How to Manage Your Post-Abroad Blues

Although the class of Spring 2020 did not get the full JSB experience and had our time cut short due to the coronavirus, feeling down after coming home from the program is applicable to all study abroad students. Let’s call it the “post-abroad blues.”

Instead of dwelling on all of the fact that we are now home and bored rather than off travelling the world, we have to focus on all of the positives. There are a few things that a student in this situation can do to brighten their spirits and I have listed them here.

Reminisce on the good.

It is healthy to want to remember all the incredible adventures abroad! I remind myself to focus on all the good that happened and allowing myself to be grateful for those experiences that I had. Another option would be to share stories with family members, create a photo album, or edit a fun video. Find something to capture those moments that you’ll hold on to for a lifetime.


This might sound obvious to a lot of people but arriving back home after spending a lot of time traveling is quite an adjustment. Whether it be adapting to the time zone, the food, or a new schedule, it might be challenging to get back into a rhythm is abnormal. Proper self-care is extremely important during this time. Avoid falling into a slump of sleeping until noon, showering once a week, and living off McDonald’s. Being back home should free up time to get back to a normal life routine, even if it takes a little while to do so. Stay hydrated, active, and healthy!

Stay busy.

Whether it be schoolwork, re-finding an old passion, or creating a new hobby, staying busy will be a lifesaver right now. This will allow the mind to be focused on the task at hand, so you are not letting yourself dwell. Personally, this was very helpful for me. Considering our particular situation and being in quarantine, it can be easier sometimes to just be sad which is not good at all. I have started new crafts and painting, which I have found really useful to keep busy when I start to feel this way.

Stay in touch with your friends and staff from JSB.

This one is super important. Stay in touch with everyone from JSB!! These people you lived in close quarters with became family for the past several weeks. Considering that I am no longer living in Italy (which feels like a loss of its own right now), I don’t want to feel like everything from my time abroad is over. Making amazing friends on this program will help in the adjustment back in the U.S. because there is a whole group of people going through the same thing and you have a supportive group of people to lean on.

This is a photo of me and my friends traveling to London for the weekend. I’m missing my JSB girls a lot, but it makes me happy to reminisce on all of our adventures.

-Shannon Lucky

Be All There

As a Type A planner, I am always awaiting the start of what is next to come. This has been my M.O. as it helps me plan, keeps me motivated, and helps me stay focused on achieving my goals. The downside to this method of living is that I find I am rarely able to take a breath and simply enjoy the moment I am currently in. Throughout my time at Auburn, I have made it a goal of mine to be mindful of my current situation in order to be fully present in all experiences I am fortunate to be in. I made it a goal to continue this practice when I arrived in Ariccia.

It is crucial for me to be present during all Joseph S. Bruno experiences! Admittedly, I have caught my mind wondering off to a different topic or thinking about our next experience and ultimately becoming disengaged with the activity I was presently immersed in. Following my disengagement, whether it was listening to a lecture, receiving a tour, listening to my classmate’s presentation, or even during a conversation with my friends, I felt incredibly regretful as I knew there was never a chance I would have that moment back. I immediately knew I missed out on an opportunity to learn, grow, or connect with my peers.

I am currently writing during the COVID-19 pandemic from my home in South Carolina while I continue my learning experiences online through Zoom and Canvas. At-home learning is difficult, but it is imperative for me to continue being all there in my engagement with the course material. Our staff has facilitated lectures and Q&A sessions with various field experts who we planned on meeting in person. While I am meeting the President and Founder of Connecting Cultures through a camera in the United States, I am no less grateful for the opportunity. 

Aside from never receiving the opportunity again, there is always something to learn. Positive or negative experience, likeable or unlikeable circumstances alike teach us lessons and foster fantastic environments for growth. The biggest lesson I have learned in my life it not to regress during the unfavorable times but allow yourself to grow.

When I find myself wondering off in my head, I practice the mindfulness tool of reconnecting with all five senses. This is a common practice in meditation as well! I identify a few things I can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste (if applicable) to help ground me and connect with my surroundings.

Participating in the Joseph S. Bruno program is a remarkable privilege and I didn’t want to take a minute of it for granted! In short, my takeaway from the program? If you are going to participate and be there, be ALL there!

– Gina Maddaloni

Here is a photo of the JSB Spring 2020 group at Trebotti Wine Farm! We are enjoying the moment and grateful for the experience!

HOW and WHY to keep in touch with home

Leaving home to study abroad is no small feat.

This means leaving behind everything and everyone you know for a new, personal experience. It is so important to me to keep in touch with those people back home- whether it’s significant others, parents, or roommates. These people who knew me best and could offer support and guidance during this season of change.

Being far from home can be hard and I’ve learned I’ve needed someone to lean on at some point, whether I liked it or not. It’s a matter of when, not if.

One of the hardest adjustments for me was the time difference. Living in Ariccia meant I was six hours ahead of my family and friends in the states. I am the Queen of FaceTime. I use FaceTime not just occasionally to catch up, but multiple times on a daily basis. Not being able to have that part of my daily routine was challenging. I had to make time for these relationships. There are many obstacles, don’t get me wrong. Schedules are unpredictable and while my life was completely different, everyone at home was continuing on. Tests, quizzes, all-nighters were still happening, even if I was no longer there.

My solution was planning. I sat down and looked at my week ahead. I had to ask those I love in advance about when we each could talk, even if only for a few minutes. It was much easier than I expected, it turns out they missed me just as much as I had been missing them.

It was very comforting to share a laugh with Dad after I fell in front of everyone or to tell my best friend that I got separated from friends on a train in the middle of Italy (but thankfully found them a few panicked minutes later).

My advice? Enjoy all of the people you meet and get to know them during your time abroad. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. However, don’t forget about the ones that are cheering you on from across the pond.

-Lindsey Malone

A photo from my first weekend in Italy, which I sent to my family in the states.

Focusing on the GOOD

Traveling abroad is filled with a LOT of unknowns. 

Where will I live? Where will I travel? What will I do? Who will I meet? How much money will I spend? How will get from point A to B?

While figuring out the answer to most of these questions and unknowns are all a part of the fun, it can also be scary and frustrating. During my time abroad I was faced with quite a few scary and frustrating moments. I was stuck in London for a night due to stormy weather. I missed out on a weekend getaway I had been planning for months due to the catastrophe in London. My phone stopped working during a weekend away with friends from my hometown. 

I could go on, but these bumps in the road are not the point. 

The point is: I had a lot of time to focus on myself and how I would react to these miniature “international incidents.” Part of the reason I was looking forward to this experience was so I would have 12 weeks to do some major self-reflection, and try to come back with a more positive and grateful outlook on life. So every time I was thrown into a stressful moment I tried to do my best to stay positive and focus on the GOOD. At times, I failed to do so in the moment, but that gave me the opportunity to reflect and try to do things differently the next time. 

Essentially, what I am trying to say is a basic goal in life, but it seems it is important now more than ever. We live in a world that likes to focus on the negative. Every day we turn on the news we are seeing people all over the world getting sick, dying, and suffering from Covid-19. People are out of work, graduations are being canceled, weddings are postponed, and basic human interaction is frowned upon. During a time that seems so bleak it is important to remain positive. I encourage you to think of this every time you get annoyed that you are on the couch watching re-runs during quarantine. Focus on spending time with your family, establishing a healthier routine, or having the luxury of a roof over your head and food to eat. Focus on the GOOD.

An example of me focusing on the GOOD. After my London fiasco, I was unable to travel on Valentine’s weekend. Instead of being sad, I was able to spend some time exploring Ariccia and experiencing a lovely Valentine’s sunset with friends!

-Ally Douglas

Taking Advantage of this Opportunity

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience that most people are unable to repeat. Therefore, I thought I should take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to see the world while abroad. I realized that it is okay if I was unable to go to a different country every weekend, but I made a point of exploring wherever I decided to go. So, I have complied a list of five essential things one should do in order to gain the most from this experience.

Making sure everyone knows the plan.

            I realized very quickly how important it is to coordinate information about transportation plans and where I was staying with the girls I was traveling with during personal travel time. It is very necessary to make sure everyone has booked the same plane tickets, trains, and knows exactly where they are staying before leaving to travel. I was not expecting how much of a language barrier there would be in Italy, and it is so easy to get separated from the group. So, I always made sure I was able to navigate the train or metro systems and have the right tickets in case anything happens.

Stepping out of a comfort zone

            Traveling allows one to experience new, exciting things almost every single day. I learned that while it is important to be cautious, it is equally as important to step out of my comfort zone. For instance, I am sometimes nervous about trying new foods, but when I tried Porchetta for the first time, I instantly fell in love with the local delicacy.

Being aware

After a couple of weeks of studying abroad, I realized that people take advantage of tourists who do not know certain rules or know what they are doing. I learned that it is okay to speak up and politely question a bill at a restaurant or tell them that they did not give me enough change back. Sometimes it is a misunderstanding, but I soon became comfortable with sternly questioning what seemed ‘off’ or unfair.

Doing research

            I personally do not enjoy visiting a place during personal travel time without doing some research about the best places to go. Apps like Yelp, Pinterest, OpenTable, and reading travel blogs have really helped me figure out the best things to do in each place. Yes, it is fun to stumble into a great restaurant or cool area every now and then. But researching the culture, landmarks and museums of the places I visited helped me better manage my time, experience and money.

Managing money

            Although the smaller towns in Italy are very reasonably priced, I found that larger cities in Europe are usually much more expensive. However, even in the most expensive cities, I figured out how to properly manage my money. When in my residence during the week, I typically avoid eating out for meals as much as possible and try cooking most of my meals at home. This saves so much extra money for the weekend and keeps my waistline in check. I also make sure I always have cash on hand, because it makes splitting bills and paying for taxis a lot easier.

Staying healthy

            Like I said before, cooking meals at home during the week really helps me watch my figure. I also limit the amount of pasta and cheese I eat by going to the local butcher and fruit/vegetable stands to get fresh ingredients for my meals. Working out is hard to squeeze into the schedule, but I make sure I go on at least a 45 minute walk every day even if it is just to go run some errands. Getting on a solid sleep schedule also helps me get through my day, and I make sure I have some melatonin or tea right before bed in order to ensure a good night’s rest.

            Studying abroad was not how I expected it to be. The world is full of interesting places, with vastly different cultures and languages from what I am used to. I have laughed, cried, relaxed, panicked, and most importantly learned so many valuable lessons living in a different place than I could ever imagine.

This is a photo of my friend and I after we explored the Coliseum and had a great, planned out day of Rome.

-Madeline Hand

Rookie Mistakes

I am a planner, truly, like the color-codes my weekly checklist, keeps all my papers in page protectors, laminates a copy of my passport and insurance card and keeps them with me at all times type. The great paradox, though, is that I am also the world’s worst procrastinator. I think there’s something about the pressure that comes with having a deadline written (in its respective color) a month in advance and choosing to wait until the last possible minute to get it done that’s truly exhilarating. 

With that being said, from the moment I handed over the deposit check, I planned furiously for my time in the JSB program. By the time my plane was wheels-up and on its way to Rome, I was positive that I was going to be an excellent world traveler — I really had it all figured out… not. 

Upon reflection, I have realized that I made a foolish travel mistake in every single week of this program. So, here’s the breakdown, folks: 

Week One: On second thought, this week actually had two mistakes. The first mistake, which probably led to the second, was that I packed the night before I left. Did I mention I’m the world’s worst procrastinator? In the midst of my packing crisis, I left an entire garment bag of clothes, which I had purchased and stored away specifically for this experience, hanging in my closet. 

Week Two: The second week I booked a plane ticket to spend the weekend in Lisbon, Portugal, but I forgot to check-in. Evidently the whole “check-in” process is not merely a suggestion when flying on a budget airline, so I ended up paying 50 extra Euro to get a boarding pass, not to mention almost missing the flight. 

Week Three: The third week I booked a plane ticket to spend the weekend in London with high hopes that my luck would change. Instead, Winter Storm Ciara brought 80mph winds, which canceled our return flight and left us stranded. I was too busy picking out an outfit for high tea; I didn’t think to check the weather. 

Week Four: Despite the harsh luck in London the weekend prior and my father’s better judgment, I booked a ticket to spend Valentine’s Day weekend in Paris. I had big plans to buy myself a Prada bag while I was there (which I did) and where better to do so than the City of Love on the international day of love? So, where’s the mistake? Well, I booked a ticket for a plane that departed from a tiny airport in ‘Middle of Nowhere’, France during an airstrike — this one landed me on a 12-hour train back to Rome. 

Disclaimer: I would do this one again; then again, I’d do just about anything for Prada. 

Week Five: Week five is the most embarrassing mistake of all, I had booked a ticket to spend the weekend in Geneva, Switzerland. So, when Thursday night rolled around, learning from my week two mistake, I logged into the airline website to check-in for my flight and print my boarding passes. Instead, I discovered that the flight I thought I would be boarding the very next morning had actually taken off 24 hours prior. 

At this point you may be wondering why the mistake timeline stops at only 5 weekends. Well, that would be because on Saturday morning of week six the CDC increased the threat level in Italy to a 3, due to COVID-19, and we were evacuated from the country. 

Needless to say, dropping your American life and moving to a new country, even if it’s only for 3 months, is not for the faint of heart. I struggled at times, I made mistakes – a lot of them, and at the end, I was dealt a hand of cards that no amount of color-coding or page protectors would’ve helped me plan. However, not in spite of but truly because of all of these experiences, I left a country that became so dear to my heart, with more grit, more tenacity, more culture, and more experience. Most importantly I left with more compassion. With the world in the midst of pandemic, politics, and self-preservation, we could all afford to practice a little more compassion — remembering a time when you, too, were a rookie, in need of a little grace on the learning curve. 

A celebratory photo of the only thing that got me through being stranded in a foreign country for the second time in two weeks.

Megan Jeter

Laugh it Off

I have been in Italy for over a month now. Just when I think I have gotten the hang of things, like remembering which laundry day is mine, booking flights, making travel plans, grocery shopping in a foreign country, or anything else for that matter, reality comes and hits me right in my face. For example, I have traveled in some form every weekend since I have been here, whether it has been by train, bus, taxi, or plane. Therefore, I have gotten pretty good at planning and booking things correctly. So, when I booked my flight for Switzerland, I was so confident and excited for the weekend ahead of me. My friends and I taxied to the airport and I went to check-in for my flight and the kind woman working for the airline politely informed me that I had missed my flight that had taken off 24 hours prior and there were no open flights leaving that day to Switzerland. So, needless to say, my friends went to Switzerland without me and I was left with no weekend plans because I had accidentally booked my flight for the wrong day, and to make it better, there were no refunds available.

Things like this are going to happen. We are all young students who still have lessons to learn. Instead of getting caught up in what all can and will go wrong, it is such a valuable lesson to learn how to “laugh it off”. If I get upset and miserable about every little thing, I make everyone else around me miserable as well. And no one wants to be miserable when you are living in Italy for 3 months. I ended up taking a day trip and having a relaxing weekend in Ariccia for the remainder of the weekend, instead of sulking in the mistake I had made.

So, whenever we book a wrong flight, forget a passport, get our phones stolen (because this will happen to at least one person), or forget to pack our favorite jeans, we look for a way to get past it and laugh it off with the people around us. JSB study abroad is such an amazing experience and our stories are so much better to tell since we are laughing about them instead of crying. Attitude is everything!

-Sara Hensley JSB Spring 2020

The sunset I got to enjoy the weekend I stayed in Ariccia when my plans did not work out.