Pinch Me, I Must Be Dreaming

Pinch me, I must be dreaming. We are just starting week 4 of the Joseph S. Bruno program, and I still can’t believe that I am in Italy. In the past few weeks I have seen more beauty than ever before, challenged my personality in more ways than one, and expanded my thinking beyond what I ever thought possible. Coming here was a huge jump for me, but one I felt called to make in order to grow and gain confidence in who I was and who I wanted to be. It’s funny how much you learn about yourself and the world when you are thrown into an Italian palace with 20 strangers who you get to adventure with for the summer. Our fun has stretched from Ariccia to Rome and all the way to Prague and Paris. The summer has brought along with it the most memorable moments and joyful friendships. I will say this fun does not come without the sacrifice of our sleep or alone time, but we are running with the knowledge that we will get rest once we’re back in America. So, my advice to you: take all the trips. Jet off to Prague with six strangers not knowing a single word in Czech. Fly to Paris and run through the metro after the last train before it closes. Choose the challenge of stepping out of your comfort zone, because believe me you won’t regret it. I am not even half-way through this trip, and my goodness is this already the best summer ever.

Salute (cheers) to the next 8 weeks Ariccia,

Amy Sittema

One of my strangers 4 weeks ago, can’t picture life without her now…


My Courageous Leap Abroad


According to the definition of courage is the quality or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, without fear; bravery.  The Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program exemplifies courage, and its meaning within so many different ways.  Personally, I have never traveled outside of the country before especially by myself, so this was a huge leap of courage for me.  As the first couple of weeks went by and we were having to finally submerge ourselves into the Italian culture, threw me into complete culture shock.  It took a lot of courage for me, and then some to be able to feel the most “at home” as I could here in Ariccia.

One of the most memorable field trips for me personally that we have completed so far, was the papal audience.  The papal audience, for those that do not know is a weekly gathering that the American Catholic Church in Rome holds and has prayers and blessings. It is not a Mass, but an opportunity to listen to the pope.  This was the most “Italian” field trip we have had so far, and for someone like me not being of catholic religion, took a lot of courage to have an open mind and to be courteous to not only the Italians, but also many other ethnicities religion.

Pope Francis at the Papal Audience in the Vatican City (2018)


The Joseph S. Bruno Program is within the college of human sciences and my major is apparel merchandising, so I am honored to be able to have this opportunity to learn from the Italian culture and the way they “handle” fashion all the way over here.  My favorite Italian word is salute` which means cheers… so salute` to our next 8 weeks in Italy!

Taylor Shelton

Greece: An International Incident to Remember

Let’s talk about the most exciting part of any study abroad program: personal travel! One of the aspects of the JSB program that makes it so special is the 3-day weekends where we are free to go all over Europe. I personally have never organized any kind of travel on my own and figuring out our weekend trips has been a huge learning experience.

A small group of us decided our first attempt would be a trip to Greece this past weekend, and boy were we in for an experience.

The single most important thing I learned from our weekend trip is this: DON’T OVERDO IT!

Me, Dee, and Taylor smiling in front of the Acropolis (pre-international incident)

12 weeks may seem like a long time, but once we got here we very quickly realized how little time it actually is and instantly began trying to cram as much into every day as possible. I soon learned that trying to do too much in too short a time causes unneeded anxiety and it’s better to just give yourself more time to enjoy fewer things.

When we decided we were going to Greece we thought we could lump Athens and Santorini into one weekend easily. This was definitely a mistake!

Athens went just about as smoothly as it possibly could, our flight was fine, transportation around the city was easy and cheap, and our Airbnb was exactly what we expected. We strolled the bustling flea market of Monastiraki (they have the best strawberries I have ever tasted in my life!), walked the narrow winding roads of Plaka, toured the Acropolis, and watched the sunset over Athens from the perfect spot atop the Hill of the Muses. It was the perfect day and I was feeling pretty proud of us for organizing it all ourselves.

The next morning we woke up at an unholy hour to make our way to the port, we were catching an early ferry to Santorini, and it was just all downhill from there. I very quickly realized that I did not do nearly enough research beforehand, a lot of the information I relied on was incorrect or I had misinterpreted and all the mistakes and obstacles added up to a long, stressful journey to Santorini (including a 2 and a half hour late ferry, lack of public transportation, and a hidden Airbnb). Once we got to where we were going (beautiful Kamari Beach), we had a blast, but no time to do most of the activities we had planned.

If I could go back I absolutely wouldn’t change anything because I got a great learning experience out of it while seeing two of the most beautiful places in the world with some great friends. However, in the future I will definitely do more research as well as allot more time for a few things, rather than cram too much in to too little time.

In the 3 weeks I have spent abroad I have learned to laugh at my mistakes and welcome all the obstacles thrown my way, they may lead to the best adventures and even better life lessons.

Yamas! (Cheers, or ‘to your health’ in Greek!),

Rachael Silva

Cheers to a Weekend in Paris!

When we first arrived in Ariccia we read letters that the previous ‘Chigi babies’ wrote about their experiences. Although every girls’ stories and advice varied from one to the next, one thing remained constant, which was this quote: “the days are long, but the weeks go by fast”. In that moment, I felt as if that was just too cliché to be true. It has been three weeks since then, and now I understand why each and every one of them wrote that – and why I will do the same.

I have been traveling since I was young, but I have never had an experience comparable to this trip. Life in Italy is beautiful, spontaneous, challenging, and sometimes even difficult. And it all goes by so fast – especially on the weekends. I am completely fascinated with the idea of taking spontaneous trips to new parts of the world, which is one of the aspects of this trip that I have been most excited about.

After searching the endless possibilities of places to go to, eleven of us packed up our backpacks, got our passports, and took the first flight to Paris. We arrived in the city early in the morning on Friday and began our adventure searching around the city. It was much different than I remembered- full of life, stunning architecture, and things to do. We spent the first morning getting brunch at Black Burn and walking around the city for a bit before we made our way over to the Eiffel Tower. Once we walked up to the lawn and saw the tower from a distance, it finally hit me that I was in Paris. I was absolutely blown away. We bought a few bottles of champagne, took too many pictures, and sat together on the lawn. We sipped on our champagne and talked for hours. As cliché as it is – this was definitely the moment that stood out to me the most, as I finally realized where I was and who I was with. The people I was surrounded with, a mixture of both old and new friends, have made this trip the most memorable so far. They are a combination of encouraging, supportive, attentive, curious, funny, beautiful, caring, and honestly crazy.

The rest of our weekend was spent with sight-seeing, exploring, and of course – brunch every morning. If I could relive this trip again, I would do it within a heartbeat, but I know that the weekends to come will be just the same. Being a part of this trip has not only given me the opportunity to check so many things off of my bucket list – but to do so alongside the best people.

It’s true that the days go by slowly, but the weeks do go by even faster – especially when you are traveling around the world with some of your best friends.

Ciao, bellas!

Rachel Samaras

Cheers to our day spent under the Eiffel Tower!


Eiffel in Louvre with Paris

Paris was a breath of fresh air – not literally, but it was AMAZING.

I went for the first time this past weekend, and fell in LOVE. I’m already dreaming of when I will get to go back someday. A couple of rules when going to Paris are:

  1. Say no to the men selling champagne for €30 (you can get it for €5 – trust me)
  2. Say YES to cheap flights

When the Chigi baby crew found cheap flights, we packed our bags and made Paris happen.

As soon as we stepped foot on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. When I travel, I am always behind the lens (sometimes too much) trying to capture a perfect video to use down the road. This time, it was different. Yes of course we took pictures, but for the first time in a long time I was truly seeing and LIVING. I wasn’t obsessed with capturing every little thing, instead I just took it all in. I mean who all can say they’ve gotten to spend their birthday in Paris? Yes, it was my birthday (05/18) and an incredible one at that.

Of course, I could go on and on about Paris, but instead I would like to say a few things about the amazing CREW I was with.

Olivia | @livurlife6: Olivia is 4 feet and 11 inches of puuuure sauce. I’ve only known this girl for 2 weeks and DANG can she make me laugh. Those one liners mixed with that southern accent will have you rolling on the floor and probably crying. She truly is the life of the party, and I know without a doubt we will be friends for yearssss. Rachel | @rachelsamaras: Let me tell ya, this girl should NOT wear heels in the metro or on any cobblestone street for that matter. BUT Rachel will just sit and listen to anyone’s stories, and comment on them, ask questions, and genuinely want to hear more. She is definitely one you can count on. Abbie | @childish_gauldino: If there is one person that knows her way around a foreign country or a metro, it’s Abbie. She will have you RUNNING (and winded if you’re like me) no doubt, but you won’t be late, will always have your travel documents, and can count on her to save you a seat at the restaurant that she found 19864756408 days in advance. Sarah | @say_ham: HAHAHA gosh I love her. If there is ever a dull moment, she will quickly give the group something to laugh about. She is the KWEEN of sleep and will forever be that person I invite to travel with me. She is down for just about anything. Taylor | @taytaywolf1: Taylor has the most calming presence that is so addicting. She is always in a good mood and is the best conversationalist. She was my favorite person to sit by at dinner or walk the streets with – the conversation just flowed. Taylor, keep doing you and being a positive influence. Kitty | @ kit_king: You can’t not love Kitty. I just automatically gravitate to her. You hear about people all the time, who have a ‘light’ about them, and that is KIT described perfectly. She’s not the loudest one in the group, she’s not the center of attention, but she exudes confidence in such a beautiful way. Thank you for being YOU Kit and not letting anyone change that. Kerry | @kerryanneedavis: If you hear someone saying “YASS QUEEN #WERK IT” while taking a picture, it’s probably Kerry. I. LOVE. THIS. GIRL. Kerry is.. hmmm how do I put this.. A SUPERSTAR (she really does like stars). I could honestly talk to her all day, and if there is someone who can positively impact people, it’s her. Sabrina | @sabrinaangelo1: Her snapchats make me CRY they are so funny. She is SO photogenic, and a FIREBALL to say the least. She doesn’t seem intimidating, but I promise she’s stronger than you, she’s smarter than you, and she’s from ATL. So, your best bet is to walk away. Christopher | @chvought (aka: THE “TA”): If there is someone who can navigate – it’s this guy (I’m totally kidding – he will have you walking in circles for MILES). On a real note, he is an awesome roommate, and probably cares about the group more than anyone I know. If we need something, he will always be right there to help you out. Caroline | @cwalk_23: THE GOAT, THE PEANUT BUTTER TO MY JELLY, THE MVP. Was that too aggressive? I hope so because I meant it!!! Need someone to laugh with? Find Carol. She’s alllll over the place, eats more than a teenage boy going through puberty, always stands up to me, and I listen to her anyway. It’s Caroline. She can turn a bad day around with her presence.

I love these people so much and can’t wait for more trip likes Paris to take place this summer. They are the best BIRGS (friends) I could ask for while living in Ariccia.

Ciao, Bella’s.

– Dalton | @dcparkman


Settling In

Buonasera (good afternoon) from Ariccia!

Boy do I love this little town so far. After spending a few blurry days catching up on sleep, I think I am finally adjusting to the Italian time zone. Ariccia is the quaintest little town, with hilly cobblestone streets, ivy covered balconies, and quiet farms off in the distance.

A group of us walking on the bridge to the neighboring town, Albano. The Chigi Palace is directly behind us! (photo courtesy of Katherine Morris)

Our very first night, Maurizio, one of our instructors, showed us the many layers of the city. Partially built to confuse plunder-seeking pirates, and partially built as the Roman Empire grew, Ariccia is laid out in a series of winding streets and piazzas (open alleyways). Our first day in Rome we toured the ruins of the Roman Forum and learned that there are 7 different street levels that date back to ancient Roman times. Similarly, in Ariccia, the lower we walked, the older the streets and the homes became. It’s mind blowing to think that we are living in a Palace that is older than our country.

So far we have spent three days in Rome, and while it is rich with history and architecture, it is also full of tourists and solicitors. Getting off the train when coming home to Ariccia incurs a little sigh of relief. Not to say that Rome isn’t an incredible city, but Rome is to New York City as Ariccia is to Auburn. Ariccia evokes a sense of serenity that the New York City of Italy just doesn’t have.

One of my favorite things that we did yesterday was visit an elementary school and help a fourth grade class with their English. The children were adorable, and we taught them all about Auburn, D.C., and even taught them to sing and write God Bless America! I loved how excited they were to learn about our country.

I couldn’t write this blog without mentioning how blessed I am with the people that have become my fast friends – there is an incredible group here, eager to learn and excited for adventures. I can’t decide whether I’ve been here a week or a month, but I’m thrilled that this journey of learning, excitement, and adventure has only begun!

-Sarah Hill

How ‘Bout That Ride In?

Buongiorno from the Chigi Palace of Ariccia!

After landing in Italy a week and a half ago, it still hasn’t quite set in that this will be our new home for the next THREE months! As we approach the end of our second week here in Ariccia, it’s hard to believe all that we have accomplished in such a short amount of time. From seeing the beautiful architecture in places like St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, to simply learning how to converse with the locals in Italian, I am blown away with all that Italy has to offer. Furthermore, reflecting back on this past week only excites me more for what lies ahead.

In just a few short days, all 20 of us explored Rome with the help of Cinzia, and soon after, we had the chance to maneuver the city by ourselves. It is surprising how fast I have felt comfortable and at home here in Ariccia. I’ve quickly become accustomed to my surroundings, and I’ve found that I’m more confident in my ability to navigate my new city. With that, we have all established our “go-to” places around town, and it’s refreshing to see the owners begin to remember us after only a few days. I’m happy that I can already say I have begun to learn how to adapt to new places with ease, and I am sure my peers would agree.

Several of us exploring Rome at the Borghese gardens last Saturday

Another aspect I want to highlight regarding my experience so far is the relationships I have built. It is amazing how incredibly close all of us have already gotten since we have arrived. I feel like I have known some of these friends for years, while I may have only known them for a few days. Building new friendships with people I did not know before, while also strengthening the one’s I already had, is one of my favorite things about this experience. I am excited to branch out and make connections with not only my peers from Auburn, but also the local people of Ariccia, as well.

I have always had a strong passion for travel and new experiences, and I believe it is one of the most important things a young person can do. In two short weeks, I’ve begun to immerse myself in this extraordinary culture, and it has already begun to broaden my global perspective. I strive to continue to learn and adapt to the world around me throughout my journey abroad!

Cheers to 10 more weeks!

– Sarah Hamilton

From Ariccia with Love

Ciao from Ariccia, Italy!

We are entering into our second week in Italy, and I don’t think any of us would trade our experience thus far for anything. It was a full week of learning to live in Ariccia and navigating our way from there Chigi Palace all the way to Rome. As a group, we went to Rome on Friday, and were lead by our fearless Italian teacher Cinzia. We toured the Forum, Colosseum, and the Trevi Fountain to just name a few. The fast-paced lifestyle in Rome quickly stood out in contrast to the slower pace of Ariccia. By the end of the day, the group returned to the Chigi palace with a new appreciation for the quaint town we will be calling home for the next three months.

Saturday was another busy day, with the majority of the group going back to Rome to complete our first assignment: scavenger hunt of major sites in the city. Everyone split up and took on the city without a guide. It was that taste of independence that made the day so enjoyable for me because we got to decide where we wanted to go and how quickly or slowly. Our group of three other girls that I went with would stumbled upon little hidden gems in the city. We were constantly in awe of the history the city had to offer.

Wandering through the streets of Rome

It’s Sunday now, and it has been a much needed day of rest. The palace was quiet this morning as with everyone slept till about noon. The rest of the day was spent hanging out and some of us went on little walks around town to enjoy the beautiful weather. Overall, it was a wonderful first week spent in Italia and it makes me oh so excited for the upcoming eleven weeks!


Abbie Gauldin