Hang Up and Hang Out

One minute you are sitting on a rooftop in Barcelona watching the sunset, and the next you are trying to find your phone that you realize has just been stolen. These situations can definitely catch you off guard and cause a bump in your study abroad experience. When this happened to me three weeks into the program, I thought my world was ending. However, this unfortunate event has taught me so many things and I want to share a couple. 

One thing that getting my phone stolen has taught me is that I am way too addicted to social media. I didn’t realize how often I would check Instagram and Snapchat until I didn’t have a phone to check it with. Without realizing it, I would spend hours scrolling and trying to keep up with what everyone is doing. When I get my phone back, I want to be more mindful of this and make an effort to not get on social media as much. 

Another thing that getting my phone stolen has taught me is to be more present where I am. I have been able to engage more in relationships with the girls in the palace and spend more time appreciating where I am. Before, my face was usually glued to my phone and I wasn’t taking advantage of everything that Ariccia has to offer. 

While this situation was very hard to deal with, I am thankful for everything that it has taught me. I want to encourage everyone to hang up and hang out. The difference that it makes is shocking!

One of the things you can see in Ariccia when you take a break from your phone

Kayley Abbott

Keeping Your Cool on a Runaway Train

A few girls and I decided to travel to the historic town of Siena, Italy for a weekend. When I booked my ticket, I was fine with the fact that we had to transfer three times between the four separate trains it took to get us to Siena. However, I didn’t realize that we only had around five to fifteen minutes between departures, which is a considerably short amount of time to change trains, especially if you don’t speak the Italian language or ride the trains often.

We had an early start on Friday, yawning as we walked to catch our first train of the day at 5:57am. A couple of hours (and a couple of transfers) later, we were exhausted and finally cozied up against the train car window to nap as we were on the home stretch towards Siena. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “How could this go wrong?” We’d already handled two transfers successfully, so why would the last one be any different?

Well, I was wrong. Things definitely went wrong.

I woke up from my nap to see which train stop we were currently at, but the speakers that announced the station name were unintelligible and any informational signs were non-existent. One of the girls I was traveling with (who has the gift of always knowing her way around) had told the rest of us that the next stop was ours, so we all prepared to disembark. When the train finally stopped, my good friend Morgan was the first one off the train even though she had also been asleep two minutes earlier. The rest of us were making our way to the exit when I saw the doors close. I looked around for a button next to the doors to open them, but couldn’t find anything. The panic didn’t quite set in until we all felt the train begin inching away from Morgan, who was just watching us struggle from the train platform.

It felt like the world quickly went from slow-motion into hyper-speed in a matter of seconds. Since we still couldn’t figure out how to open the train car doors, all we could do was watch Morgan wave to us as we got farther and farther away. We figured we could just get off at the next stop assuming it’d be close, but the train switched gears into hyper-speed and the distance between us and our friend grew. We soon came to realize that Morgan had gotten off a stop too early, and our actual destination was the next one.

Surprisingly enough, we did manage to get Morgan back and make it to Siena with only an hour delay. Regardless, the reason why we were able to accomplish this and fix the situation was by keeping calm and focusing on finding solutions to our problem at hand. Sometimes things happen that weren’t intended, like accidentally leaving your friend on a practically abandoned train station platform in a quiet neighborhood called Fabro. Sometimes finding solutions to those unexpected obstacles becomes a memorable experience, like how my friend Gina communicated to a group of seven Italian taxi drivers through Google Translate in order to rescue our friend.

Even though our trip didn’t go exactly according to plan, we were still able to recover from our mistake by keeping calm and taking action. In the end, it made for a hilarious experience I will not soon forget.

All the best,

Alyssa Dominguez

A view of the Pubblico Palace in Piazza del Campo in Siena!

A Donut Without a Hole.

One of the things I find most interesting is the idea of phrases and words that can be lost in translation. One phrase that I learned while being in Italy is “Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco,”, which translates to “not all donuts have a hole,”,-which is an Italian way of saying: Not everything will go as planned. Things not going as planned can lead to a lot of things, and for myself it tends to lead to worry or anxiety. I am scared of being a donut without a hole. If expect things to go one way, I do not like it when they end up another way. During my time here, I have been able to find ways to manage this fear, and in turn help myself learn ways to grow from these unexpected emotions and changes. 

When I left home, I knew that being here would be hard. And at times, it really is. Part of accepting that there will most likely be times where I am feeling down or homesick has helped me in understanding the natural adaptation process during our time here. Some nights there are times where I wish I could just see my mom and dad, and I know now that it is more than okay to miss home. It is more than okay to acknowledge these feelings and allow them to have their place when the time is right, there is no need to keep a poker face. Containing these feelings hurt me more than helped me, and led me to understanding that talking about feeling this way with others helps bring a sense of reassurance to the group. After all, everyone who leaves home for an adventure such as this one handles things differently, and having someone to help process and work through these emotions is a vital part of finding inner peace during new seasons of life. 

When I was preparing to leave, I had planned to fly somewhere every weekend. Once I got here, I quickly felt overwhelmed. I realized that although there are many places that I want to go, doing extensive travel every weekend is not the way I have decided to spend my time during this program. I have come to peace knowing that although I might not be posting a new instagram picture every weekend, I know that I am taking the time to enjoy the areas around Ariccia, and I am letting myself slowly fall in love with Italy one train ride at a time. In our lives now, there is often pressure to always keep moving, so much so that it is often easy to ignore the beauty that is right in front of us. Slowing down and really living moment by moment has truly helped me get so much out of this experience. As cliché as it is, taking time to slow down and smell the flowers has helped me grow in ways that I did not foresee. There is just something very special about being the only people in a restaurant on the Italian coast, with the chef coming out to talk to you about his brother and about every dish that’s on the menu. Moments like this are fleeting, and I know I will treasure each one. Letting go of the pressure of seeing how many places I can go and how many things I can see has allowed me freedom to listen to my heart each weekend, and it has led me to some pretty amazing places. 

Written by a donut who is finally okay with not having a hole 

(Mariana Barrero)

Learning to find happiness in every minute.

Don’t Be Married to Your Travel Plans

When I signed up for this trip at Camp War Eagle, almost two years ago I had no idea what I should expect. Throughout these first six weeks here at JSB I guess you can say things have not exactly gone as we could have expected. From our cancelled flights in London and Paris, to having to take over night trains just to make it back to class, and now the rapid spread of the Coronavirus in Italy, we have had to face many challenges. 

JSB Spring 2020, the group that will forever be remembered for being here during the spread of the coronavirus. As I sit here, I wonder things like: What will happen if we leave Italy? Will we be allowed back in? Is our program going to get cancelled as a whole? What if we somehow end up in quarantine? Unfortunately, these are the kinds of risks you take when you sign up for any trip abroad. 

Although we have faced much adversity in our time here, I have learned and grown so much as a person. We have also grown together as a whole group. These will be the kind of stories we will remember for the rest of our lives. These are the kinds of situations that bond people, and I know that I will be leaving this program with twenty friends for life. 

So although things may not have gone the way we have planned, you live and you learn. We have adapted plans and taken everything with the best attitude possible. Now all we can do is hope for better luck in the upcoming six weeks. 

War Eagle!

Haley Chambers

Traveling When Plan A Doesn’t Work Out…

In addition to being so fortunate to live in Italy and experience the unique culture, being able to travel to other places throughout Europe truly allows you to immerse yourself in so many different cultures. I enjoy traveling, but using unfamiliar airlines and transportation systems does have some downfalls. Flights get canceled for reasons that we would not expect, and sometimes the next flight isn’t for days. Airlines have different policies than we are used to, sometimes there are protests, worker strikes or other complications. Fortunately, so far I have only had one travel experience where I had to make a plan B. 

A group of us for personal travel went to Paris. When we showed up to the airport to fly back to Rome early on Sunday morning, we noticed that there were barely any employees working. There was no one standing at our gate or anyone working in the entire terminal. The weather was questionable, but not severe enough to postpone flights. Hours passed, and there were still no updates on why we didn’t see a plane outside. Finally, an announcement came over the intercom saying our flight was canceled. While we did all have a moment of panic, we knew there were other ways to get home, so we calmed ourselves down and worked together to find the best option, which we concluded was to take the train. We knew booking another flight was a bad idea because the weather was only supposed to get worse. 

After extensive research, we found a train that was going to leave from Paris and arrive in Rome the next morning. None of us had ever taken an overnight train, but at this point, it was our best option. We all were able to buy our tickets on the bus ride back into the city from the airport. Unfortunately, one member of the group could not get a ticket but was able to get out in the morning on an early flight, and she had a safe, free place to stay another night in Paris. The rest of us find the correct train station in Paris where our train is to leave. At this point, I felt a little relieved because we, for sure, have a way home! We sat down to eat and learned that Ryan Air employees had gone on strike, and that is why there were so few employees at the airport. While I was unsure at first how this train experience was going to play out, I was glad we decided to train. I kept a positive attitude, and in the end, I was glad I got to experience the overnight train! 

We all arrived safely back to Ariccia, even the one member who did fly back. I learned more responsibility skills and how to work with others in an undesirable situation to come up with a new solution. Traveling can be unreliable, and it is crucial not to lose control of your emotions when Plan A doesn’t work out. Putting forth that stressful energy into finding another plan and remaining as calm as possible to not draw in any unwanted attention is crucial to staying safe when in a large airport, or train station. 

The beautiful thing about traveling in Europe is the ease of getting around from country to country. Trains are always the best option for transportation, depending on where you are going. Airline tickets can be expensive, and there is limited communication from the airline about flight updates. I’m excited about my future travels and I can’t wait to see what more I will learn from traveling around this fantastic part of the world! Studying abroad is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Though times may be tough, I am going to be thankful for the knowledge I will gain from experiencing so many new places and methods of traveling. Excellent communication and teamwork skills will be essential to have for the rest of my life, especially in my professional development and career.

A beautiful view of the Tuscan countryside on the train from Milan to Rome! 
  • Olivia Smith

Taking Advantage of our Backyard

The Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program has placed us in a very unique situation. We are living in a small town with Rome only a short train ride away so you would think that many girls would spend lots of time exploring that legendary city every chance they get. At the same time though, we are also living in a continent where you can travel to an abundance of other countries either via a short flight or train ride. These two options pose an important question, how do you want to spend your weekends and free time while you are here?

Rome is a city that many people dream of visiting at some point in their life, for good reason too. In my opinion, Rome is one of the most amazing cities in the world. Our Italian teacher, Sandra, helped me realize just how lucky we are to be so close to this city and how foolish we would be to not take advantage of what is literally in our backyard. Since I had this realization I have spent a good amount of time exploring Rome on my own and I must say, it has been one of my most favorite things I have done on this trip so far.

Rome as a city has so much to offer; from great food and shopping to museums and historical sites, this city is jam-packed with things to do. Some of my personal favorite things I have done have been watching the sunset from the top of the Rinascente Department store, eating gelato at Gelateria Della Palma, going to the market at Campo Dei Fiori and exploring the neighborhoods of Trastevere and Aventino. I also really enjoy just walking around exploring random little streets and going into the smaller local shops.

It is only my fifth week in this amazing country and I definitely plan on spending more time in the city of Rome and taking advantage of our very unique opportunity.

Enjoying the view of one of the most historic places in all of Rome – The Colosseum!

– Caroline Tippett

An Open Mind = A Good Time!

Hey Everyone! 

My name is Morgan Van Blarcum, and I am here to share a few wise words about weekend travel that I have learned in my first month on the JSB program.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a planner and I love to have a schedule made well in advance. When it came to weekend travel, I knew I wanted to go to a few specific places and I started planning out my weekends right when I got to Italy. I quickly learned most travel plans are made a little last minute and some of the most fun weekends are random trips taken because the flight or train is super cheap. These are the best weekends! I would absolutely recommend taking an affordable flight or train to a city that has never crossed your mind to visit over paying a few hundred Euros to go to your dream city. Here’s my reason why: In the future, I will probably not take a trip from the U.S. to Europe just to go to a random little city. Odds are I will take a trip from the U.S. to Europe to go to my dream city. 

I ended up in the best city I have ever been to and never would have thought to visit simply because the flight was 60€. A couple of girls and I showed up to Brussels, Belgium without a plan and had the best weekend we could have imagined. The moral of the story is that every city has so many amazing opportunities. I feel confident that showing up for weekend travels with a good attitude and a great sense of humor will inevitably lead to a fun experience in any city.

My last piece of advice is about traveling in Italy. I came into the program wanting to travel to a lot of countries in Europe. Once I got here, I realized how many amazing places there are just in Italy, which are only a few hours away by train. I decided that in addition to studying in Italy, I also wanted to travel through Italy. Italy has so much to offer and it is so convenient for weekend travel. I really hope that every future JSB student will also dedicate a couple of weekends to some of Italy’s largest cities and tiniest towns!

All in all, keep an open mind about everything, especially about weekend travel destinations! 

That’s all for now! 

Morgan Van Blarcum 

Here I am at the Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium with my new tote bag! Fun fact, Belgians call crosswalks zebras!

To Pack or not to Pack

I am a chronic over-packer. Someone says a weekend at the lake and my thoughts are: two duffels or three? I once even packed my own Keurig to go to a friend’s lake house. Needless to say, when I found out I would be coming to Italy, I knew that packing to live for three months in another country would be a challenge. 

To combat my usual tendency of over-packing, I pared down my wardrobe, shoes, and cosmetics to the bare minimum, envisioning myself living a much simpler life in a quaint Italian town. What I didn’t envision was how much all of those little things could amount to when I was living away from home for three months. 

I share this story as a reminder that 1) it is okay have a lot of little things you like to have, and 2) these little things can make a big difference when you are living out of your comfort zone for an entire semester. When I left behind my favorite hair oil, my extra pair of sneakers, and that cute but less practical sweater, I thought I was doing myself and my suitcase a big favor. However, when I got to Italy and the water made my hair dry, and I wanted a cute outfit to wear to dinner on Valentine’s, I realized that bringing those few extra comforts from home would have made a big difference in helping me to feel more comfortable and confident in my new environment. 

Luckily for me, Italy has all of the things I left behind at home, so I have been able to improvise. I encourage any future study abroad students to consider what things help them to feel at home and also to feel their best in a new environment, and to make space in their suitcase for these simple comforts. 

Enjoying our time in Barcelona and sporting a new outfit!

Happy packing!

-Virginia Stanley

Do’s and Dont’s of Traveling Abroad

To whomever may be reading this; Hi guys I’m Nikki! For my blog I wanted to do a quick “Do’s and Dont’s” list of traveling around Europe. In my last month of traveling, I have learned a lot of lessons, and I feel as if it is only right for me to share. Let’s start with the “Dont’s” because I like to end things on a positive note.


“Dont’s”:
• Number 1: Don’t -expect water to be free. This goes for all European cities and towns unfortunately. It is inexpensive though, so no real loss, it’s just an adjustment.
• Number 2: Don’t -expect to be able to split the check. The only city I have visited that has been accommodating in that regard is London, which seems only fair to me considering how $$$ it can be.
• Number 3: Don’t -travel without cash. Whether it is splitting the check or paying for cabs, you don’t want to be stuck in either situation with your Amex because they will not except it. Which brings me to my next one,-…
• Number 4: Don’t -expect to travel without multiple forms of payment. Most cities don’t except Amex (except Copenhagen, Paris, and London) so make sure you have another card.
• Number 5: Don’t- just book the first Airbnb you find. Make sure the area is close to what your group has planned for the weekend because it might end up costing more with the price of taxis.


“Do’s:
• Number 1: Do -take the city metro. Taxis are expensive, usually only take cash and honestly are not efficient. Being able to learn a city’s metro is a really great skill to have and will save your group a lot of fun tickets at the end of the day.
• Number 2: Do -buy travel insurance on flights. Traveling is very tedious and even if every step is planned out plan out, things always happen that are not controllable. It might not be necessary, but when my flight from London got canceled, I was glad to have it.
• Number 3: Do -prepay your Votofone. It is way better to overshoot how much data you need, than to end up in a country
without a cell phone.
• Number 4: Do -make reservations ahead of time. Don’t get me wrong, one of my favorite parts of traveling is wondering around in a city and stumbling into an adorable cafe or boutique; and I highly encourage you to do that. But, if there is a specific activity or restaurant you HAVE to do like High Tea in London or a tour of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, go ahead and hop on it as soon as you can.

• Number 5: Do – your research. Planning your trips around local holidays like St. Patrick’s Day or Carnivale are once in a lifetime opportunities. Also, take into account,- weather for beach trips or simply just planning your flights in advance so they are less expensive.

I hope you guys found these tips and tricks helpful. Honestly, there are so many more hints, but a lot of traveling is a learn-as-you-go process. Hopefully knowing these, you can avoid the expensive mistakes early on so your first few weekends go smoothly and are that much more fun!

Me and Abby in London!

Safe Travels,

Nikki Roberts

Girlfriend’s Guide to Carefree Group Travel

Find inner peace when traveling with friends.

Traveling alone can be stressful – from expenses, to transportation, and the dread of packing. We can all agree that adding a group of people to this situation can make or break the experience.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned within the first few weeks of my study abroad experience, it’s that traveling with friends brings about some of the most unforgettable moments – good and bad. In order to get the most out of travels, it’s essential to take the right steps to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Plan ahead of time

Planning ahead is a great way to save money and time – something that everyone in the group will be happy with. Doing this also gave me the opportunity to have a heads up on the preferences of group members (like if they prefer to travel earlier or later in the day.)

Understand each other’s expectations

Having some prior insight of what group members want to get out of this trip saved me from conflict of interest once I was there. For example, when I travel I like to plan a mix of scheduled and unscheduled days so I have some room to explore once I’m there. Some people are go-getters and prefer to plan a jam-packed itinerary (and some just want to relax.) Understanding these expectations and not letting differences get the best of me were essential for a smooth trip.

Find group members that have the same expectations

One thing I found when traveling every weekend was, just because I traveled in a group didn’t mean we had to do every little thing together. Sometimes splitting up to do different activities can help the group dynamic, especially if there is a difference of opinion.

Be Flexible

People are going to want to pop into shops, restaurants will be closed, and plans throughout travels will change. Going into a trip with a “go with the flow” mentality made it a lot easier to adjust to changes when they happened.

Find that happy place

Privacy is rare on a group trip, and as an introvert, I sometimes need time to myself to recharge – it helps to take some time before traveling travels to do this. Find a way to get to a happy place; for me it’s a few deep breaths or reminding myself what an amazing experience it is.

Plans will change, people will have differences in opinion, but ultimately my attitude and outlook on how I wanted my experience to go is allowing me live my best life while studying abroad.

Safe Travels, Katherine Shepard

Falling in love with Barcelona