“These Days, These Days”

“…We’ll sit down together, and laugh with each other, and we’ll wish we could come back to these days, these days…” – lyrics from “These Days” by Rudimental

As I sit here listening to these lyrics on repeat, I realize no song could be more perfect to describe this semester. After spending 12 weeks in Ariccia (for the second time), I am more grateful than ever for this incredible JSB Auburn Abroad in Italy Program and these special days we get to spend here and all over Europe.

When I last left Ariccia at the close of 2016, I knew I had to find a way to return, but I had no idea how I was going to make that goal happen. This town and these people held a special place in my heart—so special of a place that it was something I couldn’t go a day without thinking about. When the opportunity opened up, I jumped in head first.

I have shared life-changing experiences with 20 girls who, at this moment, I can’t imagine not being able to chat with every second of every day. We have had the pleasure of taking on very big tasks that we couldn’t have done without each other. From all the humbling and not-so-fun ones like serving lunch for over 500 people at Caritas in Rome, encouraging each other while we were climbing almost 500 steps of the Dome in Florence, being on the verge of tears, and digging for a passport in the airport trashcans at midnight to very opposite and amazing extremes, like watching the sunset in Positano from our balcony with our feet in the hot tub, riding in gondolas in Venice while drinking wine, and stuffing our faces with the yummiest pizza in Naples.

Because of each and every one of these girls and this experience, I have a new perspective on life I never knew existed. I had no idea how special, yet different this time around would be for me. I could go on and on about how much I learned about myself and the world. Most importantly, I learned how globalization really is impacting my life on a daily basis and that my career opportunities are endless. I learned patience is a virtue AND I became even more emotional (Who knew that was possible?!). Although there have been hard and challenging times, these times have been priceless and I wouldn’t change them for the world. I know we will always be able to look back and laugh, cry, and wish we could come back to these days, these days.

Alexandra Howard

Our very first group picture where we barely knew each other’s name to our last picture

An Easter Rainbow


Holidays away from home are always hard. My typical Easter in the States is full of church, family, Easter baskets, and classic American comfort food. Last weekend I celebrated Easter in a Croatian church with people that until 2 months ago were complete strangers and my Easter dinner was shrimp pasta. However, I still had the best weekend celebrating one of my favorite holidays with friends that have become like family in just 10 short weeks.

JSB gives the opportunity for personal travel on weekends, and since it was Easter, we had a 4-day weekend! If I had to pick a weekend of this semester where I learned the most important lesson, I would choose last weekend. There have been weekends where I have learned to navigate big cities, and weekends where I have learned about cultures completely foreign to me. However, 4 days in Croatia taught me a lesson I will never forget. It taught me that no matter where I am in the world I can choose to feel blessed or choose to be dwell on what I don’t have.

The weekend started off with gloomy skies and inconvenient rain. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. Several of the girls I was with were spending their first major holiday away from home, and we were stuck in a tiny Airbnb hiding from the rain. Then Sunday morning came and we decided to go to church at a small Croatian Baptist church. The service was so foreign to us and nothing like what we were used to experiencing at Easter Sunday church. It would have been easy to walk away discouraged. However, I walked away from the 2-hour service, amazed at the universality of the Gospel!

As our weekend continued, we started to find small signs that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. First, it was a beautiful hike that blew us away and unexpectedly led us to a majestic white cross. Then it was the most amazing sunset over the water. As we sat on the rocks amazed by the beautiful colors, it started to rain. It could have been a tragic end to the day, but instead we turned around and saw a perfect double rainbow! It was one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen and the perfect symbol of our weekend. There is always a rainbow if you wait long enough and look hard enough.

This lesson I will take with me long after I leave Italy, but one that I think sums up this program perfectly. JSB has been one of the most impactful experiences of my life. I have learned so much and grown in a million different ways. However, it is not always the easiest. There have been many times when I have to take a step back and remind myself that while I may not have my favorite peanut butter and the WiFi may cut off my FaceTimes at the most inconvenient times, I get to live in Italy!

That right there is the biggest rainbow of them all. Just like how I will talk about the rainbow in Croatia for the rest of my life yet completely forget the rain, I will talk about everything amazing about JSB and completely forget the hard because it is so beyond worth it! I cannot believe it is almost time for me to go home!

A perfect double rainbow at sunset on Easter

-Anna Beebe


Looking back over these past few months, I can’t believe that we only have a few weeks left here in Ariccia. It feels like just last week we were arriving at the palace and meeting everyone for the first time. This experience has taught me to not waste any time, and to take full advantage of the opportunities we have here, because it goes by so much faster than I thought.

One of the things that is really unique about the Joseph S. Bruno abroad program, is that we get to see a lot more during the week on fieldtrips and other class activities than many of the other study abroad programs. This has allowed us to spend our weekends traveling to so many amazing places that we may not have normally been able to go to. I think it is definitely important to try and go to all the places that are at the top of our lists, because chances are there is always someone that wants to go there too! However, I have learned that it is also really important to be flexible and compromise, because if plans change, no matter where you go, it is always absolutely amazing!

One of my all-time favorite places that we have gone to so far was Greece this past weekend. I have always wanted to go to Greece, and it was even more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. We rented a car and drove around the whole island of Crete through the beautiful mountains and gorges. Another one of my favorite parts was visiting some of the famous beaches, including Balos Beach with beautiful blue water, and Elafonisi Beach, which is the beach with pink sand! These are a must-see if you ever are in the Chania area, because they were absolutely beautiful. Greece was definitely one of my favorite weekends abroad so far, and one of the trips that I will never forget. These last few trips are going to be some of the best yet and I’m so excited for the weeks to come!

Balos Beach!

— Allie Billock

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Week 10 in Italy provided me with one of my favorite experiences we have had abroad. On Tuesday, we loaded up the buses and headed to Rome for the day. We started off at an organization called Caritas. Caritas is an organization started by the Catholic church that helps the impoverished by providing meal and support for them through various services. One of their main purposes is to inspire Christians “to place charity as the central motive of the Church’s life, and mission.” We were given a brief overview of their system by one of the head coordinators, then we all prayed together with the rest of the volunteers and staff before the lunch guests arrived. Sharing a moment of prayer in another language, but in unity, is always such a moving moment for me. It gives me chills that regardless of language barriers and different cultures we can all praise one God and have him understand fully. After the prayer, we were assigned our stations and started setting up. I was assigned to the milk station to pour cups of milk for them and hand out cups for water. All at once, the guests started pouring in for their lunch. It was so special to get to serve them and see the excitement on their faces when receiving this delicious, hot meal. One would think that serving milk would be one of the easiest tasks, however it quickly proved to be a minor challenge when a language barrier Is included. We were instructed to hand out either one cup of milk or an empty cup for water to each guest. They were not allowed to have both. Many of the guests were upset about this, but we didn’t know how to explain to them in Italian why they couldn’t have both. We quickly figured out a way to overcome this challenge by learning small Italian phrases to explain or by recruiting help from some of the staff or regular volunteers. After 4 hours and over 450 guests served, it was by far one of my favorite experiences I’ve had during class days.

After cleaning up, we headed to the World Food Programme headquarters.  We went through the intensive security required for a UN organization and headed to one of their meeting rooms to learn about what WFP is all about. We were greeted and taken care of by the nicest men that work at WFP. They started the presentation with a video that played ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ that highlights all their biggest accomplishments. It also symbolizes that they have conquered so much, and continue to serve so many different countries. WFP helps feed over 80 million people a year in around 80 countries. They shared with us their goal from 2015-2030 to completely end world hunger. WFP operates through 5,000 trucks, 20 ships, and 92 planes working daily throughout the different countries they serve. They are an incredible organization, and I loved getting to learn more about it in their headquarters. We have learned so much about the history and ancient civilization of Rome, but it was so refreshing and fascinating to get to have two experiences that were about modern day issues.

The lobby of WFP that provides guests with some of the main statistics


-Hannah Binion