Sunset Breaks

I have always loved sunsets. To my delight, I have seen my fair share of beautiful sunsets during my time in Italy. When I see one I try to take a ‘sunset break’—a time to reflect and enjoy. As this semester comes to an end, I think it is only appropriate to take the time to reflect on and enjoy all that this experience has offered me.

Coming into this semester I was not sure what to expect. I had the opportunity to participate in the Joseph S. Bruno program four years ago during my undergrad, but I was still nervous about returning in the role of Graduate Teaching Assistant. However, my fears were quickly diminished after meeting the group of girls that I would spend the semester with. We quickly settled into stumbling over Italian when ordering at restaurants, navigating new cities, and lots of shopping. Through all these activities and new experiences, beautiful friendships emerged.

Looking back over the last twelve weeks there have been tears and laughter, but not a moment I would trade. Like the blending colors of a sunset, each memory, person, and experience comes together to make a beautiful view. When I look back on this trip and reflect, I will remember the incredible places I visited, but more importantly I will remember the people. I will remember the man in the grocery store that would make the best sandwiches, the wonderful hotel attendant in France, the family that welcomed me into their home for an Italian meal, and especially I will remember the 14 girls and program staff that I got to know so well in the past twelve weeks.

So like a sunset break at the end of a beautiful day, the end of this experience deserves a time to stop, reflect, and commemorate—and that is exactly what I plan to do.

Ciao,

Leah Albers

IMG_1221

Sunset from the bridge in Ariccia

 

Milano Expo 2015: Eat Like No One is Watching

With 140 and about 4.2 square miles of space at the Milano Expo 2015, food is not a shortage. Ranging from Zebra burgers to USA food trucks to spicy Chinese rice noodles, one can completely go into a food coma just from the smells. One of the goals of the Expo was to make people feel as if they had truly traveled the world in one day, so here is my account of eating around the world in one day!

11am Pakistan, where the smells completely took over and thankfully were stronger than the smell of tourists. After walking into the Pakistan pavilion, I quickly realized that the falafel was a much better souvenir than any decorated plate or picture. Falafel, make from chickpea paste and then fried, tasted like a American style hummus and our whole group could not get enough.

12am Lebanon, a nice escape from the smell of the nearby USA barbecue truck. The Lebanon exhibit was very small in size but made up for it with the smell of the pastries. Therefore, I had to get one of there amazing pastries that tasted like honey from heaven. I am still trying to find the recipe for these.

1:30pm Lebanon…part two. Lebanon was so great, I could not deny round two. The honey was so rich from the pastry, I decided I needed some real food and had still been thinking about the falafel from my first Expo food experience. So I had to get their vegetarian plate of falafel, two kinds of hummus, tabbouleh salad, spinachi, and a chickpea vegetable soup. It was wonderful, and felt somewhat healthy!

3pm Chocolate Cluster, where the food coma sets in. I sat in line for thirty minutes to go through the chocolate museum and chocolate store, but once inside could only muster to hold one tiny morsel of a chocolate bar in my stomach due to the amount of food consumed. The one bite of chocolate was dark, nutty, smooth, and dreamy!!

4:30pm China, the second wind. After walking all through the Expo (just in order to eat more) I could finally try some more food. I went with friends to a restaurant behind the large, beautiful China pavilion. They got spicy rice noodles, a traditional food in Chinese culture, and they kindly let me try some because I was not sure if I could handle the spiciness. After the long struggle of trying to get the slimy noodles onto my fork, I tried them. Immediately my lips started burning, my eyes started watering, and I started having a hot flash. These noodles needed to have had a hazard sign on them….BEWARE. I was amazed how others could eat the whole bowl…apparently I am a wimp.

 5pm Sicily, the homeland and the homestretch. I had been seeing cannoli’s all day and I had never tried one. I decided to be in Italy for a whole semester and never have a cannoli was just unacceptable. It was time to take myself back to the original taste of Italy. This was the best decision I made all day. It was incredible! With one side decorated with oranges and the other side with chocolate chips, the taste of spiciness from my last food experience was completely erased. It was the best dinner to end my cultural day at Expo Milano.

Best Cannoli of My Life!

Best Cannoli of My Life!

Lessons Learned:

Always try new things!

Always go to World Expos, they are amazing cultural hubs!

Always end your day with a taste of Italy!

Mallory See

No Phantoms in This Opera

I will admit, when I first heard early on in the semester that we would be attending an opera I was a little mortified. My only previous knowledge of the opera stemmed from those horrible tropes found on television shows or in movies. The funny scenes that feature woman wearing a viking hat singing in an incredibly high pitched octave, and then, for whatever reason, breaking glass. Yes, I did know it was not going to be anything remotely like that, but even when presented as a joke, it is not a pretty picture of the opera. And I hate to admit it, but the scenario had me terribly convinced.

Despite my previous misgivings about the opera, once the day arrived I was very excited about the privilege we had of attending Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff at the world-renowned Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Immediately upon entering the halls of the ornate opera house, the nerves kicked in. Questions about whether or not I was feeling a false sense of excitement began to rush into my head, images of me being confused or embarrassingly falling asleep surged into my mind. I did not in any way want to come off at all rude or disinterested, but what if the weight of this incredibly long day decided to kick in at some point during this 3 and a half hour show? What if I did not understand what was going on? Once I was waiting alone in the plush red brocade box, my doubt and insecurities about the show only grew. Shortly before the show began, realizing that I had the box to myself, I moved up to enjoy a better view of the show. I am so glad I did. The second the red velvet curtains parted, all the nerves went away. The actors’ mesmerizing voices, the unique 1950s inspired setting and costumes, the hilarious plot, everything about the show blended together so perfectly. I did not even have to understand the words in the songs they were singing, their emotions resonated beyond that.

The view of La Scala from my seat

The view of La Scala from my seat

I am so grateful for the numerous opportunities this program has created to allow the rest of the girls and me to experience and embrace the Italian culture. Prior to this semester, I would have never considered the idea of attending an opera. Falstaff, to me, was a perfect introduction to the art and I can now say with full confidence that I do love the opera.

Ciao,

Ana Roman

Milano (Not the Cookie)

This past week we all had the opportunity to travel to Milan. For us, this trip was even more exciting than it has been for all the previous JSB Auburn Abroad students because we had two incredibly unique opportunities: to see Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff at La Scala and to visit the World Expo.

On our first night, we attended the opera and had a glamorous night while viewing Verdi’s final opera. After seeing this performance, I have fallen in love with this complex form of art, and I believe that nearly everyone else feels similarly. Many of us apprehensively attended Falstaff expecting to be overwhelmed by the language barrier as this performance was in Italian; however, this separation allowed me to focus more on the actors’ voices and to interpret the plot from a different perspective.

Following our night out, we woke up early on Thursday to begin our day at the Expo. My immediate impression of the Expo was that it seemed to be an oversized version of Epcot sans roller coasters. After stopping at some of the more obscure countries like Djibouti, Turkmenistan and Eritrea, I made my way over to the UK, Austrian and Brazilian pavilions. Each of these countries had amazingly intricate exhibits, but my favorite by far was Austria’s. The Austrian exhibit claims to have the perfect breathing conditions for humans, and after walking into this oasis and escaping the cigarette smoke outside I completely believe this statement. Since I decided to travel abroad to experience different cultures, I feel like my trip to Expo actualized this goal. I was able to sample foods, music and architecture from every corner of the globe within the span of a day. Needless to say, my sojourn to Milan has left me eagerly awaiting a return trip.

Molly Rose Brannan

Breathe Austria: Inside the Austrian Pavilion at the Milan World Expo

Breathe Austria: Inside the Austrian Pavilion at the Milan World Expo

 

Belgium: Hidden Gems and Not-So-Hidden Calories

Brussels was a charming, little town. I, along with three other companions, decided to tackle the destination with only twenty-two hours to explore. The city center of Brussels was full of small, dated shops selling everything from couture children’s clothing to books and almost everything in between. The city was also home to several interesting museums. We found the Museum of Costume and Lace (only three euro for students). The several-story building had amazing dresses and outfits through the centuries. We even got to try on the under-layer of a skirt, to see what it was like back in the day. We planned to follow that museum with a tour of the Patrick Roger Chocolatier. Sadly, we arrived after closing. What else was there to do in Belgium now, other than indulging in a Self-Guided Chocolate Tour? Participating in this chocolate tour was a big step for me, since I am not a huge chocolate fan. “When in Belgium,” am I right?

To begin our quest for Belgium’s best chocolate, we went to Mary’s. I am a classic milk chocolate fan so I got the milk chocolate and caramel and a solid milk chocolate square. Both chocolates were good. The caramel was not as thick as I was expecting, so my first bite resulted in a caramel goatee, which is not a look I recommend. Overall, the experience was pretty good. The boxes and décor of the store are very pleasing. The prices, however, were not. Angelina’s Chocolatier in Paris was better, but what is better than Paris?

The next stop was to Belgium Chocoholic. I should have known by the name this place would be a (milk) dud. I felt gutsy anyways and got three pieces. Milk chocolate with some sort of milk chocolate filling, milk chocolate with salted caramel, and milk chocolate with cinnamon cookie. I was not a fan of this round. To begin, I asked for solid milk chocolate, and was surprised when chocolate nastiness came out the middle. Two bites of this were two, too many. I had never tasted salted caramel before, and I realized why. I imagine that the earwax jellybean Professor Dumbledore ate was just salted caramel. I was actually excited about my milk chocolate covered cinnamon cookie. Unfortunately, it just tasted like dark chocolate, which tastes like chalk to me. So, this chocolatier is definitely not crowned Belgium’s best chocolate.

We next happened upon Elizabeth’s. This chocolatier offered something the others had not: Belgium Crunch Bars. You would have thought I had stumbled upon the Holy Grail. I was so excited! I purchased a chunk of the crunchy deliciousness and already had it in my mouth before we had even left. Yet again, I was disappointed. What was wrong with me? Chocolate from Belgium should have tasted better than Nestle’s chocolate. At this point, I felt like I was just wasting my money on crummy chocolate. Was tasty Belgium chocolate just an illusion I had generated in the States?

We called it a night after Elizabeth’s. I needed time to process the Grand Defeat. The next morning after we finished our Belgium waffles, which did not disappoint, we came across Neuhaus Chocolate. This was it, the Final Frontier. Chocolate in Belgium had one more shot to win me over before I called it quits. I bought one milk chocolate filled with caramel (I was not expecting much). I paid up and took a bite. “God, is that you?” I thought to myself. Next thing I knew, I was leaving the store for the second time, only now I had seven more caramel chocolates in my hands. By a landslide, Neuhaus, the first chocolatier in Belgium, was the best chocolatier in Belgium. I have one of the seven pieces left, serving as a reminder of the best ten seconds of my life. Thankfully, Neuhaus is also located in the Fumicino airport in Rome. I plan to make a quick visit to the store and possibly buy all of the chocolate caramels in sight.

Anna-Laura Luttrell

Here I am before I tried my first Neuhaus chocolate. Little did I know, I was about to dream of rolling around in all of those beautifully crafted chocolates.

Here I am before I tried my first Neuhaus chocolate. Little did I know, I was about to dream of rolling around in all of those beautifully crafted chocolates.

Veni. Vidi. Amavi.

“Rules for Happiness: something to do,   someone to love, something to hope for.” – Immanuel Kant

“Rules for Happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”
– Immanuel Kant

As the halfway mark of my study abroad program comes to an end and I return to Ariccia – joyful to see my Italian home again – I realize that this trip in Europe brought so many more gifts than I could ever have imagined possible. These gifts helped me to reexamine the experience I thought I was going to have in Italy and compare it to the one I was actually blessed with. An example of this is how in the program, our assignments fall under the “Veni, Vidi, Vici” or in English, “I came, I saw, I conquered” class titles. At first glance I thought this was an appropriate play on words for the experience I was going to have in Italy when I first arrived, but after seven weeks in Italy, I realize that I will never want to “conquer.” Seven weeks into this amazing European experience I realize that I came, I saw, and I loved everything around me.

Being a foreigner is undoubtedly difficult because I did not speak the language, I did not understand the culture, I continuously fumbled trying to adapt to a place that owed me nothing. However, the Joseph S. Bruno program worked diligently to give me the tools I needed to survive.

From the moment I stepped off the plane and was swept away on the whirlwind of fieldtrips, cultural excursions, and sitting through amazing lectures from Italy’s brilliant scholars, I was already accomplishing the “Veni” of my Italian experience. However seeing Italy with one’s eyes is not nearly enough in order to understand it when I simply “came” to the country. For me, the “Vidi” could only be accomplished when the program encouraged me to delve deeper and fully immerse myself through personal relationships with the Italians around me. Seeing became experiencing Italy through the eyes of someone who actually lives there and has a completely different view than those of a traveler. People like the “Mustache Man,” my favorite cappuccino barista, the students at the James Joyce High School I visited, my “Italian family,” and all of the lecturers and members of the Interlinea program, who took time out of their lives to show me an Italy I never could have imagined.

This is where the “Amavi” steps in. When I first came to Italy it made sense that in the end I would “conquer” or “Vici” my experiences. I would do amazing things, see wondrous places, and feel like I had actually “done something” worthwhile because I was having a European adventure. In reality, my experiences taught me that “conquering” is not important at all. As my time in Italy carried on, the things I was seeing and the things I was doing became important for an entirely new reason that excluded a how-much-can-I-do-in-three-months-to-make-it-worth-it mentality. Amavi means “I loved.” Rather than seeing every opportunity as a qualification for a checkmark on the bucket list or some preconceived idea of what a successful European semester would be, this program helped me see through the eyes of someone who simply fell in love with her surroundings and embraced her experiences on a much more personal level. As the next half of my semester awaits I now look forward to the trips, the lessons, and the people as a gift rather than simply something I can brag about or take endless pictures of for some Facebook album back home. Embracing the Amavi mentality for the rest of my stay in Italy means that I checked off one of the greatest bucket list item there is: to fall in love with a place that speaks to the heart and soul and loves me back unconditionally.

–Kelsey Sellers

Cinque Lessons in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is Italian for five lands (cinque meaning five and terre meaning lands). On our group’s optional field trip to one of the five lovely villages, Riomaggiore, I learned five lessons about myself, others, and traveling. These five, or cinque, lessons not only apply to traveling but life in general. These are the cinque lessons I learned from only two short days in the water-colored wonderland that is Cinque Terre.

1. Be Like Mary Poppins

After being caught in the rain in both Rome and Cinque Terre I realized just how magical having an umbrella can be. Although I could not fly on my umbrella to Cinque Terre, it still proved to be the most important item in my luggage. Umbrellas are sort of like SPF 100 sunscreen for a pale-Snow-White kind of girl like myself. When I am in the darkness of my apartment with only the glare coming from my laptop screen as I watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix, sunscreen is the furthest thing from my mind. However if I were to be picked up and dropped like a Sims character onto a beach/surface of the sun, I would cry tears of joy knowing that my SPF 100 would shield me for at least 30 minutes from the ultraviolet rays.  So in short, always always always bring an umbrella. I sure was glad I did. Also, thank you Mary Poppins for making something so useful, cool.

2. Singing in the Rain

One might have guessed by now that it down poured in Cinque Terre last weekend. The sky opened up, hiking trails closed, and people got soaked. The question is, does one curl up into the fetal position, cry, and let the rain ruin a beautiful weekend. NO WAY JOSE! Weather is like many things faced while traveling; it is out of my control and unpredictable. I had to go with the flow and enjoy myself no matter the situation. With this attitude every situation can be life-changing, wonderful, and enjoyable. It all depended on my perspective. See the beauty in everything. Italy is breathtakingly beautiful in the rain. It might have been a blessing in disguise because since it rained we were able to take the train to all of the five towns which is something that we would not have been able to do otherwise.

3. I’d Dance in a Storm in my Best Dress, Fearless

Fearless, yes. Stupid, no. With that in mind, one should try new things and live a bit outside of one’s comfort zone so that one can truly experience everything studying abroad has to offer. This trip made me grow as a person by teaching me new things about myself and others day by day. No one should be afraid to try the local pesto pasta or the 300-plus steep stairs in Cornelia, taste the gelato in each of the five towns all in one day, climb the rocks and experience a once-in-a-lifetime view. Trying new, exciting things made my trip memorable and so much richer.

4. Honeybadger Don’t Care and Neither Should I

I know it is embarrassing to be that person, the one at whom the locals roll their eyes. But it is SO worth it. By this, I mean take pictures. Take lots of pictures of everything, everybody, and even food. Don’t be annoying about it. Maybe don’t conduct a photo shoot at every boutique, but definitely take a lot. Pictures are the best, lightest and cheapest souvenirs one can bring back with them. Make sure to also soak in views with the mind and senses too. The moments outside of the camera lens are something that when one closes their eyes, they can think back and relive that moment. But in general, take pictures to remind oneself of experiences so one can show the family, the friends, the random person who will listen, and maybe one day, even the future grandkids.

5. Luke, I am Your Father

The fifth and perhaps most important lesson I learned from Cinque Terre is the importance of positivity. Be real, but stay away from the dark side. People will want to be around the person who is having fun despite the circumstances, the person who chooses to be joyful even when her journal gets soaked and turns into a soggy pile of bleeding pastels. Surround oneself with positive people and more than likely a positive and wonderful weekend will ensue.

There are many lessons I learned from these picturesque little towns on the sea. These were my personal top five. Cinque Terre can bring out the adventure and fun inside every tourist.  Apparently, it can even bring out the inner Socrates. In this hidden jewel on the coast of Italy, anyone can easily learn their very own “cinque” insights.

-Diana Ruppenthal

Friends loving the scenery in Manarola (the smallest of the famous Cinque Terre towns).

Friends loving the scenery in Manarola (the smallest of the famous Cinque Terre towns)

 

My Italian Dream

Throughout this trip we have learned many things about the history, wine, and food of Italy. Our lectures are always very interesting and fun because after we learn about a topic in class, we get to go see it firsthand as a class. This is my favorite part of the program because we get to learn about things up close and personal and experience everything the way it was meant to be experienced; in real life -Not just through pictures and PowerPoints. Another thing I love about the program’s field trips is that through them we gain actual life experience. I believe this is the best thing anyone could gain from this trip. It is a skill we can use forever.  I remember when we took our first trip to Rome learning about all the trains and metro stations, it seemed impossible to memorize. After a couple days we surprisingly mastered it and when we took our first trip out of Rome to Interlaken, Switzerland, we had no problem getting around and we were much more confident in our navigation skills. From starting out this trip knowing nothing and no one to making 14 new best friends and finally knowing how to order a sandwich from the deli, this trip can be beyond rewarding. Sometimes on the weekends I can’t believe this is actually my life. For instance, so far we’ve been to the blue grotto in Capri, hired a private boat in Positano, and the next weekend I was in Switzerland hang gliding and kayaking. I never thought I would spend my junior year going to a different country every weekend, meeting people from all over the world, actually knowing my way around Rome, and conquering my fear of heights by hang gliding. No doubt this has been the most unreal and rewarding experience of my life and luckily it’s not even halfway over yet.

“I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on earth. Then I ask myself the same question.” – Harun Yahya

 

Eagle Ed and I flying over Interlaken

Eagle Ed and I flying over Interlaken.

– Jessica McCormack

To Berlin & Beyond

Although the Joseph S. Bruno program is a ‘study’ abroad, it is an amazing experience. The lecturers are more than entertaining, and the subjects are fascinating; some include, but are not limited to: architecture, art, literature, history, Western thought, wine history, and many more. Being able to associate the things we learn about in class to the actual sites around Italy is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Additionally, we have the chance to travel as a group to places all around Italy and the chance to travel when we have free time – which is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Overall, being an Interdisciplinary Studies major, it is amazing to be able to combine all of my emphases in a variety of ways throughout the program.

For our first free weekend, a group of girls and I decided to travel outside of Ariccia and to get a sense of some other European culture. We decided to take a trip to Berlin, Germany, and tour the Berlin Wall, surrounding areas, and get a taste for a traditional German Oktoberfest. The Berlin Wall was one of the most moving pieces of history I have ever experienced. Viewing the beautiful art along the wall, in addition to all of the memorials from the time East and West Germany were divided, is extremely emotional; the wall feels as if you are in the time and place of the people who experienced this time in history.

One of the inspiring pieces of art along the Berlin Wall

One of the inspiring pieces of art along the Berlin Wall

A lot of the art is representative of the strength and optimism the Germans had during a terrible time and it is a reminder to keep experiencing life and to travel often – because without traveling, we would have never had such a great opportunity as this. Italy is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen – and I am completely ready to move here! The people, the culture, the food, the schooling, and many more as I could go on forever, are all amazing and worth every minute of the semester!

Written by Heather Heffner

Explore: Weekend Travel

Even though I have only lived in Italy for one month, the JSB program has allowed me so many unforgettable experiences. Here are a few of the important lessons I have learned thus far: how to navigate a new city using only a paper map, learning survival Italian is completely essential, I unknowingly needed 14 new best friends, and travel on the weekends with  abandon.

For our first free weekend of personal travel, my friends and I decided to pack up and head to Paris. We woke up at 4:30am to catch our flight, and arrived to our wonderful hotel at the mere hour of 9:00am. We almost had an entire three days to explore the city, and we were not going to waste it. We immediately began wandering with our new best friend- the map of Paris. We explored boutique shops we could never afford, stopped in hole-in-the-wall antique stores, and drooled over the amount of pastries in every bakery window. Paris was everything I imagined and more. We visited sights that I had longed to see such as Monet’s paintings, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower. Spending the weekend in Paris with my best friends is something that I will never forget.

JSB trusts us to travel on our own, and I am extremely grateful for that freedom. I am not only gaining learning experiences from the Italian culture, but from the other countries I visit as well. Personal travel while studying abroad has opened my eyes to what the entire world has to offer.

Taylor Moore

Friends at the Eiffel Tower- Paris, France

Friends at the Eiffel Tower – Paris, France