On May 1, 2019, most of my friends were preparing for graduation while I was preparing for a summer in Italy. During this time, I felt very insecure that I would be graduating a semester later than everyone else. I began to question if I was even going to enjoy my time abroad for the whole summer, and if I would make many friends because I would be so much older than everyone else in the program. I had such uneasy feelings about leaving for Italy on May 5th. I had this negative view of my upcoming summer; however, I knew the Lord was about to prove me so wrong.
After arriving in Italy on May 6th, I quickly began to see small glimpses into the best summer of my life. The friendships were made so quickly, and they have been so real and consistent since day one. It is as if the age difference is nonexistent among everyone in the group. I truly could not have been more wrong about how my summer would play out.
I could not imagine any better way to end my college career than by living, studying, and traveling around Europe for twelve weeks with twenty-one new friends. This has been the best semester of growth and learning more about who I am. If I could go back to making the choice of graduating with friends or attending the program, I would not change a thing. It has been such a rewarding experience thus far, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer holds!
Coming off the midterm break I could not have been more sunburned, tired ,or worn out from a week packed with traveling. That being said, I would not change a thing from the past week, as it was full of amazing adventures and memories. Midterm break felt so far away these past few weeks, so as my family left, it was strange to realize it was over. I am now halfway done with this amazing experience. While my midterm break was packed with activities, I can say my family did it right. Living by the common idea of “once you fly to Europe, you might as well go everywhere” was the driving factor of everywhere I went. Starting in London, we traveled to Venice, Florence, Siena, Naples, Sorrento, Rome, Genzano, Ariccia, and lastly Albano. Due to this extensive travel, I can happily say I learned quite a few things over the break with my family.
Plan out a dinner or two. I say this lightly because it can be hard to do in advance, but when we had been traveling for 5+ hours my family loved that I was so prepared. Yelp is my new best friend! We had some great meals at the highly rated restaurants on their site.
Know some Italian.Personally being able to orders meal or drinks in Italian is one of the most satisfying and impressive things I am able to do. I studied up and attempted to use everything I had learned while with my family.
Pay attention on the tours around Rome. My family loves history, art ,and planning. That being said, I had to constantly “lead the way” and even recite some facts about every sight. While I knew simple things about landmarks such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, or Pantheon, some of their questions were left unanswered.
Don’t overpack. Being an Apparel Merchandising major, I have a wide selection of clothes. Therefore when going on long trips… I overpack. The biggest thing I learned over break was that I need to spend more time planning out what to bring on trips. I was left with a bag full of clothes I never wore and without jackets or shoes I needed because they took up too much space.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: It’s fun to see every sight, but sometimes just relax. My family had never been to Italy or London so coming in we aimed to see every historical landmark. While amazing, this leads to heat exhaustion, hangriness, and even falling face-forward into the streets of London while running to a church before it closes. The best part of our whole trip, in my opinion, was simply swimming and laying out in Sorrento for hours. It was simple, but so much fun and very relaxing.
All that being said, this trip flew by. I have learned to enjoy the small stuff, pay attention in class and on tours, and take adventures around Italy. There are so many amazing places at our fingertips, some even within walking distance. But most of all, I have learned to relax and just let life happen. Italy is full of adventures, and I have loved the ones I have had so far and look forward to more to come.
This summer, I feel so satisfied because I joined the Joseph S Bruno Abroad in Italy Program. We have had many experiences during our program! We have learned so much about Italian history and art. We have leadership class, which helps me have a better understanding of my identity and the people around me. We visit many places that have a beautiful view and learn many facts from these fantastic experiences. Sorrento was my favorite weekend trip with the group. It was a beautiful town with a beach and a lot of delicious food.
As an international student from China, I also have the opportunity to make American friends and communicate with them. This is very beneficial for my English skills and I am able to learn more about American culture. At the same time, I am learning things about Italy. This is a challenge for me, but I am very appreciative for this program. When I finish this study aboard, I will miss this time in Italy with my friends. This was not only a great opportunity to study, but also a great chance to travel around Europe. JSB has given me many experiences that I will never forget. I have visited places like Roma, Ariccia, Sorrento, and Germany, and each one has given me a unique cultural experience with all different types of people. I have heard so many different kinds of languages. Personally, I realized that I still need to learn more about this world. I never imagined I could have so many American friends, and we would have such a great time together in Italy!
I have always adored traveling. Ever since my first trip to Europe when I was 14, I knew that traveling was something that I valued highly. When the opportunity arose to be in Italy for three months, I could not imagine anything better. The time here has absolutely flown by and we just reached our halfway point through the semester last week. This means that midterm break was also last week. I was overjoyed about getting to see my family and spend time with them after being away for so long. I had started to feel the effects of homesickness and craved to be with them again. Seeing them was the best feeling in the world. However, as the break continued I actually found myself missing my friends from this program a lot more than I expected.
Midterm break was such a great opportunity to reflect on the time that we have had together so far. Through sharing stories with my family, I was reminded of all the amazing experiences I have shared with the girls on this program. While on the break, I raved about Italy so much that my family joked if I would even want to come back at the end of our three months. I answered with the truth: If I could move all of them and all my friends from the United States to Italy, I would never go back. I love Italy, especially the simplicity that is present in every possible aspect here. I love the appreciation that Italians have for art, time, and food. I love the beauty that is abundant in this area. I love the friendships that Italy has cultivated, in a totally unexpected manner that is entirely unique to an experience like this one. It is definitely safe to say that Italy has half of my heart.
Living in Italy for the past month and a half has been much more than educational. I have met so many great Italians and even Auburn students; therefore, I cannot wait to see these new friendships develop. My Italian family is really interesting and is always really kind to us. They are always willing to go above and beyond to help us out and show us hospitality. One of my other favorite aspects of the JSB program is learning about the Italian cuisine.
Food is a big passion of mine and being able to dive deeply into this aspect of Italian heritage has made me appreciate it even more. I have always thought about starting a food blog or food Instagram account. After Carmen from Aina Giving came to speak to us for a leadership workshop, I decided to go through with my food account. This program is giving me a lot of great content for my food page, and I am excited to see what other new exciting things will arise from this summer.
So far, we have had two cooking classes. This past week one of our instructors, Mary Lou, taught us how to make two pasta dishes and nutella cake. We all enjoyed the process and learned a lot about Mary Lou. She encouraged and empowered us with her stories and advice, all while giving us new recipes to bring home to the States!
Lastly, a week ago we received a great lesson from Cucina della Terra on making pasta and ragù. Something I learned was, “Never clean a pasta roller with water, always dust it with a brush,” and “If you don’t cook the onions long enough before adding an acid, like tomato juice, then the onions won’t taste sweet.” These are all just a little taste of the valuable things we are learning in the Joseph S. Bruno program.
As I reflect on this summer, I can only sit here and marvel at everything we have seen and done. I think everyone here has experienced life through this program and can agree that we have already seen more than any of us could have ever imagined; and I am grateful for it all. Despite these seemingly satisfying visions and awe-inspiring moments, I have come to realize something that makes me view these captivating scenes drastically different. This monumental truth is wrapped up in God’s glory. Without seeing the earth’s beauty as God’s creation, these sights and experiences are void. As I give up my agenda and selfish heart’s desires for this summer, my Father continues to open my eyes to things unseen- things more beautiful.
This realization and answered prayer reminds me of a book I read two years ago. From Stasi Eldridge, “Every song you love, every memory you cherish, every moment that has moved you to holy tears has been given to you from the One who has been pursing you from your first breath in order to win your heart. God’s version of flowers and chocolates and candlelight dinners come in the form of sunsets and falling stars, moonlight on lakes and cricket symphonies; warm wind, swaying trees, lush gardens, and fierce devotions.” Is this not in accordance of our reality here? This romancing is immensely personal… as if it had been exactly scripted for your heart.
I feel known and satisfied in Ariccia, Rome, Budapest, Barcelona, Sorrento, and Paris. This is because I know my God is whispering love through the visions He gives me as I travel from place to place. Through the nature He has designed for me, He speaks, “You are known. You are loved. And all this is for you.” Through the little moments where I doubt Him or entertain a negative thought, He shows me an intriguing color or pattern in nature and I laugh at my wayward heart and thank Him for anchoring my soul to His goodness. I know that He alone satisfies the world. This is why I am drawn to experiencing this summer’s adventure with Him within me. He coddles me in His glory. I never want to leave. And I never have to.
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:1, 3-4
Before coming on this study abroad, I was informed by a previous student of the friendships I would make, of the challenges I would face, of the adventures I would embark on, and of the person I would become. To this I responded, “Super, now bring on the wine and pasta.” But upon my arrival, l looked across the room seeing many familiar faces, as well as a few unfamiliar, and a sense of standing at the edge of something exciting came over me. Maybe this student was on to something. Maybe this summer wasn’t going to be so much about finding the best pasta or cheese but more about exploring myself and how I want to live in this world.
That night I nestled into my bed (which by the way is surprisingly comfortable) and prayed for courage. My hopes for the summer were to make real memories, filled with real conversations, real experiences, and real people. I knew I would have to be fearless in my pursuit of these goals. I may have added in there a little request for pasta, wine, and cheese but it was definitely a secondary supplication.
As the semester began, I started to realize just how much
time we’d be spending together. I made the conscious decision to throw privacy
to the wind and embrace the opportunities to build meaningful friendships. This
decision has paid off in spades. This experience has pushed me past any
boundary that I thought existed and shown me that we are only limited by our
own minds and incessant need for security. I will admit that I look forward to
my own private bathroom back in the States, but the tradeoff has been well
Touring the small town of Ariccia as a class would soon turn into visiting the Sistine Chapel, which would then turn into hiking the side of an active volcano, and eventually flying to Greece in a group of twenty-two girls. One may ask, how do you travel with a group of twenty-two seamlessly? The answer is, you don’t. But it’s the seams and cracks along the path we travel that make life most interesting and memorable.
We all miss our moms, we all miss Chick-Fil-A, and we all want to explore Europe. We are a diverse group. We do bring a broad range of attributes to the table. But we have built a culture of twenty-two very different students who have found common ground and are building lifelong friendships through the exploration of new and different cultures together. I’m certain this summer will rank as one of the greatest experiences in my life.
Being surrounded by these students has brought out sides of me I had no idea existed. I’ve learned a lot about each one of them but more importantly I am beginning to discover my own true nature. I have been introduced to my adventurous spirit and I like her. My terrible sense of direction has been confirmed, but who knew I enjoy listening to Chinese love songs and I was cooking basically everything I eat incorrectly.
This experience has been wrought with extremes. My luggage was lost on the way here, I arrived with the flu, and came close to cutting my finger off in a cooking class. But I also have stood beneath the work of Michelangelo, strolled Las Rambias in Barcelona, and shopped until I dropped in Paris. It seems I have taken the leap off the edge of something exciting and even though I have hit a few jagged edges, the air is sweet up here and I plan on sticking the landing.
Ah, good ole FOMO. For those who are not familiar with the term, FOMO is an acronym for “Fear Of Missing Out”. An example of this would be if I was invited to go out for dinner and drinks at a new restaurant, but I am completely exhausted from the day, or I didn’t get any sleep the night before. Suddenly, even though I am exhausted and would love to just relax at home or got to bed, I am engulfed with FOMO. What if I miss out on something really fun? This could possibly be one of the best nights of my life. And, not to mention, I don’t want to feel lame by choosing to stay in instead of going out and being social. So, what do I do? Should I listen to my body, telling me that I really need to relax and take the night to recharge? Or do I give in to the feelings of FOMO, taunting me, filling me with thoughts of “what if’s” and anxiety. Well, I am here to say that FOMO will travel along wherever you go, and it is absolutely okay to not give into it.
FOMO has really been a problem for me so far in this program. I mean, I am in a beautiful country, so why not do everything humanly possible? I think that is everyone’s thought process when coming into this program, as it certainly was mine. However, now that we are entering week four, I have a slightly different attitude regarding FOMO. I, for one, am someone who needs some alone time to survive. I have sacrificed a lot of that needed alone time because of FOMO. In turn, I was more drained and exhausted than ever before. So, I decided that I would try my best to ignore the FOMO harassing me, and listen to my body and mind. Since I made that decision, I have felt so much better. Of course, the FOMO still lingers when I decide to say no to something, but I know that I am truly doing it for my well-being. I am not saying that people should just lie in bed and watch Netflix half the time, or to be an anti-social hermit. I am just saying that it is okay to do your own thing every once in a while. And I am saying that it is more than okay to take a step back and say no to something when your body and mind are telling you to take a small break.
It is easy to get caught up in the world of FOMO here, and it can quickly run you down. Take some time to look after your mental and physical health here. Ignoring the FOMO every once in a while has made my experience here a whole lot better, so do not feel pressured to do every single thing. Know yourself and know when to ignore the FOMO.