What a Wonderful Adventure

It is surreal how Ariccia and the Chigi Palace become your second home after studying here for three months. As I reflect on my SECOND 3 month stay, I am blown away by how easy it was for me to fall back into the routine of things and how fast 12 weeks flew by – anyone know how to turn back time?!

It is hard to express the feeling I got when my taxi started driving across the bridge as I saw my first glimpse of home again – my eyes started to water and my heart started to beat faster – I was back in what seemed like a fairytale and was greeted by my second family (Cinzia, Roberta, and Linda). I could not believe that I had returned after just three years, and was awestruck to come back as part of the staff and get to help 18 unique personalities navigate their new adventure of living and breathing the Italian culture.

And what a wonderful adventure it has been.

Part of what made Ariccia feel like home are the experiences I have had with the souls I lived with, the locals, the staff and the guest lectures. All of these interactions provided me with self-growth that is almost indescribable. I have found myself improving skills I already had and learning how to navigate new situations while forming new talents. That being said, I think the most growth I experienced was breaking out of my shyness and becoming more outgoing and engaging.

When I was studying here last, I mostly kept to myself and spent my free time having ‘me time’ in my nest (a word used to describe your personal bedroom area). However, being the GTA this semester forced me to break these habits. I found myself spending more time in the common areas of the palace and exploring Ariccia, Albano, and Genzano. What a difference this has made in my experience here. It is funny how I thought my last 12-week stay was impeccable and now I reflect on these past months and realize that it was surprisingly even more perfect the second time around.

If I could give one piece of advice to future JSB students it would be to live life in Ariccia to its fullest. We are each here for such a short amount of time and should take full advantage of our second home, because trust me, it will 100% become a home away from home and alumni often find themselves constantly missing it.

Love always,
Suzanne Merlino
Fall 2017 Graduate Teaching Assistant

eating at Charlie’s restaurant in Albano

Everything Amazingly, Wonderful Must Come to An End!

As we are approaching the end of this semester my utter lack of excitement to go home is growing stronger. Don’t get me wrong! I miss my family and friends back in the States, but I have fallen in love with the cute little town of Ariccia, the friends I have made, and Italy in general. It seems as if I just arrived in Ariccia, and then blinked and now we only have two weeks left.

Didn’t take me long to fall in love, and call Ariccia home; from the beautiful sunsets over Lake Albano, the baroque architecture, to the wonderful towns people that truly give this town it’s charming nature. It’s always nice knowing I can get up, and walk across the street to Rita’s to have a delicious cappuccino, or walk down the Corso to see my favorite mustache man and order a panino. Boy, am I going to miss those! Also, after long weekends of travel I am always washed over with a feeling of relief, comfort, and a sense of home the moment I walk through the Palace door. Everything about this quaint little town has pulled on my heart strings, and has made it that much harder for me to leave this place.

When I was arriving in Ariccia I may have been a little nervous, but I was more excited than anything. This experience forced me out of my comfort zone. I was walking into this semester not knowing a single person, but after the first night in Ariccia all my nerves washed away. For the past two and half months I have been living with eighteen ladies all with uniquely, beautiful personalities. As I got to know each one of them a little more I knew this was going to be an amazing and unforgettable experience. I can confidently say that I have made life long best friends that I wouldn’t have gained if it wasn’t for this trip. Not only have they become great friends, but they have become my Chigi family. They have helped make Palazzo Chigi, and Ariccia feel like home.

This opportunity and the amazing people I have gotten to know have enriched my life in so many ways. The town of Ariccia will forever have a piece of my heart, and it will always be my second home. This has been the best experience of my life.

Home, a place your feet may leave but your heart will always be.

~Bryce Bolivar

Hidden Gem

Planning weekend trips while studying abroad is one of the most exhilarating feelings I’ve ever encountered. I felt invincible having Europe at my fingertips for 3 months. I can honestly say that taking advantage of exploring as many places as possible has been beyond worth it and the highlight of my experience abroad. Before arriving in Italy I had endlessly surfed the web from Lonely Planet to Pinterest building up my ultimate list of places to visit. I eventually narrowed down to popular tourist cities like Paris, Barcelona, Milan, etc., which all exceeded my expectations.

Surprisingly, my favorite place was a city I had never heard of before in my life and had never come across it during my research of best places to visit in Europe. This was Ljubljana, Slovenia. For midterm break I gave the reigns to my Mom, who could choose any top city in Europe. But instead she had chosen a wild card. I had no clue where Slovenia was on the map and I walked onto the plane prepared to take a full risk.

On my boat cruise along the river in the heart of the Ljubljana I felt at complete peace and escaped to a place away from all the tourists. The whole city displays elegance in the sophisticated architecture and atmosphere. The colorful buildings, dragon bridge, and castle on the top of the hill made me feel as if I were in a fairytale. Slovenia is truly a treasure in Europe that I had just discovered.

It might seem strange to prioritize random places when having the opportunity to go to all the popular, “touristy” areas. However, I encourage everyone who gets the chance to travel all over Europe to consider traveling off the beaten path and indulge in adventure. It’s surprising how satisfying it is to discover unique qualities of an unfamiliar place. Slovenia has shaped my perspective of traveling and in the future I will prioritize finding more hidden gems.

Kaila Bailey

Ljubljanica River, Slovenia