Pain Gives Birth to the Promise Ahead

As I arrived at the Joseph S Bruno program that I read about for two years, it was a dream come true. Before even coming to Auburn, I admired this program and saw my future here and wanted to participate in it. I knew being exposed to nine random girls would be hard, but I wanted to adventure the discomfort to help me grow.

I always try to push myself to do the scary things in life to experience the unknown. Being comfortable is not good enough to accomplish growth. I have created so many friendships and memories here that I never even imagined, and I will never forget. From the highs and lows, my life here has been unforgettable.

Some highlighting moments I experienced was almost missing my train to the point I had to run down the platform. I also accomplished having blisters, getting rained on, and speaking to a foreigner without knowing what they are saying and more. I have had more fun here than I have since the beginning of college. I know for one thing is that the girls and I here are strong.

I have never felt so uplifted by others and it makes me glad to be around them even though we get on each other’s nerves some of the time. We support each other either way because we know we are family, just as in Auburn. Being in a different environment is hard when I am not around the familiar, but it has helped me grow.

Me enjoying a view of the Royal palace of Caserta while sitting on the fountain.
Me enjoying a view of the Royal palace of Caserta while sitting on the fountain.

It has blossomed me into someone I never even knew I was and to me that is courage. As I soak up every second here, I have seen pain, strength, and love through all of us. These three things bring joy to my heart. I have persevered in order to see the promise ahead and go through the hard times to get to the good things in the life I want.

So sometimes the hardest moments in life teach you lessons that you could never take for granted.

With love,

Katie Gaston

On the Right Track

Sprinting down towards platform 20B of Roma Termini, held back by the contents of the weekend’s travel pack, and watching as the last train of the night departs the station is truly a humbling experience. But missing the train isn’t the end of the world and realizing this has helped me learn in ways beyond just making it home to Ariccia by curfew.

Living in Italy, surrounded by so many unfamiliar things, has been a lot of trial and error. I was only able to prepare myself so much, some things just have to be lived and learned. I couldn’t count how many times, especially at the beginning of the semester, a store clerk would tell me something at the counter and I just stared back blankly for a moment. But constantly struggling at the store prompted me to spend more time learning phrases in Italian that would help me better interact when shopping. But that’s just one of many slip-ups. There have also been times, like last weekend when I told myself that only packing my two most uncomfortable shoes for a weekend in Milan was a good idea. But, lo and behold, I was buying a new pair of sneakers Saturday afternoon. Just like missing the last train to Albano prompted me to be more aware of timing and planning during train transfers, I am learning so many other mini-lessons along the way.

I was bound to experience slip-ups traveling internationally. But a few bad experiences catching a train should never stop anyone from trying again. It’s all about learning from my mistakes. A new adventure is just a stop away, just make sure to get off at the right one.

Kaitlyn Reedy

Traveling on the Metro in Milan, Italy.

Checked Baggage vs Carry-On

As I wrap up my seventh week abroad, I have realized just how different my worries and stresses are in Italy versus in America. In America, I have to deal with the idea of starting my life when I get back as I am graduating in December. However, in Italy my stresses bounce between different things. Between measuring my carry-on suitcase (the baggage sizes are different on Ryanair than they are on Delta), and learning how to use a Moka pot instead of a coffee pot, living abroad has its own unique sets of challenges. 

Learning to pack up the worries and stresses that I cannot do anything about while abroad has been something challenging for me. As a senior graduating, the idea of going home and facing the reality of starting new again is scary. When I get back, I need to find a job, a new city to live in, and an apartment. But I always have to remind myself that those are stresses for when I get back. Those are stresses I put in my checked bag, things that I need to stow away until I get home. Being able to carefully tuck these things away in my checked bag and take a breath and a step away has allowed me to fully enjoy my time in Italy.

My carry-on bag is the bag I take with me everywhere. It is full of thoughts of my friends and family, my cat at home, and all the little things that I miss from home but that bring me joy when I think about them. My carry-on bag is also where I am putting all the happy, beautiful memories I am making on this trip. This bag also contains my stresses of being in Italy. From making the last train of the night, to figuring out the English translations of the foods I need in the grocery store. Italy has unique challenges, ones that I hold in my carry on as I am here. 

Learning the difference between what I need to pack in my carry on and what I need to stow away in my checked back has been one of the most important things I have learned while I have been experiencing Italy. Although I will have to face reality when I get home, being able to let go and live in the moment of being in Italy is something I will treasure forever. 

With love, 

Cate Jerozal

A photo of me sitting on a brick wall in Lucca, Italy, smiling at the camera
Creating memories in Lucca to add to my carry-on bag and keep close to me forever.

Breaking in Italy

A few weeks ago, I bought a pair of Doc Marten mary janes. I had been debating the purchase for a while, but eventually my pinterest board was so abundantly covered in pictures of girls wearing them that the purchase felt inevitable. I left the store, the bag swinging from my hand, feeling giddy with the impending joy these shoes would bring. 

Everyone warned me that for the first couple of wears, my feet would be aching, uncomfortable, and possibly covered in blisters. I shrugged off all their advice to wear thick socks and blister band aids and instead marched boldly to the supermarket. My feet hurt more and more with every step I took. 

My journey with my Doc Martens is comparable to my experience in Italy. I was so excited for the joy Italy would bring into my life that I ignored any possible pain I could feel and instead marched boldly onwards. However, just like my shoes, Italy came with some pain. Learning the language has been challenging, balancing travel and school was difficult, and my friends living at home without me seemed cruel. Albeit, just like how any good pair of shoes takes a bit to break in, my life in Italy has taken some breaking in too. 

A picture of me soaking in the sun on a balcony in Florence, life is beautiful.

Eventually, just like how the heels of my shoes molded to my feet, my life here began to take shape as well. I began to form friendships with the girls here, and the pain I once felt walking to the supermarket faded until eventually I was wearing my shoes, living my life in Italy, forgetting that I ever felt pain taking those first steps. 

This experience has taught me that change of any kind may cause discomfort, but like any sturdy shoes made to last a lifetime, the pain of change is worth the possibility of experiencing joy of any kind. These past weeks have taught me that change may hurt at first, but it just takes a little breaking into; and if you ever decide to move to a new country, it might be uncomfortable, so pack some blister band aids. 

Wishing you nothing but blue skies,

Brynn Hennessey

Dragonflies Draw Flame

As I reached the halfway point of my time here in Italy, I feel like I have lived an entire life in the past six weeks. Being in this environment has thrown such a rollercoaster of emotions my way that I was forced to take a step back and evaluate my life. I feel I have learned some invaluable lessons about myself and I wish I could share this journey with everyone. Through the lowest lows and the highest highs, I have grown so much through this journey, and I am elated to carry these lessons I have learned with me moving forward. 

I have never considered myself to be a homebody, so leading up to this trip I was nothing but excited. I crave adventure and excitement and I knew living in a foreign country with nine strangers would provide the perfect outlet. For the first couple of weeks, this trip appeared to be exactly that; a big, fun adventure away from the status quo. What I wasn’t expecting was the hard times that inevitably reared their ugly head. When forced to deal with sickness, sadness, or even exhaustion, the big adventure wasn’t so fun anymore. I have since come to appreciate the difficult points in this journey because they resulted in more personal growth than I would have thought possible. I have really been given the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate the true values I hold in life. 

The amazing people I have grown to love in my time here have also been an incredibly crucial pillar to my experience. In my lowest state I found support in people who had only known me for a couple of weeks, and I could not have gotten through what I was able to without them. It’s not only okay to rely on the people around you, but I highly encourage sharing your burdens with others. You would be surprised how the most beautiful relationships blossom from the ugliest storms. 

When I have found myself looking backwards or forwards to when things were or are going to be more familiar, I remind myself that it is imperative to this experience that I live in the moment. Life is a constant series of ever-changing phases, and there is no productivity in dwelling on past or uncertain timelines. Your happiness lies in your present experiences, and even though everything has not been rainbows and butterflies, this moment in time is having an undeniably positive impact on my life. 

The biggest lesson I have taken from my time here so far is that I am proud of the person I was, I have so much love for the person I have become, and I am excited for the journey ahead of me. The growth I have personally felt throughout this journey has been so incredibly meaningful to me, and I know I have become a better person because of it. I am now able to appreciate the hardships, uncomfortability, and mistakes of life as they have all contributed to where I am today. I am loving this life, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

Thanks for listening,

Olivia Lutz

This was taken on a night during midterm break in Spain, one of my favorite places I visited.