On Cloud Nine

It’s been nine weeks since we left the United States and I can’t believe the experiences I’ve had, the places I’ve seen, or the amount of amazing people I’ve met. This program is truly one of a kind, and I will forever be thankful for the time spent here with these incredible ladies.

I had always dreamed of doing a program like this in college, but never thought it was possible. As soon as I got off the waitlist for this spring, I knew it would be a semester to remember.

This week has been leading up to our field trip to Bologna, Venice, and Florence, and it has finally hit home that we only have three short weeks left. I have been blessed with such an amazing group of girls that I have connected with and become closer than I every imagined for people that I had met only nine weeks ago. It has been so eye opening to form such deep relationships with girls in Auburn that I would have never otherwise met if it were not for this program. It has been so important to be intentional from the moment I arrived in Ariccia, and started developing those relationships that will last a lifetime.

There’s no denying that it has been hard to be away from family, friends, and American food, but at the end of the day it is more than worth it. In these last couple of weeks I just hope we can all continue to absorb the culture and not take for granted any of these moments or memories.

Maria Schmidt

View from the top of Monte Cavo!

A Letter To The Girls Here

Before coming to Italy, I struggled with anxiety. This had plagued me since high school, and I believed anxiety was going to be something that I just had to “deal with” as I grew up. I thought anxiety was a normal feeling everyone experienced.

I would never have imagined the impact the JSB program would have not only on my anxiety, but on my self-confidence. I have been able to conquer this because of all the people here.

In the first week, I was thrown into an unfamiliar place with twenty-one other girls who I barely knew, but lucky for me, these girls are some of the best people I have ever met. Every girl here has had an impact on my life, whether they know it or not. Every morning I wake up and feel completely loved and supported. Never did I think that twenty-one girls who were not in my life before this experience would have such an influence on me now.

I have never been this confident with who I am, and it is because of the people on this program. Living so close to twenty-one other girls forced me to experience the good and the bad within the first couple of weeks. Tears from laughing so hard we could not control them, and tears from being away from home were shed in the first couple of weeks and immediately brought us closer.

Now, nine weeks in, I could not imagine not having these girls in my life.  Every bad day has been fixed with a little a smile, or for this group, a witty comment about what we are doing. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to meet and become such good friends with everyone here.

As I am writing this, I am sitting in the Palace kitchen, blasting music while we all sing along to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. It is little moments like these that I am going to miss. I always have said I wanted a sister, well now I have been blessed with twenty-one.

Evan Sharp

This was an amazing moment shared with one of my best friends!

A Little Town Called Ariccia

If you would have told me four years ago that I would be studying abroad in Italy for 12 weeks, I would have laughed at you. If you would have told me that I would feel at home in a little town called Ariccia, I would have told you that you were crazy. However, we are eight weeks in and, I have never felt more at home in Ariccia.

My favorite thing about traveling on the weekends is the feeling of returning to my “nest” in The Palace. This little town has become such a place of comfort, and a place that will have a special spot in my heart forever.

I cannot lie and say that everything about this experience has been easy, but the things we have encountered as a group and individually have allowed each and every one of us to grow.

Prior to coming on the JSB program, I hated to travel. I hated plane, bus, and train rides. So you may think, “Why would you even go on a program like this?”

Well, this program has pushed me to step out of my comfort zone more than I could have ever imagined, and I could not be more grateful for that. I never thought I would be the person to travel every weekend and constantly be on-the-go but that is exactly what I have done. This program has taught me how to be independent, but also how to lean on people that I did not know before coming on the program. I have made friendships here that will last a lifetime, and I cannot wait to bring these friendships back to Auburn. I am so grateful to be a part of this experience as the program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

War Eagle, Riley Stofka

This was the first sunset I experienced in Ariccia, and the sunsets here never get old!

It’s Not All About You

Before coming to Italy, I had only been out of the country twice, both times to a small country in Africa where I worked as a missionary. Getting those experiences at such a young age was truly life changing and I felt confident in my ability to throw myself into any situation and not only feel comfortable, but succeed.

I also felt like I had a pretty good grip on what it meant to be culturally diverse no matter where I went and that nothing would surprise me or be too hard to adjust to. Besides, after living in and seeing the worst of the worst for four weeks I could handle anything right? Wrong.

Over these past eight weeks, I have learned a lot about myself and my own selfish views of the world. This world is so much larger than you, I, and those kids with the beaming smiles in Zomba, Malawi. There is an immense amount to learn and grow. I wish I would’ve realized this sooner in this twelve-week experience.

Thus far, I have been too focused on myself and my own feelings; being comfortable, adjusting, getting into a normal routine, and even trying not to eat too much gelato. But in reality, none of this is going to happen. I am in a foreign place, experiencing something new everyday, and constantly stepping out of my comfort zone, whether I like it or not.

Instead of being uneasy about this, I need to embrace it. I am such an insignificant part of this amazing world we live in, and I’ve never been happier to say that. My “problems” and “issues” are nothing to this world. Being uneasy and uncomfortable in life is how we continue to learn about ourselves and grow.

This journey has been difficult for me, but I’m done with focussing on myself. I cannot wait to take advantage of any opportunity I can to continue to grow and learn these last four weeks.

Mary Greenlee

It was surreal and humbling moment for me to live out my dream of traveling to Santorini, Greece.

Collecting Beautiful Moments

As spring break is wrapping up, I am currently sitting on my parents’ AirBnB terrace, munching on some fresh bruschetta, taking in the magnificent view of Ariccia below, and writing this reflection on my past 7 weeks here. I feel so wonderfully content in this moment. I’m thinking about how I want to remember this moment, and the endless moments I’ve had so far that make me stop and think, “I want to wrap this up, put it in my pocket, and keep it forever.” 

That first day, when we walked on the bridge to Albano and saw the view and the Ariccia sunset for the first time. When I enjoyed a cone of Giolitti Gelato (the best gelatto in the entire universe) with my best friend from home who studies in Rome. A week ago, on the first day my parents arrived in Ariccia for spring break, walking to the Chigi palace museum for class, and spotting my dad outside of a Cafe that I frequent across the street, then watching him run across said street like a maniac to hug me. Standing in front of every famous monument we’ve visited for class and thinking, “I am actually here! Doing this! Right now!”. This country is so rich with beauty, culture, and passion, that the moments here just hit different than back at home.

This study abroad program is unique because we’re not just taking random classes in Italy, our classes are about Italy; the history, the language, the cuisine, and that helps us immerse ourselves in, and appreciate the culture so much more.
I love it here. So much. Bring on the moments to come!

Xoxo, Avery 🙂

Blogging and basking in the Ariccia sunset (Yes, I made my mom snap a quick pic of the moment)

Italian Food = Heaven

Everyone has always told me how amazing the food is in Italy. I have been big fan of Italian food for as long as I can remember, so I was eager to try it out for myself.

I have always considered myself a foodie. I am not a picky eater, and I will try anything. In fact, I love trying new things and new dishes. I also really enjoy cooking, so I was very excited when I found out about the cooking classes we get to participate in.

We prepared an amazing meal in our cooking class yesterday. It was a typical Italian dish, but was one I was not familiar with before this experience. It was called Saltimbocca, which translates to “jump in the mouth”. It is not pasta dish, which is one of the reasons I loved it so much ( I have become a little tired of pasta).

You take a piece of chicken or veal and wrap it in prosciutto. Then with a toothpick you place a sage leaf on top. Following that, you toss it in flour and fry it with some butter in a hot pan. Those are the only ingredients, so simple but so much flavor. There is no need for seasoning because the sage adds the perfect amount of flavor and the prosciutto adds the saltiness.

The dish was so easy to make, and I know it will be one that I can recreate back home. It is the perfect meal to make if you want to impress your friends!

Grayson Miller

Cooking the Meal

The World Is Your Oyster…

I am half-way through my twelve-week adventure, and I never knew a place once so foreign to me only six weeks ago could start to feel like home. The other girls were only just strangers, but are now some of my closest friends. We began our very first week planning the many adventures that lie ahead of us.

I knew once I unpacked my bags from my 8-hour long flight from Tampa they would not be unpacked for long. As soon as I landed, I wanted to go everywhere and anywhere. The north, east, south, and west of every country of Europe. I planned weekend adventures to Munich, Paris, Barcelona, Prague, Warsaw, Dublin, and Florence.

It is crazy to look back on these past 8 weeks and really see how each place is special in it’s own little way. Being able to spend the weeks in Ariccia and then ending them in a different country has allowed me to pick out the differences between each place.

During my spring break I traveled to Prague, one of my favorite places I have visited. The history and growth that lies within the city is astounding. A city that was once so secluded and polarized from my culture shows that a place can come out of anything and become one of the most traveled cities in the world. Each place has been so special and so diverse. My travel bug is in full swing, and I would love to go back to these countries and explore even more beyond the big cities.

I am ready to take on these next five weeks and see what they have to offer.

XOXO, Brooks Anne

Captured from Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic of the town center during my personal travel over spring break

My Home Away From Home

This week is Week 7, already past the halfway mark and nearing the end of this amazing journey. I cannot believe how quickly these weeks have gone by.

It seems like just yesterday I was so nervous, not knowing what I was getting into, leaving my family and hopping on an eight-hour flight to a country I have never been to before. It seems really crazy when I think about it like that. I had so many feelings coming onto this program: excitement, anxiousness, fear of being in a foreign country. But, as I started getting into the swing of things, I could not believe how the palace started to become my home away from home.

After unforgettable trips to Vienna, Milan, Munich, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, and different cities in Italy, I noticed I would get excited to come back to my little bed in my nest. This was especially a comfort to me as I was nervous about being away from home for so long.

As I continue my journey in Italy, I hope to fully take advantage of the rest of my time here and not take anything for granted.

I had one of my best friends come to visit me over the break, and we got to travel to 3 different countries. When she first arrived in Italy, she told me was how excited she was to try the food. I remember thinking to myself, “I cannot wait to have a break from all of this pizza and pasta.” In a few weeks when I am back at home or in Auburn, I am going to be dying to have the meals I have had here! These are moments when I realize how grateful I am to be in a place where I am able to experience (and eat) so much.

The best part about it is, I have the best group to share these moments with! I cannot wait to look back and remember these months as the most memorable and one of the best growing experiences I have ever had in my life!

Emma Williams

I loved sharing memories in Barcelona with my girls

Not a ‘Half’ Bad Experience

This past week was spring break, which also means I am now halfway through the semester! It has been an incredible experience in every way, and I am sad to see the time passing by so fast. I cannot believe six weeks have already gone by.

I have learned to soak up every moment because in the blink of an eye. I know I will be heading home soon, reminiscing about the best three months of my life. I have taken nothing for granted as we travel throughout Italy on field-trips, seeing sights I never imaged I would ever see in person growing up like the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, and more.

On my own I have also traveled every weekend to new places including London, Milan, Sicily, Malta, and Paris, and cannot wait to continue seeing the world in the upcoming weeks, as well. Better yet, I am able to take on these new experiences and places with new friends that I feel like I have known for years. I have learned so much about many new cultures through my travels here, and I feel this is a great takeaway and something I will always be conscious of in the future.

So far, some of my favorite places in Italy are the small towns I most likely never would have visited or known about without the Joseph S. Bruno Program. I have fallen in love with the town we live in called Ariccia, as well as the surrounding towns, Albano and Nemi. These towns meet every expectation of the ‘Italian lifestyle’ I have envisioned before I came. Everything is so authentic here from the lifestyle to the food, and that is what makes me love it here so much.

Albano has the train station, a lot of shopping, and many restaurants we visit for aperitivo (an early appetizer-style meal before dinner). My favorite place of all though is another nearby town, Nemi. Though it is very small and quaint, it is known for its tiny strawberries, and a view of Lake Nemi that is breathtaking. I love overlooking the lake while enjoying a delicious strawberry pastry and cappuccino. It is in the small moments sometimes that I feel like I am living a dream.

Ciao bella (goodbye, beautiful),

Bethany Hadley