What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting

Earlier this week, our program director, Linda, mentioned that the JSB program is like pregnancy in that one will only remember the good parts. At the time, the comment made me chuckle. One of my friends then added, “Well yeah, I am getting fatter so I’d say that’s a pretty accurate statement.” But as the week has continued, I have been reflecting more and more on the similarities of JSB in relation to a pregnancy.

Now, personally, I have never been pregnant, but I had a front row seat to my sister’s pregnancy three years ago. I know without a doubt she considers it one of the best experiences of her life, but it was not without pain or hardship. The hardship only grew in her third trimester. But from the pain and struggle, my amazing niece was born. Her pregnancy experience makes me think of the JSB program. This study abroad program is absolutely one of the greatest experiences of my life, but it is not all sunshine and rainbows. There are bad days. There are days I want to cry and give up. There are days I’m homesick. There are days that are just downright hard, but I know it will be worth it.

Growth comes from pain. One of my favorite verses says “Consider it pure joy, dear brothers, when you face many trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3). I’m not going to lie, this week has been hard. We had two long days in Rome back to back filled with many sights, many crowds, and lots of walking. We just returned from our mid-semester break, and we’re on the homestretch. In pregnancy terms, I guess you could say we are in the third trimester. I feel like I’ve almost been in a “honeymoon” phase until this point. Everything was perfect. Nothing was a problem. Yet after seven weeks in a foreign country, I’ve started to miss my home, my friends, and my family. Just like in a pregnancy, there are hard days but the result is abundantly worth the small number of hard days. I know this will be the case with my JSB experience as well. Not every day is a cakewalk, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I came on this trip to grow, and JSB is doing an excellent job of challenging me in all the right areas!

Salute to the next few weeks!

Mallory Michael

Not even 15 miles of walking could take away these smiles!

A Week to Appreciate


My favorite week in the program,thus far, has been the week we took an overnight field trip to different cities in Umbria. Through the people I got to meet and the places I visited, I gained a new appreciation for a wide range of craftsmanships and perspectives.

The week started with a lecture from an interior designer and a lecture on architecture. Being in a major in a completely opposite field from these topics, I was starting with zero knowledge or understanding. I remained open, listened carefully, and learned many new things. Perhaps more importantly, I gained an appreciation for topics and fields outside my major and personal interests, to make me see things in a new way. For example, I gained an appreciation for the way rooms are designed and created. Now, I find myself noticing the format and architecture in places in ways I never would have before.

Once in Umbria, we visited St. Francis Basilica, a hand weaving studio, pottery studio, and a professional chef’s kitchen to make pasta from scratch. I gained an insight and appreciation for each of these places and art forms that I had never experienced. It is truly inspiring to witness another person’s passion for his or her craft and their delight in sharing it with others.

I am beginning to realize that one of the most important aspects of traveling is to appreciate. To deeply appreciate the new customs, beliefs, perspectives, and ways of doing things. There is much to appreciate about Italy’s beautiful way of life and I am so lucky to be able to fully emerge in it.

Judith Hornsby

Brozzeti Hand Weaving Studio in Perugia


Tearing Down Walls

Yours truly, in front of one of the 101 murals painted on the East Side Gallery- Berlin Wall

After a week spent soaking up the Mediterranean sun in the immaculate beaches of Greece, I decided to take a plunge into a complete opposite vibe of Europe and went to Berlin, Germany. Upon arrival, it became very obvious that we’re not in Ariccia anymore. I saw neon Mohawks and piercings at every turn. Angsty thirteen-year old Maggie would have thrived here, but present-day Maggie had a hard time grasping the charm of this eerie city.

Our first night we found an amazing market, Markthelle Nuen, and I met up with a friend from Auburn. Later that evening, we found the Prater Biergarten, which is the oldest beer hall in Berlin, where we found refuge from the relentless Berlin rain with a cold beer in hand. While it was a beautiful night, full of laughter and great beer, I still was not finding the charm. We called it an early night to prepare for our early morning tour to Sachenhausen concentration camp, which we knew would make for a long, emotionally draining day.

I don’t want to go into the horrors that we learned about while walking through such a dark time in history, but I do strongly believe it is important for humanity to remember and respect those who were persecuted for who they were. The thing that haunted me most about Sachsenhausen was the fact that when we walked into the camp it was in color. I have learned about the Holocaust at least once a year since I was eight years old, but I never really thought about the fact that these camps were in color. I always imagined it as a black and white nightmare where only pure horror existed. However, this camp had color, birds chirping, and you could see nature surrounding the camp. A constant reminder that life was going on, and the world did not stop existing while these prisoners were being tortured so cruelly. Again, I don’t want to go into the chilling details about our tour, but it was a truly moving experience. We did not feel like doing much after that day and called it a night rather early.

Over our next two days in Berlin, we checked off the tourist destinations. We saw Checkpoint Charlie, visited the Topography of Terror Museum, the Brandenburg Tor, and of course, the Berlin wall. It was at the East Side Gallery of the Berlin wall where I finally found what makes this city tick. A city with such a bloody, corrupted history (much of it extremely recent) has turned the symbols of its close-minded, stifling past into expression of a beautiful unified world. I realized at the wall that this city demands your attention, it does not want you to forget the bad in the world, but rather works relentlessly to make it into something beautiful.

Berlin is a city that brought me face to face with the evilest times in modern history and pushed me to tear down the walls I have built in my mind to accept others. While heading to the airport, I could not help but think how important this trip was for me. It would have been easier to stay and lay out on the beautiful beaches of Greece. Yet, I came on JSB study abroad trip to  challenge myself and tear down the walls that have prevented me from reaching my full potential.

-Maggie Pappas

An Unexpected Surprise

One of the many benefits of the JSB program in Italy is the opportunity to travel around Europe for personal travel time. Most weeks have full class days Monday through Thursday, but on weekends we can travel where we wish. Being situated in Italy is especially beneficial because not only are there many amazing places to travel within the country but also Italy’s geographic location makes traveling to other countries fairly easy. The midterm break is an especially exciting time, because we have a whole week to travel as we choose. Before coming to Italy, I made plans to meet my family and travel with them over break. While I have grown close with many of the girls on the trip, I was especially looking forward to traveling during the midterm break, because I would get to see my family. The break came at the perfect time for me. Having lived the past six weeks in a foreign country with many people I had never met before, I was relishing the chance to be with family and have a taste of home and something familiar. What surprised me most about my experience over midterm break was actually how much I missed Ariccia while I was gone. Until that point, I didn’t realize how much I had become accustomed to life here in six short weeks. During my week of travel, I realized I missed the amazing Italian food in Ariccia, the “mustache man” who cheerfully sells us sandwiches for lunch, and most importantly the other girls in the JSB program who have become my support throughout this experience. I came on this trip looking for new experiences and the chance to travel Europe. I got all of that and so much more. I found friends that make even the hard days better and the good days unforgettable.

Lauren Parsons

a picnic lunch in Ariccia

The Foreign Adjustment

(Annie Pictured above taking the stairs from the metro)

Previous to this trip, 2 roommates was the maximum of what I was accustomed to. Upon arrival at the palace I found out that I was going to have not only two, but five roommates. Adjusting was hard at first. Back in auburn, I had a double bed instead of a twin. Getting used to sleeping in a twin has taken some getting used to, but it reminds me of when I used to go to camp. It is very hard adjusting to a classroom area with your sleeping quarters are. The lighting during class is very dim and takes some getting used to. It’s very cold in the palace but hopefully the summer months will warm it up. I enjoy having classes at the top of the palace because the room is more well lit. Francesco is so interesting to listen to and I enjoy learning about the history behind the small town of Arricia. Arricia reminds me of my small town at home where there isn’t a large population and everyone is friendly with each other. Living in arricia has been nice for my adjustment to living in a foreign country because it is very similar to my small town in Georgia. It’s nice to see familiar fields of canola and vineyards. I didn’t know many people coming into this program but I have enjoyed becoming friends with artistic minds like myself. I am looking forward to the next eleven weeks. This country is full of culture and history and I can’t wait to explore the rest of what this country has to offer. From the ancient buildings to the vineyards, Italy has so much to indulge in and learn about.

When New Becomes Normal

Study abroad is an amazingly beautiful time of growth that brings so many qualities of maturity and independence in such a short period of time. It is practically impossible to accurately describe all the different experiences and emotions that have come along with this last month, living in Ariccia, as well as visiting so many other places. Aside from comprehending all of the amazing beauty surrounding me, one thing that I have really been reflecting on is daily life and routine.

When I got here everything was new and exciting, but as days went on, things seemed to become a little duller. Certainly not because anything has become less exciting, but quite the opposite. I became less aware. As the new has become normal I have stopped noticing the amazingness of the world. This is something I have been struggling with and reflecting on in this past week.

These past four weekends I have had the amazing opportunity to travel to Rome,  Barcelona, Nice, and Amsterdam. These places have all been exciting, new, and wonderful. However, it has made coming home to the palace more and more normal. Which is not to say that normalcy isn’t a good thing, because quite frankly any kind of normalcy while being abroad is something to which all 20 of us girls cling to. It is when this normalcy gets in the way of your vision, and you start to overlook the remarkable aspects of this experience and the traveling world as a whole.

I do enjoy a daily routine, which I have gotten the hang of, at this point in week four, and I am very thankful for that. When we first got here everything seemed new and exciting, and the routine oriented OCD inside of me was begging for some consistency. I quickly found a daily routine that works for me. At that point I thought that was the end and I could close the box on that issue. Now three weeks later I find myself in a phase of realization that too much normalcy can eventually cloud my ability to see the incredibleness that surrounds me.

As weeks go by I am learning to appreciate everything around me in Ariccia, Albano, Rome, and every other amazing place I am fortunate enough to visit. The new has definitely become normal, but as I am slowly learning, that does not make it any less incredible.

-Rebekah Eller

Slow Down and Enjoy

It was Friday, June 2, (Festa della Republic, Republic Day in Italy). Four of us had decided to not travel that weekend and we had no idea what we were going to do that weekend, but as I stumbled across a packet of taco seasoning we decided to make tacos for dinner because we missed Mexican food. We hurried off to the grocery store and gathered the other ingredients for tacos (Old El Paso tortillas, ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and cheese).

As we were in the kitchen cooking bell peppers, we heard music by Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr., and other artists outside the palace windows. So, we made our dinner and sat outside the palace to eat while listening to the music. After dinner, we walked down the streets of Ariccia and found a carnival with games like balloon darts. There were jewelry stands as well as some food booths selling pastries, candy, cotton candy, grilled corn, and hamburgers. We were all so glad that we stumbled across this by accident. As we were walking back to the palace, we stopped for gelato at the square in front of the palace. Then we decided to sit around the fountains to watch couples swing dancing. It was so fun to watch that I wish we still danced like that today.

That night was one of my favorites we’ve spent in Ariccia. In America, I am always so busy, and I forget to enjoy life’s moments. Friday night reminded me that I need to slow down and enjoy the little moments and experiences.

Mollie Farrimond

Dinnertime view on Festa della Repubblica


Chigi Babies Visit the Pope

Pope mingling with the Audience

Waking up super early is not fun or easy to do, but today, it was absolutely worth it. We left the palace at 6:30am sharp and started our journey to the Vatican City for Pope Francis’s weekly general audience. As we arrived, the sheer size of the crowd  was overwhelming. It was obvious that people from all over the world flocked to the Vatican to see and hear the Pope, while waving different national flags. After  trying to weave through hundreds of people, we were able to get seats a few rows back from the railing where the Pontiff drives through in his popemobile. The audience began to roar as this religious celebrity began his ride around the crowd. Some of my favorite, and cutest, moments were when Pope Francis would kiss the babies who were being lifted up and presented to him like Simba from The Lion King. His message was short and sweet, by addressing how Christians should should be full of hope and a vessel that brings hope to others. Overall, the whole experience was amazing. As  I write this hours after experiencing today’s earlier event of being a part of the Papal audience, it seems like so long ago because our days are so packed. It is hard to believe we are already four weeks in, and have already done so much. It makes me excited for the rest of the trip and all the other awesome things to come.

-Madison Kimel