Gracious Love

Before leaving for this study abroad opportunity, I was scared of becoming homesick, nostalgic, and negative. I have only been in Italy for 4 weeks now, but I know that none of that is going to be true. I have learned so much already and I am working on putting several values into practice that I think have helped the 4 weeks go smoother than I expected.

The first is staying true to myself. I know this sounds cliché, but it can truly affect a friendship. When we first got here, we were thrown into the chaos of having to bond with twenty other students. I have quickly come to love and respect every person in this group because of the amount of vulnerability and love I see they have for themselves. That brings me to the second value I think is so important: the ability to love yourself. It is common knowledge that the negativity of one person can bring down the morale of the whole group, and I think that a lot of the time negativity stems from not being able to love yourself well. I know that we all struggle with loving ourselves well and everyone is full of their own insecurities. But the moment that we let those insecurities take the front seat, we let jealousy and unhappiness rule in our lives.

I am so thankful for the group here on this study abroad session. Everyone is so incredible and is constantly building someone up. There have been little times that negativity has had the ability to rule. I think that if our group continues to stay genuine and love well, the rest of the summer is going to fly by in the best way possible and we will always be able to look back on this summer with a smile on our faces.

Love, Ellie

Six Mountains, Three Sisters, and a Star

Almost nine years ago, my oldest sister, Hallie, left behind family, friends, and the famous 2010 Auburn football season to participate in Auburn’s Joseph S. Bruno Abroad in Italy program. Our family likes to think that she made it to Italy by luck after an academic advisor gave her some bad advice. The simple mistake of taking the wrong humanities course resulted in her having to enter the elementary education a semester late. She could have either stayed in Auburn dilly-dallying around with no classes, or she could go abroad. Ultimately, with a little encouragement from my parents, she decided to study overseas in Ariccia for the fall term. Her semester was nothing short of remarkable, so remarkable that a Cam Newton football season could not even compare. In fact, this goes down as one of the best decisions she has made in her lifetime. From then on, the Joseph S. Bruno program became a family tradition for the Christensens.

In 2016, another Christensen sister embarked on her own journey to Ariccia. Ansley had the summer of a lifetime bringing positive energy to everything she did on her own “Grand Tour.” The program, the people, and the overall experience had such a positive impact on her life that she returned to Ariccia in 2018 to visit the people and places that hold such a special place in her heart. 

Now, here I am returning to Ariccia for my second time. This time for three months rather than a quick visit to see a sister. I am ashamed to admit that before I got here, I thought I knew it all. Funny, Emily. First of all, I thought three months was a long time. It’s not. Although the days sometimes go slow, the weeks come and go in what feels like a matter of seconds. This adventure that I keep telling myself is like a marathon, is somehow feeling like the fastest sprint I have ever run. I often find myself laying in my nest wondering how I can stop the clock. Another misconception that I had was my belief that this summer abroad was going to be some type of sacrifice as I left behind what felt comfortable. 22 days later, I realize that this is nothing short of a great privilege—a privilege that I did nothing to deserve.

As I look back on my time here thus far, I think about how my experience is so unique from some of my other friends who are studying abroad. The Joseph S. Bruno program is not just about taking that perfect Instagram picture. It is about learning about where the history of the world began and realizing that you are standing on the grounds where incredible people stood, and still stand today. As Chigi Palace Sister #3, I guess I owe a debt of gratitude to the academic advisor who told my eldest sister to take the wrong humanities course. That advisor accidentally and unknowingly changed the way my family sees beauty, history, and the world. So here is to a summer like no other. Here is to a program that is one of a kind. Here is to all the people who made it possible. And fiinally, here is to all of the past and future Chigi babies.


The Third and Final Christensen Sister—Emily 

Fellow Chigi Babies and I in front of the Vittorio Emanuele Monument on the first day of our “Grand Tour”

Full Camera, Full Heart

Going into college, I knew that I could not let myself graduate without studying abroad. Everyone that I talked to before coming to Auburn said they had either studied abroad and had the most amazing experience, or had not and regretted it. When I signed up for the JSB program at Camp War Eagle I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t research the program, I was not even sure of the minor that it would give me, all I heard was “Summer in Rome” and immediately knew that I needed to sign up.

Fast forward 2 years, and here I am. This short month that I have spent in Ariccia has changed my life completely, and this group has changed my life completely. Coming into the palace I was unsure of what to think. I felt like most of the students knew each other already, and I was intimidated. But, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Every single student on this trip is so special and genuine, everyone makes an effort to be friends with every single person. Having all of these different and unique friendships is something that has played a huge part in making this experience so amazing.

In addition to that, being able travel all over Europe is one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. There is so much culture and history everywhere I look. From the Roman ruins to the Vatican City, it is amazing to think that you are walking in some of the same places that various famous rulers, popes, artists, and many more once walked on. Every single field trip that we go on and sight that we see gets more amazing. My camera is full of pictures from every single place that we have traveled, in the hopes that I will capture enough of them to be able to relive this experience through the photos once I return home. Although, it’s not going to be easy to make me leave this wonderful place.


Isla Stewart

During a weekend trip on a sunset boat cruise in Barcelona

Cheek Aches and Challenges

On May 7th, 2019, I hopped off a bus in front of a giant, white palace in the town of Ariccia. I had no idea what I was doing halfway across the world, away from friends and family, or what I was about to get myself into. I was too jet-lagged to see the numerous cars barreling down the road almost running me over, too tired to realize how astonishing the view was from the bridge, and too out of place to take in where I was standing. Grabbing my suitcases (yes I brought 3) I headed down the steep cobblestone driveway to the front door of Auburn’s international campus, took a deep breath, and walked inside. Ever since taking those steps, I’ve had constant cheek aches from smiling so much.

I never knew how much happiness living abroad would bring me. As a nutrition major at Auburn, I am challenged solely through academics. Here, I am challenged not only with academics but also socially, physically, and mentally. Many classes and field experience activities have forced me to step out of my comfort zone. For instance, navigating through Rome with solely a map and teammates, public speaking in our leadership class, and ordering dinner at a restaurant where no one speaks English. I should also mention getting used to living with twenty-one other students. Everything I have been forced to do while abroad, either in Ariccia, Rome, or on a weekday trip to a spontaneous Italian city, pushes me to be a better version of myself. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer holds, and I am anxious to seek the adventures that remain undiscovered. 

Here’s to continuing to be challenged, facing my fears, laughing until I cry, and smiling until my cheeks ache!

From Ariccia with love,

 Chapman Giles

All smiles when successfully navigating to The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument!

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

Emma Walker

During the past 3 weeks in Ariccia, I have learned a very important lesson: open your mind and step out of your comfort zone. 

I will not forget the first few days in the small town of Ariccia. I was dumbfounded by the buildings, the view from the bridge, the art, and of course by the food. I remember being overwhelmed by the cultural differences and almost timid to fully immerse myself. I have come to realize how important it is to open my mind and appreciate every piece of this town and the culture surrounding it. Some of my favorite times here are when we are able to interact with actual residents of the Castelli Romani. For example, when we visited the high school I was blessed with the opportunity of meeting a group of fourth-year girls and hearing their thoughts on their hometowns, learning about their day-to-day activities and having the opportunity to compare it with my thoughts on my hometown and day-to-day activities. This experience was so impactful to me because I was able to learn from girls that were close in age to me about the way others live outside of my comfort zone and outside of my bubble. 

I have not been in Ariccia long, but this experience is beginning to make me not just change the way I see the world, but actually see the world and appreciate places that are outside of my bubble and my comfort zone. I am looking forward to learning more important life lessons over the weeks to come!

An image of us immersing ourselves in Italian culture learning about Italian aperitivo and trying new foods!

Being Present in Appreciation

About four weeks ago, I was in Auburn, Alabama, stressing about final projects and how much school work was on my plate. I was running around like a crazy woman not able to truly think about or appreciate what I was doing, just trying to get through it all. Sooner than I realized, I would be headed to Ariccia, Italy to take on a great adventure!!

As I have been here in Ariccia for almost three weeks now, it has been pretty surreal to me. There is so much culture and beauty around me I fear that I won’t be able to take it all in! Almost every single day I have learned something new. Whether that be about the beautiful church across the street, a painting in Rome, an Italian phrase spoken with partial accuracy, or a new discovery even about myself. Being in Italy has made me realize what a gift education is, especially when it is interesting and applicable! I appreciate the information that our Italian professors are giving us, especially because you can see the excitement and pride they hold in their hearts for what they are teaching. They love to share the beautiful nooks and crannies of their country and, seemingly, never grow weary of it. I want to bring this energy and motivation to learn back to Auburn with me when I return. We have already learned so much here in Italy, and there is still much time to learn even more! I hope that we can all soak in this gift to its full capacity.


Claire Darnall

Our first trip to the Ariccia market! Learning to appreciate the little things like fresh food and simple Italian phrases such as “cuanto costa?’ (how much does this cost?).

We Are Here and We Are Empowered

It’s a little crazy to me that we have been in Italy for just over a week now! It just doesn’t seem real because things are already off to such a great start, it feels like we are in a movie!  I was definitely scared coming here, because I don’t like not knowing what to expect. But this has been a breeze! I already feel connected to all of the other students and even our first week has been amazing. I spent my first weekend here with four fellow new Chigi Babies in Rome, and we had the time of our lives exploring, eating, and simply taking it all in.

           One of my favorites experiences so far was today. Lacey told us we were going to be doing a four hour “leadership workshop” and I could tell by everyone’s faces that we didn’t know what to expect. Little did we know that we were about to have the best day. Carmen Westbrook came to talk to us about leadership and led us through group exercises. The mood instantly changed when the activities began and we realized it wasn’t what we expected at all. We took turns talking about where we see ourselves in five years, and then decided how we were going to accomplish it. She placed us into groups and we brainstormed how each of us could accomplish our dreams. Everyone was glowing and you could feel the excitement from talking about our futures. I am so excited to take back this exercise to my Interior Design cohort because I know that it is something everyone can truly grow from.

           The four hours went by like it had been thirty minutes, and because of those four hours all of our attitudes have completely transformed. Everyone was already so supportive and kind, but now we are fully ready to conquer these next ten weeks and help each other become the best versions of ourselves!

It was empowering.

Allison Elrod

These smiles aren’t just for the picture, we are all truly so happy here at JSB 🙂

Three Thoughts for Abroad

The gang on the steps of the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument!

We have finally arrived in Italy! This experience is something that I have been anticipating for so long and being here definitely feels surreal. I have always dreamed of traveling to Italy, but I never thought I would have the opportunity to live and study here. After living in Italy for almost two weeks, I have learned three very important things: to have zero expectations, to practice open-mindedness, and having gratitude are the key goals to make this the best experience possible. 

Throw Away Expectations: As young college women, our outlook on study abroad experiences is often influenced by Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or other social media platforms that portray study abroad opportunities in glamorous ways. However this experience is so much more than fun, partying, or getting the perfect Instagram. It’s about immersing ourselves in a new culture and stepping into a world completely different from what we are used to. It can be hard to not constantly compare yourself to others’ experiences when you see these amazing photos, but again, throwing those expectations out the window is key for experiencing it from your own perspective. 

Open-Mindedness: When signing up for JSB, the only thought in my mind was “that will be fun!”, little did I know that this would be a huge growing experience that would help me expand my personal horizons. It also opens up a world of personal and professional opportunities. It can be tempting for me to overthink, over-plan, and over-worry, but for going abroad I couldn’t understand what I was doing until I got here. That has been a huge blessing. This experience is something that you can try to prepare for as much as you like. But being here has surpassed any expectations. 

Gratitude:  Lastly, whether the experience is going the way I thought or not, I feel that it is so important to simply take a step back and be grateful for an opportunity like this. Each day, I have stepped outside and just looked around—literally looked around—and thought about where I am standing. We will never be presented with a chance like this again, and I am extremely grateful to be on such an incredible journey with an incredible group of students. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer holds! 

Con amore, 

Clara Williams 

Ariccia I See Ya

Where to start? Ariccia, I just adore you. So far, this trip has been one-in-a-million. It is absolutely unbelievable to think that we are only on the second week of our three-month journey abroad. Ariccia has already fit into the category of my home away from home, due to the simple kindness that every local exudes to their new American neighbors. Our random group of 22 strangers has been accepted into this sweet town for the summer to create life long relationships and memories.

I believe that this group (the 50th JBP group EVER!!) is going to be one of the most relational groups to come through the program yet. Everyone is truly fantastic. After our leadership class today and hearing everyone’s five-year plans, I will never forget the amount of encouragement that flowed through each individual after sharing. The support and desire of each person to see their friends succeed is something that I hope we can only continue to pursue these next few months. Everyone is so talented and able to conquer their dreams, today just set the tone for how this program will equip us for more than just a good adventure. We learned how confidence and self-esteem are vital for conquering our future. I believe we can push each other to become the best version of ourselves. From living in such a close vicinity all summer, we get to see each other at our highs and our lows, and because of this, we can create unique and meaningful friendships with our experiences at JSB. Two weeks in and I already see how the Lord brought together each indivdual to Italy for His greater purpose in refining, strenghtening, and growing ourselfves. Looking forweard to all the joyfilled moemnts and travel stories to come!

xx, maggie leigh

survived the rain as we traveled around the local towns of our (mini) grand tour!