February 14th. One day out of the year dedicated to love. Valentine’s Day. A date mostly anticipated by those who have a significant other to celebrate with and is universally known for the giving of gifts such as flowers, chocolate-covered strawberries, and cute little teddy bears holding “I love you” hearts. It might be because I lack a valentine or because I outwardly express vulnerable emotions neither well nor often, but love looks different for me, especially on this February 14th. With that being said, I will share with you that my love has grown, and it has grown profusely.
Today is a day all about affirming feelings for a special someone, but I have decided for me it is and will always be more than that. It is for people, both friends and family but also strangers, for places, familiar and new, and for known and unknown opportunities. I came to Italy and discovered love is near and far and not always accompanied by the colors red and pink, represented in the shape of a heart, or dipped in chocolate. So why refrain from sharing such fondness every other day of the year?
I found love in the smiles of those I struggle otherwise to communicate with, in handcrafted cappuccinos, as well as in early mornings that before I knew it turned into late nights. And these are just a few. I found so much love that one day a year will no longer be enough. Here is not only to February 14th, but also the 15th, 16th, and so on. To loving full-heartedly every day of the year.
I traveled from New Hampshire to Auburn, Alabama for college and it was the best decision of my life. Getting out of my small, northern town and moving to the south has changed me as a person and I full heartedly could not be happier being an Auburn student. Since I so easily transitioned from high school to college, I really thought traveling might be my type of thing, and that I should continue to seek out travel opportunities. Therefore, I signed up for the JSB program quite quickly after just learning about it. I did not do much research on the actual program, just looked at the papers and the social media and thought I have to sign up since it involves traveling. For the past two years I have told everyone I am studying abroad in Italy and the way it amazed people made me feel good. I think the idea of studying abroad in Italy turned out to be better than the actual experience itself.
I have quickly learned that traveling may not actually be my thing. I realized that maybe I just was a southern girl at heart that was born in the north and that does not mean I can easily adjust to moving across the world. The first three weeks of this semester, I cried every day. I was constantly picking up on the bad parts of each day and complaining to my parents back home. Auburn is my happy place and I would be lying to say that most of the time I don’t wish I was there instead.
The third day of our week stay in Sicily was my social media takeover. For the days leading up to it, I joked around about my introduction video and goofy posts to make on the account, but I really was just planning on doing the normal takeover like everyone else. The morning of my takeover, I logged into the account and I thought to myself, ‘Who cares?’. I decided to let loose, not care what people think, and really just have fun with it. So, I filmed a goofy video, and throughout the day had fun laughing with friends, thinking of funny posts, and really never stopped smiling all day.
That night I realized that that was by far the best day yet this semester, despite not doing anything wildly exciting, it was all due to my attitude. I learned a big lesson that day about how simply just smiling will make the day better, because attitude and perspective can change a whole experience. I did not cry a drop that week in Sicily and want to continue having a good attitude even if things are not going my way, I’m not interested in class topics, or if I am homesick. Therefore, as Annie once said, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” and I want to live by that quote for the rest of my time here as a favor to myself to try to be happy no matter the circumstances!
Here’s to my old & many new friends along this journey with me that make it easy to find reasons to smile.
When I decided to study abroad, I knew some significant changes would occur. Changes are inevitable when it comes to living in a new country; not only are we trying to adapt to a new schedule we are also learning a new culture and language. However, the clothing style is the most significant change from Auburn, Alabama, to Ariccia, Italy. When completing the prep course, one of the first “do not” mentioned is to wear leggings in public. To put it in comparison, when I was living in Auburn, every day, my outfits were the same, leggings and a t-shirt. Now that I live in Ariccia, I have been mixing and matching jeans and sweaters daily.
With going through this change with everyone else, I have decided to make my outfits a fun conversation starter between my mom and me. In talking with fellow students studying abroad, most of us agree that we all have difficulty finding time to call back home. My solution to this problem and to help deal with some of the early mornings is to text my mom a picture of my outfit, including the hairstyle, and then write a blurb about my day. My blurb can consist of the weather, an activity I am excited to attend, or where we travel on the weekends. Sending my outfit also helps me keep track of my days. I now look forward to sending my mom these photos, knowing she gets excited. This is because even at three in the morning in Orlando, Flordia, she is still up to text me back.
Five thousand one hundred and thirty-five: that is the number of miles between Auburn, Alabama, and Ariccia, Italy. It is so crazy that I had to travel so many miles across the ocean to a completely different country to become so close to someone who sat one table away from me in class at Auburn.
We have only been in Ariccia for three weeks, but we all seem to find one degree of separation between us and a friend at Auburn. You hear the saying “small world” all the time, but it took me leaving my bubble with people who were a part of that same bubble to even begin to come to this conclusion. I understand we all go to the same school and are primarily in the same college, but it is hard to think of my life not as an independent entity. Finding all these “crossover episode” moments has made this transition comforting. I am no longer in my Auburn routine, but I am reminded of the joy that Auburn fills me with by these small connections made in passing conversations. Now for the person it took me five thousand one hundred and thirty-five miles to find, Kenzie.
Kenzie and I are both Juniors in Interior design. There are only 40 people in our cohort, and we have at least one class a semester with all forty of us. Like any situation, there are small friend groups within the whole, but still, we all rant about the same projects and sit in Spidle until the sun comes up, waiting for a 3D rendering to process. Through all those moments, one would think Kenzie and I would have had a conversation, but we hadn’t. The first time I talked to Kenzie, I was sitting in the international terminal of the Atlanta airport waiting to board our flight to Rome. Once the jet lag wore off, we have not been apart since. I call her my travel agent because she books the trips, and I just Venmo. We text each other on WhatsApp when it’s time to brush our teeth so we can be together. I know in a single look what she is thinking. Nine times out of ten, that look turns into us bursting out laughing.
We have already traveled to numerous cities together, and I can’t wait for the adventures Europe still has waiting for us.
I stepped off the train and felt the cool Italian breeze after arriving in Rome that Tuesday morning. I made sure to grab my favorite breakfast here in Italy, un cappuccino e un cornetto semplice (a cappuccino and plain croissant), before making my way out of the train station with the rest of the class. A day full of touring Rome was something I had looked forward to in the days prior, and I was eager to start my day. The day consisted of viewing several beautiful churches and historical landmarks, all while learning the history of Roman Baroque art. What I did not know, however, was that I would later experience my now favorite memory that I have had here in Italy.
After a wonderful lunch consisting of paninis and Chianti wine (highly recommend- it’s fantastic), we walked up the 174 Spanish Steps and made our way to the Villa Borghese Park. The weather was beautiful; the clear sky allowed the sun to shine through the vibrant trees that surrounded us. We made our way around the park and began to hear sounds of singing and music. As we walked closer, a view of the entirety of Rome began to peak through as we approached Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi. The music grew louder as we became closer to the street artist playing the intro to ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay on his keyboard. We continued to walk toward the edge of the Piazzale and as we reached the end, the chorus of the song began as we overlooked the beautiful panoramic view of Rome. It all felt like a movie, and it was incredible.
The view of Rome from Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi!!
I spent this past weekend in Florence (known as Firenze in Italian) on personal travel. I was initially expecting to hang out with some of my friends in the city; however, as I quickly learned in this program, things do not always go as planned. I soon realized that I was going to have to face this unfamiliar city alone for the day.
As I sat on a bench in front of the breathtaking Duomo and watched the pigeons flock around, I pondered what I should do. The next thing I know I am in a full conversation with a Peruvian woman. We talked for about 30 minutes about where we were from and why we were in Florence. In addition, we watched the pigeons as she fed them and ended up asking a stranger to take our picture. If I had not been on that bench, I would not have met this woman and had this amazing cultural experience and cool story to tell.
Afterward, I walked around and got lost around the beautiful city. I discovered some interesting pieces of artwork down some random streets. My favorite piece of artwork that I stumbled upon is called ‘Albero della Pace’ (Tree of Peace) by Andrea Roggi. It was built in memory of the victims of the 1993 Mafia massacre. I had never heard of this piece and think that it was definitely worth discovering.
To escape the cold, I decided to look in H&M where I had another unforgettable experience. In the dressing room, I heard two Korean girls talking. For context, I took Korean last semester and felt confident enough to try to speak to them. They were shocked that I knew how to speak some Korean, and one of them told me that my pronunciation was really good which made me so happy. Who knew that I would need my Korean skills in Italy!?
Overall, I am so happy that I took a leap of faith and got to adventure out and see Florence on my own. If I had not done this, I would not have met such a diversity of people and grown to be more courageous in my explorations; I truly feel like I got to know the city. I look forward to my adventures to come and cannot wait to see who I will meet next!
Andrea Roggi at the XIII florence biennale. Florence Biennale. (n.d.). Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://www.florencebiennale.org/en/-/andrea-roggi-at-the-xiii-florence-biennale?redirect=%2Fen%2F
Upon our arrival in Ariccia, I recognized this town was one of small size. For the months leading up to our departure, I had told those close to me that I would be studying in a town just a little outside Rome, but little did I know that the small town only held roughly 19,000 people and consisted of one main road used mostly by those traveling in and out of the city. Like them, I had never heard of the town Ariccia. Growing up in a large city, I knew this was going to be a huge adjustment to me, but it has come to be a blessing in disguise. This small town has so much unique experiences and knowledge to offer, like the famous porchetta and deep historical past that follows the town through ages. It was tempting to want to plan travel to all the biggest cities Europe has to offer, but since being here, it has been heartwarming to see the people of these small towns, towns that most people will never even know the name of in their lifetime.
We traveled to the other surrounding small towns that make up the Castelli Romani, and the amount of history in these towns is unbelievable. These towns tend to fall off the beaten tourist track but are beloved to locals looking for an escape from urban life and other large jam-packed Italian cities. There are so much these towns offer, from beautiful scenic views to one-of-a-kind wine tastings, to peaceful hikes throughout the magnificent natural environment. All of this located just under an hour outside of Rome, yet only a small percentage of people will ever even know that these towns exist. Maybe it is the way the people of these small towns want it, maybe they do not even know how lucky they are to get to experience life like this.
So, for the coming weeks, I am enthusiastic to continue to explore these quaint small towns and villages, getting to see a glimpse into the true heart and soul of the people and places that truly make Italy what it is today. Without this experience, I would have never known that these towns would have ever existed. I get the opportunity to delve into the lives of those in these small towns and fully immerse myself in their culture and share my experience with those that may want the opportunity to visit towns like this in their future. So for now, I will enjoy my time in Ariccia and not be so consumed with the bustling life outside this small town.
War Eagle, and see you later America. Ciao, salve, and grazie mille.