Papal Audience

On Wednesday, September 13th, the students of the JSB Auburn Abroad in Italy had the awesome opportunity to attend the Papal Audience. This day was especially important to me because I have been raised Catholic my whole life. To have been able to visit the Vatican City, let alone see the Pope, was such a blessing. We arrived in Vatican City early enough to beat the crowd, and we were fortunate to find seats to be able to see the Pope pass by in his Popemobile.

To start the event, groups and pilgrims from around the world were announced and welcomed. I was shocked (in a great way) when they called out “And welcome students from Auburn University representing the United States.” I couldn’t believe our group was recognized in Vatican City during a Papal event! I remember watching Pope Francis after he had been elected Pope in 2013 like it was yesterday, and to be within feet away from him, when he came through the audience, was life-changing. The picture below is my view of Pope Francis, and it shows how close he was to me. I will always remember this day and how beautiful it was to see him smile, wave, and even kiss little babies as he drove through the crowd.

Before this study abroad trip, I never imagined having the opportunity to attend the Papal Audience, and I am so thankful that I was there to experience it with such an amazing group of girls.

My view of Pope Francis as he rode in the Popemobile through the crowd.

Erin Maher


The Red Checkered Diary

We have officially begun our fifth week abroad in Italy, meaning I have spent more than a month away from the U.S. I feel like I just arrived, and at the exact same time, like I have been here for much longer. One month down, two to go. In just one month, I have traveled throughout Italy, to the Netherlands, as well as Germany. I have experienced the challenges of beginning to learn a new language, traveling by public transport and the inevitable travel fails that sometimes you cannot control. My credit card was hacked and my airline lost my luggage all within a weekend away – despite these hardships, Amsterdam was my favorite place I had visited yet! A month in, I am finally well adjusted to my new Italian way of life of fieldtrips, class days, checking budget travel sites, and ordering pizza in Italian.

The highlight of my experience so far had been traveling to the Netherlands with a classmate. Amsterdam, as described by my airbnb host and Dutch native, was ‘dazzling’. This city was diverse, culturally significant and beautiful. The iconic architecture of the buildings surrounded by canals, the pancakes and stroopwafels, as well as visiting the Anne Frank House all made my short weekend in Holland one I will never forget. I will always cherish the opportunity to see where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II, the museum was touching, heartbreaking, inspiring, and most of all worth the two-hour wait. After reading the Diary of Anne Frank in school years before, seeing her original little red checkered diary in Amsterdam was a very special experience and made me incredibly thankful for the opportunity to study, learn and travel through Auburn Abroad.

The Amsterdam Canals

Bailey Mersereau

All is right when in London

I don’t think that it’s even begun to hit me that my new home for eight more weeks is Europe. This trip so far has been so surreal that I constantly feel as though I’m living a dream on repeat. I can’t even begin to put into words what these past four weeks have been like for me, but I can give you a little taste of what has been my favorite so far.

To wrap up week four, my best friend and I traveled to London. It is seriously the little things that get me through day-to-day adventures. London has my heart forever and I could honestly picture myself living there. There is so much beauty and love in this huge city. There is night life, city life, country side, and peaceful parks. London really has it all.

I got to visit and walk through the Green Park and oh my goodness, it took my breath away. This park is so magical and peaceful. The Green Park is something that you would see in a movie – there are dogs playing with each other, squirrels coming up to you waiting to be fed, and people strolling by. I had time to just reflect on my life and realize how fortunate I am to be living the life that I am. London has so much to offer and so many things reminded me of America, so much that I felt at home right when I stepped off the plane.

When I earlier said it’s the little things that get you by – it truly is. What I mean by that statement is that I’ve been craving M&Ms the whole time I’ve been here, well we stumbled upon M&M world and I literally could have cried tears of joy. I was so ecstatic that I customized my M&Ms to have my face on them. Some times it’s nice to get away from the group and have some time just to reflect upon yourself and be able to soak everything in. I can 100% say that I’ve fallen in love with London, and it will not be my last time there.

I’ll forever be grateful for this trip and all the experiences that I’ll gain along the way.

Morgan Rice

Green Park

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

5 A.M. and there goes my alarm again trying to pull me out of my warm, cozy twin bed.

Who knew traveling could be so exhausting? I’ve always considered it one of my passions, but you never truly understand all that goes into a trip until you are off to a new place every weekend and realize you have to figure out all the plans yourself.

We have currently been in Italy for a full 4 weeks and it has been a whirlwind of activities from day one. However, people keep telling me I am “living the dream” or that I “have it easy” because I’m in school, in Italy. And they are completely right, but I also don’t think they realize how much work we put into school and travel. I’m a bit ambitious and before I even stepped foot in Italy for this trip, I already had planned out 12 different cities I wanted to visit, figured out the cost of each, and organized what weekends it would work out best to visit. What I think most people don’t realize is how much work we as students in JSB put in during the week for our classes and then during the weekends for our trips. As soon as class ends it’s time to work on our journals or study for quizzes all while trying to book our flights for weekend excursions and trying to make sure the airlines don’t cheat us out of good deals. Most of our sleep consists of short naps on trains, planes and the bus.

Although I have been fortunate enough to travel the world with my family, I always took for granted how much work my parents put into those experiences. Trying to book plane tickets for 4 people at one time, along with a place to stay in a safe area, and make a schedule of things to do is very time consuming and more stressful than one would think. I guess I’ve gained more of an appreciation for all the work my parents have put in over the years so I could experience everything without stress. But I know I never could have been so comfortable over here in Italy without them making me try to figure out public transportation and travel ever since I was about eight years old. Even though I am constantly moving or traveling, I wouldn’t change a thing. Definitely can’t stop, and won’t ever stop loving travel.

Picture of me in one of my favorite places in Italy: The Amalfi Coast!

Kirsten Rice

Make a Wish

There’s a legend that says if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder, you will return to Rome someday.

Two years ago I had graduated from high school and was visiting Europe. I remember being devastated upon seeing the Trevi Fountain because it was being renovated and was not the picturesque location I was expecting. However, my sister and I still tossed our coins into the fountain, and moved on.

Here I am now, writing this in the lower level of a palace and going on my fourth week of living in Italy! Although I did expect to return to Italy when I threw my coin into the fountain two years ago, I did not expect to be living in Italy with eighteen unique, passionate, and caring girls for three months. I did not expect to return to the Trevi fountain so soon and see a completely transformed, beautiful Italian landmark. I did not expect to be traveling to a different country almost every weekend for twelve weeks, each more amazing than the last.

The unexpected has brought me some of the most memorable experiences of my short life, and I am so grateful for all this trip and these people have done for me already. Two weeks ago I threw my coin in the Trevi Fountain for the second time in my life, and I am excited to see what the circumstances are next time I return to Italia. Ciao for now!

Caroline Hargreaves

Trevi Fountain 2017


Che Bella Vita

Walking around the streets of Rome, visiting world-famous sights, and traveling all over Europe during the weekends still feels so surreal to me. When I think about summing up these past four weeks, all that comes to mind is “che bella vita,” an Italian phrase which translates to “what a beautiful life” in English. It’s such a dream to be able to be a part of this program and experience Italy while also getting college credit for it!

In class, I can tell the lecturers are passionate about what they are presenting. They prefer for us to ask questions during class and want us to get engaged. With the classroom being composed of only eighteen other girls that are sharing this experience with me, it is easier to get involved during the lectures as well. It’s much more of an inviting atmosphere than a normal class in Auburn with hundreds of students and a distant professor.

The field trips we take make the learning experience unforgettable. They allow me learn to more than I ever could by simply sitting in class or reading a book. It blows my mind to think that I’ve visited the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pompeii, and many more sights in these past four weeks. Those are experiences I will never forget. Whereas if I were to just read instead of actually experiencing them, I’m sure I’d forget about the facts shortly after.

I believe the weekends allow me to grow the most. Being able to travel on my own with a handful of girls I didn’t even know a month ago has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. Doing so has allowed me to become more independent and outgoing. It’s extremely hard figuring out how to navigate in a foreign country, especially when you don’t speak the language. It also allows us to become so close with one another in such a short period of time. The experiences we share together are what make our friendships so special and unique from those in the States.

With all that being said, I’m learning more than I could have ever imagined on this trip while also creating lifelong friends and becoming a better version of myself. The Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program has been the journey of a lifetime and I’m only one quarter of the way through. What a beautiful life. Che bella vita!

Marybeth Johnson

My new friends and me at Villa d’Este in Tivoli

Do Not Be Afraid

Going into the program I had no idea what to expect. I was completely terrified at the thought of immersing myself in a new culture. I must have spent a few days packing and repacking my suitcase. I showed up to the airport several hours early just in case. I made flash cards with Italian phrases on them in order to prepare myself. I was an excited, nervous wreck.

I wish I would have spent more time focusing on enjoying my summer. When I came here I was incredibly overwhelmed the first few days, but I quickly realized that I had nothing to worry about. Since I have been here everything has gone so smoothly. The Interlinea staff are some of the kindest people I have ever met. When it comes to dealing with young travelers, they have literally taken every precaution to ensure that this is a smooth transition for us. I feel so incredibly safe knowing that I have them to look to for guidance. This program is absolutely magical, and I feel so blessed to be here.

Even on my worst days, I have had such an amazing time. For instance, I could not spend a dime of my own money on the first weekend that I left Italy. I had issues notifying my bank of my travels and they froze my primary checking account. That same weekend I also had a bad fall in the middle of a street, stepped in dog poop, forgot my raincoat during a rainy weekend, had a flight delay, and spent several hours in a boring airport. If not for the wonderful friends I traveled with I would have completely fallen apart. They covered my expenses and made me laugh when I felt like crying. Did I mention that I just met them?! These other students are fantastic people, and we have already become so close.

As for the people of Italy, they are so sweet and understanding. As long as newcomers try to speak Italian they are more than willing to help. They know this program very well and look forward to interacting with us every day.

With that being said, I feel silly for having worried so much. Everything has worked out so well up to this point. I am more independent than I have ever been in my life. Part of what makes this journey fun is overcoming obstacles and stepping beyond normal boundaries. I would recommend this experience to anyone looking for a grand adventure of epic proportions.

Lindsay Souders

Here I am spending a weekend in Croatia with my new friends!


The Little Things

People view studying abroad in many different ways. I like to look at it as a trip full of tiny details and events that all come together to create one incredible experience. Here is one perspective of a study abroad experience in the making.

In Week One, studying abroad is getting locked in the airport bathroom minutes after arriving in Rome due to the fact that the knobs and locks are completely different in Italy. It is ordering a latte just to receive a glass of steamed milk, no coffee, and a few laughs. It’s riding a bull to Cotton Eyed Joe at Ariccia’s annual Porchetta Festival. It is being taught line dances from older Italian couples outside on a patio. It is sipping a cappuccino at a table with two locals bonding and laughing regardless of the language barrier. It is meeting my best friends and the sweetest staff that will be my home away from home for the next twelve weeks. It is the jet lag that has never been worse, but struggling through it together. And it is watching the fireworks explode over the city below on the last night of my very first week here.

In Week Two, studying abroad is crying in a lunch spot in Ariccia because I accidentally ordered pasta that I can’t eat because I am gluten intolerant. It is having a sweet, sweet family sitting behind us at lunch translating to the waiter what happened, paying our bill, and showering us with love. It is 22,000 steps taken a day while touring multiple sites. It is running into the same family who helped us at lunch again in a small town in Castel Gandolfo. It is my friend ordering egg creme gelato thinking it would taste like egg nog … It didn’t. It is sitting in lectures taught by amazing lecturers who are so passionate about us learning. It is traveling to Rome on the weekend with 3 of my best friends learning how to navigate and survive all by ourselves. It is treating a waiter kindly and getting pampered with free espresso, gelato, and discounts in return. It is the train back to Ariccia being delayed for four hours and sitting in the station tired and hungry but bonding and laughing nonetheless. It is the feeling I get when I realize that this is my reality.

It’s the little things.

Exploring in Rome

Rileigh Eaton

An Adventure to Note

“The most reliable way to predict the future is to create it.”

Being a first timer in Europe, I was uneasy and anxious about emerging myself into the unknown.  To be honest, it is scary and odd to not know your barring’s right away, especially in a foreign country; however, I realized that emerging yourself into the unknown is the best thing you can do for yourself to be able to be adventurous and fully appreciate your experience abroad.  Most importantly, wandering the unknown paths of Europe is the best way to find your go to spots that you will love to share with all your friends, family, and future study abroad students.

So here are some of the best restaurants, cutest shops, beautiful parks, and unique cafes that I’ve found when traveling throughout many of Europe’s cities.


Fortini Lab – A small and chic apertivo wine bar that serves the most delicious tuna salad, small apertivo bites, and huge glasses of wine.  The atmosphere is charming and lovable and it’s worth it to stop for lunch, a glass of wine, or even a cute spot to work on your journal.

Parco di Albano – Great park for running, walking, and reading spot with a pretty view.

Fortini Café – A little cafe with the best gelato and sorbet.


Borghese Gallery – The most beautiful park to run in and stop for food or coffee at the vendor trucks or cute cafes.

Harry’s Bar – Has the best salmon dinner with a lovely area to sit outside.

Four Fountains Square – A beautiful place to find fine dining restaurants for cheap and super great for people watching with view of Four Fountains Square.

Nanu – A tasty vegan place that has avocado bagel sandwich’s, healthy juices, and make your own salads.  Perfect for a quick grab and go lunch or snack.

White – A stylish and classy boutique that consists of varieties of clothes, accessories, and even shoes.  There isn’t anything you won’t like in the store and the staff is very helpful in finding what you are looking for.


Next 2 – One of my favorite restaurants that has a unique menu and the friendliest workers.  Their chicken dish and seafood gumbo dish is to die for and if you are nice to the waiter they may give you a free dessert like they did for my friend and I!

Charming Organic Café – Cafe that consists of a variety of healthy and organic snacks, meals, and smoothies.  Great place to stop and re-energize your body for a travel day.


Harrods – The biggest department store that you can spend countless hours in without realizing the time.  There are so many levels that have high end designer stores, furniture, and even a food section that has millions of dessert options.

Zelman Eats – A fun and unique atmosphere for a steakhouse and the food is phenomenal.  They have wine graves where you can choose three different wines and it comes in three stacks that shape a wine bottle.  Highly recommend to eat here when you are dying for some steak, beer, and wine.

Hyde Park – Huge park to enjoy London’s nature and quiet scenery.  It is perfect to run or walk in or even stop for a quick bite or cocktail.

Serpentine Bar & Kitchen – Food place that is in Hyde Park that is great for eating pizzas, sandwiches, or even a quick dessert.  It’s located right on the Serpentine pond so it has a beautiful view.


Restaurant Terrasse – The best fine dining restaurant that has a variety of food, wine, and cocktail options.  There’s also a bar that turns into a lounge bar at night that is always busy.  The employees there are so friendly and make you feel at home.

Thomas Sabe – A german brand that has the most beautiful watches and jewelry.  The Zurich location has a chic and unique boutique look that makes your want to spend hours in there.


Rocycle – A cycling studio that is great if you want a quick and hard work out.  It has a smoothie, snack bar, and fun workout clothes you can buy.

Stach – A cute food stop that has millions of organic snacks, amazing coffee, and lunch to sit and eat or take to go.

Oosterpark – A gorgeous park to go for a run, walk, or enjoy Amsterdam’s nature.

In all, these are only a few of the hot spots and places I’ve been and fell in love with.  There are several more but these are the ones I’ll always remember.  As the quote goes hand in hand with my abroad experience, I created and found my own favorite places during my abroad experience, as will you and maybe when you are wandering around Europe on your travels you’ll pass by or stop in some of my favorite places.

My first view of my abroad experience (Ariccia, Italy)

Haley Dunn

Peaks and Pits

Each week when we take time to reflect on what has happened during the week, part of our reflection is to pinpoint the best thing that happened, and another part of the reflection is to pick out the worst thing that happened. We call those peaks and pits. Even in just the first two weeks, peaks and pits have had a way of pointing out how special this time in Ariccia is. When I have a hard time choosing a peak because so many amazing things have happened to me in the past seven days, it reminds me to savor each incredible moment, and it forces me to realize how extraordinary the events of each day are when they are spent in Italy.   

Even the pits, or the worst things, have a way of being great things if I just look at them from a different perspective. My pit from my first week was my flight to Rome, but that flight got me safely to Ariccia, so it was definitely a good thing. My pit from week two was getting stuck in the Dubrovnik airport for an extra four hours, but I got to spend four extra hours hanging out with my friends in Croatia, and that is pretty neat. Sometimes the pits are also the events that become the best memories, because in hindsight those ‘worst things’ can be hilarious.

The peaks in Italy have been higher than usual, and the pits have been more interesting than usual. Taking time to think about both ends of the spectrum – the good and the bad – has helped me take note of the most meaningful parts of my study abroad experience. Peaks and pits may just be small moments of reflection in the grand scheme of my time spent abroad, but they are a great reminder that each minute can be spent embracing new experiences and making the most of the time that I have in Ariccia.

Lily Weeks

My peak from Week One – drinking a cappuccino at Antico Caffe Greco, the oldest coffee shop in Rome