordinator), and her daughter Vittoria, Lauren Whatley, Alex Howard, Bailey Schaff, Kelly Cashon, Noa Amundson, Hailey Schorsch, Morgan Winston, Olivia Todd, Will Bush, and Lauren Lynch
Middle Row: Megan Healy, Olivia Still, Hannah Gord, Hannah Bernard, Mary Lou, Marco, Erica Froonjian, and Ali Klebous
Bottom Row: Emily Klippenstein, Jennifer Allison, and Casey Van Hout

Surviving: L’unico uomo (The Only Man)

“Wait here for a second, I want to check this out” …” Your hair looks so good!” …” He’s so cute” …so cute…so cute…cute…cute…shopping…shopping…ladies…girls! Being the only guy on a twelve-week study abroad trip with 18 girls has been interesting to say the least. Historically, there has only been one other guy alone with so many women that finished the program. The rest just couldn’t make it, and as much as it pains me to say, I get it. Living and traveling with the opposite sex is always difficult, but this is a little excessive. There have been times that it has been very lonely and it seems like some people have no empathy to how it feels to be so outside of a comfort zone. More often than I liked, I would rather sit in my room than watch the 14th chick flick that they have blaring on the TV. Often times when we are out on a field trip or walking through a city in a group, I just wander off due to the fact that some of the ladies had to talk about how cute a Swiss guard is or because the shoes in the store were just too cute to walk away from. But, there have also been times when we all get along as great as 19 20- somethings can get along and I fit in so perfectly. But I have learned from all of this that it is easier to get to know the individual person than assuming the whole group is more or less the same. On several occasions, going to dinner with one or two of the girls proved to be the best way to unwind after a long day or to really get to know someone. Of course, I could have used some more testosterone around the palace, but going to the places we have and seeing the sights I have seen have made every bit of this trip a life experience I hope I never forget. Apart from learning how to live as a foreigner in a new culture, I have learned how to live like one of the girls.

Will Bush

We're wandering the streets of Rome and I decide to wander away from the group.

We’re wandering the streets of Rome and I decide to wander away from the group.

Under The Tuscan Sun

The region of Tuscany is something out of a storybook. Driving through the rolling hills of the countryside made the two-hour bus ride, turned four, more bearable. We have seen so many wonderful things and done so much that it is hard to keep track of it all. This rare opportunity to travel around Europe has been an immense blessing and I would not trade it for the world. Now, let’s get back to Tuscany. Like I said, driving through the Tuscan countryside was something from a dream. I had seen the region of Tuscany in movies and in books, but it was so much better seeing it in person. Watching the movie Under the Tuscan Sun before going to the region made me that much more excited about going. The way of living of the people there is so different from the American suburbs that I grew up in. But they make it work! There were countless vineyards and olive farms waiting to produce products that we have grown to love. And with the vineyards comes wine tasting. Having the opportunity to have wine tastings in the heart of the Italian countryside is amazing. The culture and joy of the people teaching us makes it even better. Tuscany also has things that are not common to the United States, at least where I am from. Wild boars are beautiful yet destructive animals. On one of our stops in the countryside, I saw the wild boars running up the hills and it was a sight to see. Tuscany has captured my heart and I hope that everyone has a chance for it to capture their hearts as well.

Ciao, Hannah Bernard


Feeling fall vibes in the Tuscan countryside!