There truly aren’t words to describe what I have gained from
studying abroad. Thankfully, I chose this program which has been a dream come
true. It has been an unbelievable opportunity, allowing me to immerse myself
into a new culture during the weekdays while exploring Europe on the weekends.
Personal weekend travel has made for the best memories,
friendships, and learning experiences, but there have been many bumps along the
way. Traveling in Europe is not always easy but so worth the experience. For
example, this upcoming weekend, three other girls and I were supposed to be
traveling to Copenhagen, which we were all very excited about. Then, we
received an email from the airline informing us that our departing flight had
been canceled due to an Italian Air Traffic Control Strike. We soon learned
that this is a reoccurring event that happens in Italy, effectively shutting
down its public transportation system each time. When something like this
happens, I just take a moment, breathe, re-evaluate, and plan another trip
because, once again, it’s so worth it! We will now be heading to a beautiful
lake in Northern Italy, (depending on the trains and the strike situation, of
course), and I couldn’t be more excited. I am sure it will be one of my
I wish I could say this has been my only traveling incident during
my time abroad, but unfortunately, I can’t. Like I said, “Traveling in Europe
is not always easy.” My second weekend in Italy, a group of us traveled to
Malta, which made for a great weekend full of memories and a series of
unfortunate events leading up to a missed flight back to Rome. However, at the
end of the day, we all made it home to Ariccia safe and sound with plenty of
stories to share!
Traveling through Europe can be expensive. The plane rides, excursions, gelato, hotels and many other costs add up quickly. Coming into this experience of studying abroad in Italy, I had a set budget in mind. I quickly learned once being in Italy that it would be much harder to stay in budget than I expected. Along the way, I have learned when it is either necessary to splurge for a once-in-a-lifetime experience or to save money.
Saving money doesn’t always mean missing out on experiences. Here is a list of different situations on when to save and when to splurge.
When to save:
Buy plane tickets through Skyscanner. This website offers the cheapest flights through airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet. These airlines are cheap but charge for every extra amenity, such as baggage. Because of this, travel with a backpack or small, condensed duffel bag. It is only for 3 days, so an abundance of clothing is not necessary.
Get a credit/debit card with no foreign transaction fees. Capital One has a great program called Capital 360. This debit card has no minimum, no monthly fees, and no foreign transaction fees.
Walk. Walking everywhere eliminates the bill of private or public transportation. This is also an awesome way to explore and see the whole city.
When to splurge:
Reserve a taxi from the airport. Even if you think you can ride the train, book a taxi. The walk from the Albano train station to the Chigi Palace seems much longer with luggage.
Lodging in a good location. It is not necessary to stay in the nicest hotel with all the amenities. Although, it does make traveling much easier when staying in a central location. A hostel or Airbnb are good alternatives to save money while still in a good location.
If the experience is once-in-a-lifetime. These types of experiences don’t come often, so when they do, it’s imperative to take advantage of them.
During our third week in Italy, we had the privilege of being “adopted” by an Italian family. I was automatically nervous to meet my family because I was worried about the language barrier or having any sort of awkwardness between us. Looking back, it is understandable that we were nervous, but things could not have gone more perfectly!
My new family members’ names are Gianmarco (the dad), Cinzia (the mom), Galatea (the older sister), and Clio (the younger sister). On adoption night, we asked each other questions about our travels, our favorite things to do, and what we do for school/work. Due to our busy schedules, we couldn’t see our adopted Italian family until week eight. We were served typical starter foods like cheese, olives, and bread. Cinzia cooked amatrciana pasta, which is basically like spaghetti and tomato sauce except the sauce contains pancetta (pork cheek). The next dish was Pizzette Montanare, which are mini fried pizzas that come from Naples. Dessert was my favorite part – homemade tiramisu!
I felt like a real Italian that night. My family and another group’s family joined together to put on this dinner, so their apartment was a little crowded and loud but so much fun. Something about the cheek-kiss greetings, the passing of all the food, and yelling from one side of the room to the other made it feel like I was right at home. I am continuously amazed by many of the Italian customs. One of my favorite things about Italians is how eager they are to share their culture (and their food!) with you. Our Italian family took us in as their own and made this place feel like a true home.
Needless to say, I will be forever thankful to Gianmarco, Cinzia, Galatea, and Clio for their hospitality and for allowing us to enter their lives and homes. My experience in Ariccia would not be the same without them.
Living and studying abroad has been the best experience I have ever had. I have traveled to so many places and learned so much more than I ever could have from a textbook. Some of the best experiences I have had were the festivals that the towns throw.
The Porchetta Festival in Ariccia and the Wine Festival in Marino both occur in the fall, so without studying here I wouldn’t have been able to attend. The festivals offer so much more than a good time; in fact, they are where I have learned the most about Italian culture, as I was actually partaking in a real Italian tradition.
On Sunday, October 6, a few friends and I decided to attend the Marino Wine Festival. Our day started off a few train stops away from Marino. As we walked up to the festival, we noticed crowds of locals that have come to this festival for years. We then made our way through the crowds, passing the many mouth-watering food stands. They offered the signature Porchetta (pork) sandwich and other Italian staples such as their hot, sugary ciambelle (doughnuts). I definitely got one of each!
We then made our way to the main event: the wine. Every stand had glasses of wine for one or two euros. Throughout the day, we walked around and talked to a lot of locals about Italy and what we have been studying. When the clock struck 5:30 PM, we headed to the Fountain of the Four Moors.
Everyone crammed around the fountain with excitement as we waited for the fountain to pour out white wine! Right as the fountain started to gush out the wine, people pushed to get their free glasses. After the chaos, people started to flood to the DJ nearby to dance the night away!
The Marino Wine festival started in 1925 and has been going on ever since. I am so glad that I was able to take part in one of Italy’s long-held traditions. Being at the festival showed me traditional Italian food, wine, music, and dance. The people even taught us some Italian phrases! This festival was definitely a highlight of my trip and a learning experience.
One thing I know for certain: I will definitely miss the porchetta sandwiches and ciambelle!
When I was preparing for JSB I had no idea what to expect about the people I would be sharing the next three months with. However, I felt sure enough about the art I might see, the history I would learn more about, and the food and culture that I would experience.
I had always dreamed of going to Italy and I had studied Italian and Roman history and art for years throughout school. I even took Latin for a couple of years and learned about the history and literature and ingenuity of the Romans.
I had a picture in my mind: the landscapes of Tuscany stretching out with fields of grapes and speckled with trees, cafe’s where I would order my espresso in Italian, and the towering Roman ruins that contrast the crowded modern city. I pictured myself in Positano feeling the ocean breeze sifting through my hair while I gazed at the turquoise waters bashing against weathered cliffs. I imagined myself staring in awe at Michelangelo’s Pietà or craning my neck towards the towering gothic architecture of the Cathedral in Milan.
I had no idea what would grow me the most and be the most empowering to me during my time in Italy.
For me, it has been the people.
This semester has been full of experiences and learning that I’ve done all alongside 18 other girls who all have different backgrounds, unique personalities, one of a kind stories, and varying dreams and goals and aspirations. We all live together, travel together, learn together, cook together, and problem solve together. What I’ve realized is that while learning incredible history from intelligent teachers and guides, I am also forging memories with people who have incredible futures. While I am looking at the most beautiful works of art in Italy, I am seeing more of the uniqueness and beauty of each girl who brings their own perspective, thoughts, and ideas to any discussion. While I travel throughout beautiful cities and learn about unique cultures, I am on a journey to learn more about those around me and their life stories.
Not only am I empowered by the girls who are living and studying with me, but I am empowered by the uniqueness of stories from those living in Italy who hold pains and joys and sorrows and experiences that are so different from my own.
This week we heard the incredible story of a refugee who spent years journeying through west and North Africa facing hardship after hardship. The first time he attempted to cross the Mediterranean he nearly died. He told us of the grief of seeing fellow travelers die at sea and the compassion of a young kid who clothed him and help him on his journey. Now in Italy he is using his education to hopefully help many others and his unique story adds a beautiful color to the amazing place that Italy is.
This week we also learned how many refugees can use their skills from their home countries to create beautiful pieces that connect their culture with Italian fashion. We saw and touched their impressive work while visiting The Sewing Cooperative in Rome.
One thing I’m truly learning is that differences bring empowerment. They help shine a light on what is in the dark. They add uniqueness and beauty. The ability to work and learn and travel with unique people is truly growing me professionally and personally. I am learning to understand others better and hear their perspectives and appreciate cultures which will surely go with me in the future in my career. I plan to work overseas and all these experiences are stretching me in ways that I know will help me better understand and communicate with the people around me.
I was once told, “If you want to go somewhere put a picture of it beside your bed and wake up everyday and figure out how you are going to get there.” Joseph S. Bruno was impossible for me based on how much it cost, especially with my parents paying for my sister and I both in college. However, I knew “impossible” was not going to stop me from getting to the place I have always wanted to go to. I woke up everyday and figured out how I was getting to Italy. My appreciation for my time abroad comes all from my determination and the long days at work I put in prior to arriving in Italy.
I was so anxious before leaving, and it didn’t seem real that I was picking up my life and moving to Italy for three months. I kept waiting for something to get in the way of me going because it seemed too good to be true. I never once was one hundred percent convinced I was coming even after I paid every payment. It wasn’t until my plane landed in Italy and I was looking out the window that I realized I was actually here, I finally achieved the impossible. I had made my dream a reality. I could see my reflection in the window on the plane as I was looking down at the ground, tears of accomplishment ran down my cheeks, there was the moment I knew my adventure had begun, all of my hard work had paid off, and no one could take it away from me. I was ready for everything that was coming my way, but I was also so frightened; I had left everything in my life behind me for the next three months.
Boarding my plane in Atlanta, I remember thinking to myself that I wasn’t going to be seeing a familiar face for quite some time. New people, new country, new everything. Italy was my first time out of the country, and culture shock was a real thing for me. Realizing that this was going to be my everyday for three months was hard to wrap my head around. But with time, I made it to week eight, and by this point it’s just like any other day. I have fully adjusted.
This whole trip has been a “God thing”. Every person I have met, every opportunity I have taken and every memory made has truly been a gift from God. Everything seems to fall perfectly into place here; I have made some of the sweetest friendships thanks to Joseph S. Bruno Abroad. I have learned so much more than I ever imagined I could while being here. I have changed my perspective on life and how I perceive things. Joseph S. Bruno Abroad has definitely helped me grow personally by appreciating every day given and the things that come with them. I have encountered many things that have left me absolutely speechless in awe over standing somewhere I thought I would never be. I thank God for blessing me with an experience that has taught me so much.
My time abroad has been the opportunity of a lifetime that I will cherish forever. I look forward to the next several weeks on this amazing adventure. Accomplishing the “impossible” of Joseph S. Bruno has motivated me to accomplish anything I want in life. What a blessing. What an experience. What a dream come true. Joseph S. Bruno Abroad will always be a part of shaping me into who I am.
I can easily say that studying abroad in Italy has been one of the best decisions I have ever made; it truly has changed me for the better. Not only am I more confident in myself, but I have also learned more about the world than some may in a lifetime.
Let me explain… there is a growing pollution crisis in the world, and the fashion industry can partly be to blame. I am an Apparel Merchandising major with minors in both Business and International Studies, and our opportunity to attend seminars in Milan about sustainable fashion really caught my attention. During the seminars, Anna Detheridge and Rita Airaghi explained to us that not only does fashion (especially when sourced in other countries who do not have rules and regulations for how it is produced) pollute our waters, air, and even harm our skin, but also many companies do not pay their employees a livable wage to survive. A livable wage is the minimum one needs to be paid in order to survive the costs of day-to-day life in their specific country. No matter how beautiful that dress is, no piece of clothing is worth buying from a company who buys from countries that allow unsafe sweatshops and child labor to produce their materials or products.
Hearing how destructive the industry can be on our environment, and to the people who inhabit it, really struck me in such a way that I now feel called to do my part in promoting sustainable fashion. As a member of the fashion community and a consumer of fashion, too, I personally want to start a conversation with the companies I will work for about being sustainable businesses and encourage brands that care for their employees. I am a part of a generation where sustainability is extremely important for our future, and I want to do my part in cleansing the harmful ways of clothing companies. This is a responsibility I have taken on, and I plan to work for a company who shares my same passion.
As I’ve traveled throughout Europe this semester, one thing has continuously stood out: the food. While some meals were certainly better than others, not once have I felt like I ate a bad meal. In fact, several of my friends on the program have told me that I have the best track record when it comes to ordering! Although a lot of it comes down to luck, here are some tips I have for ordering the best food in Europe:
Go for the region’s specialty. If Spain is internationally recognized for its paella, there’s a good chance that a restaurant in Valencia is going to have good paella.
Ask the server what their favorite dish is. This might be hard to communicate through linguistic barriers; so maybe ask what they prefer between two or three dishes. By doing this, I ate the best pasta of my life in Florence (pictured below)!
That American food is most likely not going to taste/look like it would in the United States. The fries could be undercooked, the burger could come out without a bun and look like a chicken fried steak, and the chicken wings are probably going to be dry. If someone orders American food, don’t expect it to taste like a dad’s cooking on the Fourth of July or Waffle House after a long night!
Try new things. Eat the escargot. Eat the pasta with squid ink. There’s something so exciting about trying something that one wouldn’t normally eat and maybe liking it! If something sounds cool on the menu, order it.
If something comes out wrong or if ordering is confusing, don’t show frustration to the wait-staff or anyone at the restaurant! People are much more likely to help the group if everyone stays calm, smiles, and is respectful.
If someone’s starving, don’t get the ravioli. I know it sounds amazing. It WILL taste amazing. But, I promise, there will be a maximum of five raviolis and everyone will either need to stop for gelato on the way home (ugh!) or stay hungry. Pay attention to what dishes people get full from and remember it for when the time comes.
Watch where the locals eat and what dishes they order. They’re the true experts.
Through food tourism, I am able to unconsciously learn about
local cultures and customs. Each dish helps tell a story. In Italy, we eat a
lot of pasta. It takes a long time, the ingredients are fresh, and the recipes
are often simple and affordable. Most Italians value the slow food movement,
which strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and the promotion of
local small businesses. A lot of dishes are simple because when they were
created, the ingredients were cheap and accessible to the masses. And leftovers
won’t keep very long because they don’t use preservatives!
Everyone has their own preferences, but my best piece of advice is to try something new and outside of one’s comfort zone. No one from back home wants to hear about the time someone ate chicken fingers at a restaurant in Budapest, they want to know all about that delicious goulash soup!