Life on the Downward Slope

It’s Week 7, and officially past the halfway point! Until now, I had no idea it was possible for time to pass so quickly. As I consider the few short weeks we have left here, I find myself asking where time has gone, but also even more importantly – what have I learned and what have I yet to accomplish? I took some time to self-reflect today, and remember the two major goals that I had set for myself in coming here from the very beginning. For the sake of accountability, I’ll share them with you here:

1.) Living “fully alive”

This is where having minimal phone service comes in handy! For me, this means opening my eyes and all my senses to fully experience each moment as it comes. These moments have been big, small, or anything in between – taking a full minute of stillness to stand like a child in awe under the dome of the Pantheon, or simply to smell a handful of wild lavender that grows on the sidewalk on the way to our neighboring town Genzano. It looks like allowing myself to be vulnerable even in the midst of swarming crowds of tourists (it’s still okay to cry in the Sistine Chapel!). Even though “stopping to smell the roses” (literally and figuratively) might sometimes mean I’m bringing up the rear of our tour group, I can honestly say that it’s been worth it – every time!

2.) Living into grander purpose

 Throughout the summer, this goal for me has admittedly been the most challenging, but also the one whose challenge I consider the worthiest of pursuing. On a trip like this where every-day routine can quickly become extraordinary (think: spending class days painting frescos with a man who restores Michelangelo sculptures for a living), it can often become easy to ignore life that occurs beyond my own personal sphere. However, even during my most exciting chapters, it’s my desire to also acknowledge life’s larger course that continues to persist around me and even sometimes in spite of me. What does this look like? Looking for ways to be loving and helpful in my new “home country.” Forgiving small mishaps for the larger sake of being grateful. Staying in touch with family, while also pursuing the development of new relationships with those I’ve met here. This goal drives me toward loving fully, listening intently, and learning outside of my comfort zone.

At Week 7, how am I doing? Unfortunately, I am all too human, and there have definitely been several days where its simply been easier to succumb to the powers of exhaustion and irritability. However, through the presence of struggle, I can already sense an even greater amount of growth, improvement, and possibility. Although the idea of the “downward slope” sadly reminds me of how little time I have left in this beautiful country, the opportunities in the weeks to come excite me even more!

As I challenge myself during our remaining time in Italy to live according my true self and purpose, I am reminded of a street musician in Rome whom I shared a short conversation with during one of our first weeks here. Even now, his words remain with me and still ring true: “my life has been difficult, but I have my lived my life for the heart… without heart, it’s nothing.” In these final weeks, I hope to carry his joy with me as I go!

Patty Holley

Just look at his smile!

The Best Choice

As midterm break and the 8th week of being abroad comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on everything we have done as part of the JSB program, as well as look forward to the last 5 weeks that we have here in Ariccia. It has been one whirlwind of a trip so far. The weeks before midterm break flew by, and it is hard to believe that we have been here longer than the time we have left. From where I stand, the Joseph S. Bruno program has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

You always hear about the culture shock that will happen to you before you go study abroad. I always thought that would never happen to me, but it is real. This trip really has been one roller coaster of a ride. If, in the first few weeks, you ask yourself why you are here or feel homesick, that’s normal. Once you get past that stage, the trip is beyond amazing. I get to experience and enjoy a new kind of independence where I can fly to almost any country in Europe in under three hours and explore the history and culture of that place. 

While the countries are beautiful, the group that you have is really what makes this trip worth it. I came here knowing only one person, but I easily befriended 18 more. For me, that is a big deal. These people that I have gotten to know have some of the most amazing, thoughtful and unique personalities. Hopefully, like me, they will become your best friends and you will wonder where they were your whole life. I am incredibly thankful for this group of new friends, and I know that we will always stay friends because of the memories, adventures and international incidents that we have shared here. 

Ciao Chigi Babies!

~ Lizzie Jordan ~

Paris with friends I couldn’t live without now

Once a Chigi Baby, always a Chigi Baby

Seven weeks down, 20 new best friends, countless trips to get gelato, and way too many close calls on Ryanair flights. Without trying to sound too dramatic, WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE? It seems like it was just yesterday that we were dragging our luggage through the pouring rain, running into what would be our new home for the next three months.

One of the first things we did when we got here was read the letters that the previous Joseph S. Bruno students had written us. They were titled, ‘to the Chigi babies’. We were the new ‘Chigi babies’ in town. It all felt so new, so unfamiliar, yet so exciting. The letters were mostly filled with advice on where to eat or how to stay sane in a house full of 18 girls (plus Christopher and Dalton, I haven’t forgotten about y’all!). One thing that stuck with me as we read the letters was the fact that almost every one reminded us to stay present because time was about to fly by, and boy were they right!

As most of us did, I signed up for the JSB program well in advance (which I highly recommend if you prefer a certain semester). Hearing nothing but amazing things from previous students, I knew this trip was for me. However, the one thing holding me back was the fact that I didn’t know one soul going. You can imagine my anxiety when I arrived to the airport, questioning if I had made the right decision. I soon came to find out that this group couldn’t have been better. Never in my life have I fallen more in love with a group of people faster than I did with this crew. Looking back now, I couldn’t imagine life without these amazing, energetic, and crazy group of Chigi babies. I can already tell they will be lifelong friends no doubt.

“The days are long but the weekends fly by”. This was the reoccurring theme for most of the letters, and they were right. The days might be long, but they are far from boring! For example, you simply cannot beat cooking class with Mary Lou. Mary Lou is the cutest 72-year-old lady you’ve ever met, but don’t be fooled by her age, she’s sharp as a tack! I like to stay close to Mary Lou in cooking class because she is so full of wisdom and advice.

And let’s not forget about wine class! Maurizio, who is Mary Lou’s son, teaches us the correct ways to evaluate wine. He knows so much, but it doesn’t stop at wine! Maurizio is one of our many fantastic instructors, and he also doubles as a tour guide!

I could go on and on about the people behind this program who make it so amazing, as well as the group that I am with. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by so many incredible people. I think I can speak for all of us Chigi babies when I say that we have grown so much in these last seven weeks, and wouldn’t trade it for the world.  It has been an experience of a lifetime, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of my time here will hold!

Ciao for now Bellas!

-Kerry Davis

Sarah and I making pasta in Mary Lou’s cooking class!

Trip Half Full

Five weeks down, four countries knocked off my bucket list, and countless international incidents, we have made it to the halfway mark in one piece! While yes, it has flown by, I look back on these past five weeks and am amazed at how many new relationships I have formed, how much I have learned about myself as a person, how much knowledge I have absorbed, and how much more of this world I have been able to see in such a short amount of time.

Every week while we are here abroad, we are required to submit our “peak” and our “pit,” or standout high and low moments. Searching for inspiration for this blog post, I decided to take a look back at what my “peak” moments have been. After reading over them, I noticed a reoccurring theme. Each of my highest peaks of happiness were each centered around the company I had surrounding me, with exotic destinations acting simply as a beautiful backdrop for fellowship. Here are some of my favorite moments so far, pulled directly from my weekly peak and pit reflections:

Week 1: “The welcome dinner was such a great introduction to what I can already tell will most likely be the best summer of my life. What I feel will make this summer so amazing is these people. I can already tell what a fun loving, genuine, curious group of students we have, in addition to such a developed, encouraging group of administrators.”

Week 2: “Upon arriving in Paris we immediately made our way to the Eiffel Tower, where we popped bottles of champagne and all sat in a circle and went around and told our highs and lows of the trip so far, laughed and drank our champagne. This was the best moment yet; the company out shined all else. I will probably say this 25 times throughout my journal, but I am living the dream.”

Week 3: “After getting lunch in Tivoli, a group of us went to the meet up spot a little early to wait for the next tour. I obviously had my deck of playing cards in my bag (because I don’t leave the house without them) and we decided to play a game of BS while we waited. Sounds simple, but realizing how fun loving and easy going these friends I have made here are, makes every single, could – be – boring moment that much better. Plus I just LOVE a good card game.”

Week 4: “Honestly, all of Positano was a “peak,” because that place is simply amazing, but there was a particular moment on Friday when we spent our day on the boat, where I felt a moment of honest to God pure bliss. All of the crew was laid out soaking up the sun, my favorite playlist was blaring, our boat was cruising at high speeds towards Capri, I had a glass of Prosecco in my hand, and I can honestly say that may be the peak of my entire life so far. Not going to lie – I may have shed a tear because I recognized how purely happy I was in that moment. Gosh I am so lucky to be me.”

A group of Chigi Babies and I enjoying a picture perfect day on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Week 5: “Our weekend in Malta could not have been more of a relaxing getaway, but one moment really stuck out to me, when we went to get dinner on Friday night. Kit, Topher, Sarah and I just sat and talked for hours about everything under the sun from funny stories of the trip, to past heartbreak, religion and spirituality, excitement for the future, as well as fear of the future. It is just so refreshing to have meaningful conversations with great friends in a beautiful place.”

Each one of these highlights revolves so much around the company I have surrounding me, and I think that this is the most wonderfully unique thing about the Joseph S Bruno Abroad Program. While sometimes it seems a bit like summer camp, that is the beauty of it. We are not here simply to learn and see more of the world; we are building relationships, self-reflecting, and improving who we are as individuals within a diverse group of young people. I am so grateful for these past five weeks, and can’t even imagine how many more moments of pure bliss & enlightening fellowship I will encounter by the end of the second half of the trip; but that’s the best part. Our trip may be halfway done, but it has half left, and for that I feel nothing other than great joy and anticipation for what is to come!

Ciao Bellas!

Caroline Walker

Home Away from Home

I have never really been the type of person to get homesick. As a sophomore in high school, I traveled to Australia and New Zealand for three weeks with the People to People ambassador program. I traveled with thirty-nine other high schoolers that I had never met before. Over the course of those three weeks, I never once felt homesick. I also traveled to Switzerland and Italy for a week during my senior year of high school. Again, I never got homesick. I am learning that three months is a lot different than three weeks.

The first few weeks of the Joseph S. Bruno program were so busy that I never really had time to slow down. Now that I’ve settled into a schedule, it has been easier to start missing home. When I start to feel homesick, I just think about the amazing opportunity I have as a student studying abroad in Italy. Every day offers the opportunity to experience something new! Ariccia is the perfect place for a study abroad program, because everyone in the town is so welcoming. They don’t get frustrated when I try to speak really bad Italian, but they try to help me as much as they can. Over the past five weeks, local business owners have started to recognize my face when I walk into their stores, and it makes me feel right at home.

I came into this program not knowing any other students. This made me really nervous at first, but I have been able to build great relationships with people here. My advice to future Chigi babies is to not be afraid to go on this trip if you don’t have a friend to go with you. You will have the opportunity to make nineteen new friends, and they will be there to help you if you start feeling overwhelmed!

Salute! (Cheers in Italian)

-DeForest Tuggle

I was able to travel to Greece with Taylor and Racheal who I didn’t even know before the JSB Program! Here we are in front of the Athena Parthenos in Greece.

“Don’t Blink”

I don’t think this saying has ever applied to me more in my life than this summer. It is crazy that almost half of this summer is already over and we are approaching midterm break. If you had told me five weeks ago that I would’ve already travelled to four countries, gone paragliding, eaten octopus, liked red wine, booked a flight two days before going somewhere, or considered Ariccia my second home, I would have never believed it. In five short weeks, I have formed relationships that I will cherish for the rest of my life, made memories I will tell my children, and laughed more than I could ever remember.

This past week, our group of 20 took a field trip to the beautiful region of Umbria. Coming off of the eventful Positano weekend, we got home Sunday afternoon, had to unpack and pack again, and then wake up at 6:00 AM Monday to leave. We dragged our exhausted selves as we got onto the bus Monday morning not knowing what to expect. Our first stop: Perugia. Here we visited a hand weaving studio that has been passed down through generations. Then we moved on to Assisi, a quant town that has now become my favorite little town we have been to so far. The brick walls, breathtaking views, cute restaurants, and the Basilica of St. Francis made this town one to remember. After returning to Perugia for the night, I wandered around with a group of girls and it became one of my favorite memories from the trip. Eating Perugian chocolate, spending too much money in a boutique we stumbled upon, finding an incredible burger and fries (a task that can be very hard in Italy), and walking through an alleyway full of art made the visit to Perugia wonderful. Starting bright and early the next morning, we moved on to our next adventure: cooking class. Cooking with fresh ingredients and making homemade pasta made for one yummy meal. I loved getting to hear the story of our cooking instructors, Gerri and Jack, and learn new techniques for cooking I can bring home with me to Auburn. Ending in Orvieto, we toured the city seeing the huge Duomo, a woodworking studio, and lastly climbed an old well. Umbria was definitely a trip to remember. I am excited to see what other adventures this summer will bring me.

Ciao, Bellas!

Taylor Wolf

Cooking the sauce for the pasta with some help from Jack

Lemonade Days

Leaving my “Auburn Bubble” and jumping on a plane to Ariccia for three months was one of the biggest steps I’ve taken in my life. Being a major homebody, saying goodbye to my sweet family was more difficult than I’d ever admit. I’m not going to lie; I had been fairly homesick the first few weeks in Italy and was counting down the days until my parents got here for midterm break. That was until I got off a bus and realized I was in the most breathtaking city I’ve seen yet. Sweet ole’ Positano.

Eight of my new best friends and I jumped on a boat and floated around the Amalfi Coast all day (shout out to Caroline, Dalton, Kit, Taylor, Christopher, Kerry, Olivia, and Rachel). If you can picture it, champagne had been popped, music was playing, laughs could be heard from across the city, skin was burning, and hearts were full. It was one of those days that I know I’ll look back on for the rest of my life and smile. A day I will never be able to recreate, and memories I will cherish until the day I die.

At this point, you’re probably confused where my title fits into this post. Our theme for this trip somehow ended up being “lemonade”. Depending on when you read this, the song “Lemon” by N.E.R.D might be an oldie… but for now, and for reasons we’ll never be able to explain, it was our anthem. To go along with this theme we had created, Positano is known for their lemon sorbet served inside of a frozen lemon. If you get a chance, find your way to one of these (or 10 of them) and enjoy every second of it. Trust me, after lying on the beach for eight hours; you’re not only going to want one, but NEED one. I still find myself craving that ice-cold sour treat that made my taste buds feel some type of way.

Positano is not a required trip with JSB, but it is one that I highly recommend taking because if you’re anything like me, I know you won’t regret it for one second. If I could go back to those two days that I will forever consider some of the best in my life, I would do it in a heartbeat. This trip was one where not only some of my best memories were made, but where some of my best friends were made.

Stay bouncin’ my Chigi babies

Sabrina Angelo

Caroline and I enjoying our Lemon Sorbet on a hot, sunny day

We are (Chigi) Family!

As week five is coming to a close here in Italy, I can’t help but get in my feels. It seems like yesterday I was headed to airport completely unsure of what I was getting myself into. I did not know a single soul coming on this trip, which made me nervous but also excited at the same time. From the start of orientation week with the cheesy ice breaker activities, we all clicked. Everyone gets along so well because we thrive off of each other’s different personalities. Our group is so diverse in many aspects; including majors, backgrounds, and interests. It is so refreshing to be surrounded by people with such open minds and hearts.

This group has helped push me out of my comfort zone and encourage me to soak in everything.  It’s the little things like staying up too late talking in the kitchen or frantically packing the night before a big adventure we have planned for the weekend, that really remind me how lucky I am to be spending an entire summer with these amazing people. It is absolutely crazy to think that I hadn’t known any of the them before coming to Italy, and now we are a “Chigi” family! This past weekend we all had the most amazing opportunity to travel to Positano has a whole and it couldn’t have been more fun. It was the perfect time to relax and unwind without the stress of school, and be in an element that everyone felt they could be themselves in . Yes, we spend every night together at the palace; but something about being near the ocean seeing the most incredible views made it easy for everyone to get in their feels.

First picture we took as a group at the Chigi Palace!

The past five weeks have given us no choice but to become best friends. Through the highs and (very few) lows of being abroad for an entire summer, these people have made it one to remember. Living with these twenty incredible people has been an experience I will cherish forever and I can not wait to take on the rest of the adventures this summer holds for us.

Ciao Bellas!

-Olivia Costanza