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”