Appreciate it All, Even When You Don’t Want To

Since attending my first study abroad meeting as a freshman at Auburn, the JSB program has always stood out to me. I loved the idea of living in a small town outside of Rome rather than right in the middle of it, the thought of a group of students from the College of Human Sciences taking on a foreign country together, and the opportunity to visit architectural sites that up to that point, I had only learned about from afar. My journey to get a spot in the program was not an easy one, as I had originally signed up to participate during Fall of 2021. Life got in the way, as it often does, and that time was no longer feasible for me. I was then moved onto the waiting list for both Spring and Summer 2022 but was then told that the waiting list was long, and I may not be able to have this experience at all. You can imagine my surprise when I received an email in late September 2021 stating that a spot had opened for Spring 2022, and it was mine if I wanted it. Of course, I jumped upon the opportunity immediately and haven’t looked back since. Well, that’s not exactly true. Let me explain:

The idea of moving to a foreign country with 17 girls that I had never met before was, to put it mildly, terrifying. I imagined that there would be hard times, but there would also be life-changing moments that would make me forget all about the times where I felt sad, alone, or discouraged. That has held true in every way and to be honest, I think that the hard times make the good times more enjoyable. I mean, it is Italy after all. That’s cheesy, I know, but it’s said for a reason.

My first few weeks in Italy were rough. I had a very hard time acclimating to the complete uproot of my life and missed my family and friends at home immensely. I think I spent more time thinking about all the things I was missing out on at home (like Auburn’s amazing basketball season – War Eagle!) and less time noticing that I was in gosh dang Italy. Traveling to Italy had always been a dream goal of mine so I knew I needed to give myself a wakeup call. I’m in Italy! I better enjoy it!

Around Week 4, I finally decided that enough was enough. I would only be living in a palace once in my entire life, and I better start appreciating it. So that’s what I did! And this new mindset has totally changed my experience. I started to see the beauty in each thing that we did, even the early morning wake ups and the long walk back from the Albano train station (which at times, can feel impossible). But the truth is, I would wake up at 5am every single day to visit Tuscany, or to get to experience the vintage market of Rome. I would make that walk back to the palace after a day full of non-stop activity every single night if it allowed me to see the Colosseum in real life or visit Milan during fashion week. Times can be hard here, but when I look back on this trip, I am not going to think about that. I’m going to think about the smell of gelato, or the sun setting over Ariccia. I’m going to think about how the JSB in Italy program has changed my life forever.

Much love from the Chigi Palace,

Gina Brillanti

A photo of me enjoying the sweet sun in Tuscany 🙂