Learning to Live

If someone told me a year ago that I would be going on the Joseph S. Bruno program, I would not have believed them. I am very much a planner and like to have everything in my life laid out in front of me, and this was never on my radar. After COVID-19 and lots of little mishaps, the opportunity to come on this program fell in my lap in late October of 2021. I did not know anyone coming on the program, and I was a little disappointed because just this past summer I had done a study abroad in Rome, so I wanted to experience something different. I questioned my decision every day up until the moment I was on the plane. Did I make a mistake? Should I have run the risk of not getting my study abroad credit and stayed home? Auburn is my dream school and missing a whole semester- unplanned- did not sit well with me. I can say confidently, one month in, I am glad that I was given this opportunity.          

I struggled my first week and a half here. Everyone around me was ecstatic to be here and to be in Italy for the first time. I was feeling so down and hard on myself because I was questioning my purpose here. I had already had my “once in a lifetime” experience in Italy with once in a lifetime friends. I was letting my past endeavors cloud the future I could have on this program. Everything moved so quickly in the beginning, and I look back on that extremely grateful. I did not have time to dwell in the unknown or in the memories I was missing back home. I cannot believe that we have five weeks left. I have created new once in a lifetime experiences with new once in a lifetime friends. I have formed friendships with people I do not think I would have crossed paths with back in Auburn, and that is so exciting to me. I guess I am lucky that way. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity, and I can see so much personal growth. I will take away many different things from JSB, but my most prevalent is that I truly allowed myself to live. Being in a different environment for so long allows oneself to live in unprecedented ways. I would not have had this much growth in Auburn, Alabama and when I return home, I know I will have values instilled in me that allow me to fully appreciate life. 

-Ally McElwee

A beautiful day in San Gimignano! One of my most favorite days so far.