Stop Letting Fear Stop You

Tomorrow marks one month since I left America. This past month has flown by and I am happier than I ever have been. I haven’t always been this happy to be here though.

I spent the month leading up to us leaving crying and stressing out over everything. I was the kid growing up that refused to go to summer camp because I didn’t want to be in a place that I didn’t know. In fact, the one time I did go, I cried every single day until the counselors allowed me to call my mom. Moral of the story is I grew up being a huge homebody, but as I have grown up I discovered my love for traveling.

My love for traveling led me to being certain that I wanted to study abroad. Which then led me to finding this opportunity. I remember the day I found out I was officially accepted. I thought to myself “I’ve got this, it’s just like going away to college and I did great at that.” I kept that mindset for months because I was just excited to finally live out my dreams of studying abroad. That mindset slowly diminished as the realization of me leaving the country for two and a half months set in.

The month leading up to us leaving was incredibly tough. Suddenly, it was like I was back in elementary school begging my mom to not make me go to summer camp. I was still excited but the fear was setting in. The fear of the unknown. The fear of leaving the country for the first time. The fear of being far away from my friends and family. The fear of forgetting something. It was debilitating fear that was hitting me like a train.

Luckily, I have an incredible support system that was nothing but encouraging. My mother in particular is amazing, no wonder why I have always had the hardest time leaving her. I would call her just about everyday just to make sure I was gathering all the right paperwork, getting my credit card set up, and most of all just to have her reassure me that I was making the right decision. Even when I called her bawling my eyes out, she would calm me down and reassure me that I was going to be okay. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know if I ever would’ve gotten on the plane.

I did get on the plane though. I faced my biggest fears and just kept walking. I am so thankful that I did.

This is from our first weekend here. You wouldn’t even know I was ever scared to come to Italy – my happiness is radiating.

Follow your dreams, no matter how scary they are.

Ciao for now & War Eagle always! -Maddie Harris

How to Not Look Like a Tourist in Italy

My classmates and I decide to go to a neighboring town called Genzano for our first weekend in Ariccia. We scoured the various clothing stores in Genzano touching each item that we saw. There aren’t a lot of contemporary luxury stores or luxury stores of any kind for that matter in Aricca or Albano the next town over. Most of the stores in Alabano are stores that are priced fairly. As we strolled through Genzano a shop caught my eye with glamourous boots and bags, I knew it was pricey, but we didn’t go in the shop just yet. We continued our stroll through the affordable boutiques touching and trying on various items. After we finished our final walk through the corso, we decided to go back to the store that caught our attention. We walked into the expensive store and didn’t greet the sales associate. That was our first mistake, we continue to parade around the store gawking at the luxury items specifically merchandised on the display. I noticed the sales associate giving us a death glare as we picked over the items. I started to notice that everything we would touch the sales associate moved it back to its specific location, but I didn’t think anything of it. After parading around the store for 15 minutes we decided to leave dreaming over all the luxury pieces we saw. That following Monday we finally understood why we got those death glares, in Italian culture, it is accustomed to speaking to the sales associate when you walk in the shop and the most important rule is to always ask before touching an item on display. This interaction made me feel so disconnected with Italian culture becasue I thought touching items in the store was a normal practice to do anywhere. This interaction made me feel small and out of place even more so than I already was. From that moment on I never touched an item in store and without asking first.

Here I am at Villa d’Este

One Month of Growing Pains

At the time of this writing, tomorrow, October 1st, 2021, will commemorate our first full month in Ariccia. I have only ever lived in Alabama and I have only ever resided with people of whom I am related. Tomorrow represents one full month of life across the world with six roommates, sharing bathrooms, pieces of ourselves, and shared experiences. Where I initially was hesitant of the culture shock, I now look forward to the discomfort, as I have learned to translate it instead to growing pains.  

These growing pains have been numerous, as almost nothing is what it initially seems. “Peperoni” on a pizza will result in bell peppers, ordering a “latte” at a coffee shop will mean a glass of warm milk, and a “frappe” is a milkshake almost never with coffee. The people here are kind, but in a different way from the South. Rather than the immediate hospitality of back home, the people of Ariccia display reservations at first, but then reveal themselves to be the most genuine, thoughtful people. I will make a point to never forget them.

Learning the Italian language has been a form of culture shock as well. With only my background in Spanish, my lack of Italian often leaves me frustrated. Ironically, locals will apologize repeatedly for not speaking perfect English; they only wish to be accommodating in their own spaces. The human condition of wanting to connect and empathize on a basic level gives me hope, and after an entire month of change and growth, I welcome the shock. I will cherish my remaining time with my thirteen-classmate support system and the wonderful people of this country.

“My 13-legged support system”

Maris Laney, Fall 2021

Waste, Where?

One of the major differences between Italian culture and American culture is the way that waste is handled. On the tour of campus, one of the main areas covered was the recycling and compost bins. My group was given an extensive rundown of what products and packaging can be recycled, and photos are placed above the bins for even more clarification on what waste goes where. 

When walking around the city of Ariccia, I noticed that this was not unique to the palace, and everyone in town also had the same waste bins, separating non-recyclables, plastics, paper, and cans. Some states in America are lucky to even have recycling. Many cities cannot afford it. 

Speaking of food waste, Italians are extremely resourceful when it comes to their meat and produce. On our latest trip to a vineyard, we saw the harvesting of grapes. These grapes made oil, marmalade, and of course, wine. The cheese that was being made in front of us made prima salle, and the leftover liquid was used for a completely different type of cheese. When our group was being taught about meat, every single piece was used, and treated more respectfully. 

The relationship with clothing is different as well, buying quality over quantity, and acquiring more neutral colors so clothes can move from season to season. And, they last for years. Black never goes out of style, and I have noticed that it is the color of choice for Italian women. 

The attitude towards these raw materials are inspiring, and everything is cared for so much more. Clothes are meant to last a lifetime, and recycling and composting are a given here. When cooking, Italians view it in a restorative way, nourishing their bodies with food that has been locally sourced, and enjoying the ingredients from start to finish.

This is me molding cheese at our wine harvest. I bought a block of this cheese right after we ate it with the grape marmalade. It was the best cheese I have ever had.

Jessie Roller, Fall 2021

Forced Friendships!

I think that some of the hardest things to come to terms with before studying abroad was leaving behind my friends, my family, and my life in Auburn. It is scary knowing I am spending an entire semester with women, who for the majority, I have had little to no interaction with prior to this trip.

I started to get nervous: Will they like me? Do I annoy them? Do they wish I wasn’t around as much? However, the more time I spend with everyone, the more these fears fade away. I feel as though in such a short amount of time I have grown so close with these women, and it feels like I have known them for years! They are some of the funniest, nicest, easy-going, and supportive girls I have met during my time at Auburn, and I could not have met them at a more perfect time.

As a rising senior, it is not the easiest to make new friends and I know many of the people here are in the same boat. We are comfortable with our friendships at home, and we have been a part of the same organizations for some time now. It is not as easy to branch out and meet new people, and I did not always want to put in extra effort. That is why there is a beauty in “forced friendships.” We are all living under the same roof and are each other’s support system in a new place. I honestly could not think of a more perfect place to get to know people better.

It is all so different than what I am used to, and I would not have it any other way. I see traits in these women that I wish to embody, and I am finding more of myself as I get to know them. I can honestly say I have never had a group of friends like this before and I am so thankful for our forced friendship!

Ciao for now,

Morgan McWilliams

All of the Chigi babies after grape picking and wine tasting in Genzano!