To Be Among the Poppies

I have always dreamed of traveling, seeing every continent, visiting as many places as possible, learning about new cultures, and experiencing different ways of life. When I first learned about the JSB Auburn Abroad Program, I was immediately interested and signed up for it my first semester at Auburn. After the initial excitement of signing up for the program faded, summer 2022 seemed so far away that it almost didn’t feel real when I thought about it.

Suddenly, I was on a plane and landing in Rome. I still couldn’t grasp that I was in Italy, my first time being in Europe, and I was going to be here for the next three months. The taxi ride from the airport to the Chigi Palace was one of the most surreal experiences of my life, as I was processing the events of the last 24 hours and trying to take in everything that I could. One of the most distinct things that I remember from that taxi ride was seeing a single poppy sprouting up on the side of the road. I now know that this is very common, and I see them everywhere, especially on train rides and hikes. They are a small part of Italy that I never expected to become so meaningful to me.  They have begun to represent travel, endurance, and in general my time here.

When I came to Italy, I honestly didn’t know what to expect or how my time here would go. After a month and a half of being here, I can confidently say that the times I have spent being present in the moment have been the most valuable to me; the time that I have taken to stop and smell the roses—literally and figuratively. There has been a balance of wanting to be constantly going and experiencing everything this amazing country has to offer while still taking the time to simply be and appreciate what is around me. Every time that I see a poppy, it reminds me to slow down, appreciate the moment that I am living, and just be.

Image of a poppy and other flowers taken on a program hike to Rocca Calascio

-Lanie Hammond