Cultivate Our Garden

I’m fascinated by the way our experiences weave into a perfectly knit-together story, often without us even realizing, until we take the time to reflect. When I first arrived here in Ariccia, Italy, I took on the title of Momma Mela, the Italian word for apple. The students were divided into fruit groups (bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes) for the purpose of sharing responsibilities for chores here in the Chigi Palace. I spent the semester studying Galations 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” As a nutrition student, I have always loved fruit, with apples being my favorite food since childhood. This was a topic I could easily connect with and share with the students.

By the final week of classes, our history lecturer, Marco Antonini, left us with a quote by the French author, Voltaire, “We must cultivate our garden.” Marco recently turned 90 years old, and is still sharper than most tools in the shed. He’s lived a full life, and he documents it all in a daily journal he’s been keeping since the 1940s. Marco encouraged us to find a moment and a space to develop something of our own, hence cultivating our own garden. Marco stressed the importance of being present throughout the fleeting nature of our lives.

“One can be with your feet in the past, and your head in the future. Use the new technology, but don’t forget the old ways.” –Marco Antonini

As I reflect on this semester abroad, I am proud to say that I have cultivated a garden of brightly colored fruits, fresh ideas, and everlasting values. I am my own garden. I have grown, I’ve been pruned and nourished, and I’ve blossomed. This experience has taught me more than I could have ever taken away from a textbook. They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but now I say a mela a day helps cultivate a garden along the way.

Lauren Lynch
Fall 2016 Graduate Teaching Assistant

The students pictured with Marco Antonini and his wife, Mary Lou Gray, at their home in Ariccia, Italy

The students pictured with Marco Antonini and his wife, Mary Lou Gray, at their home in Ariccia
(L to R) Top row: Roberta Londi (Program Coordinator), and her daughter Vittoria, Lauren Whatley, Alex Howard, Bailey Schaff, Kelly Cashon, Noa Amundson, Hailey Schorsch, Morgan Winston, Olivia Todd, Will Bush, and Lauren Lynch
Middle Row: Megan Healy, Olivia Still, Hannah Gord, Hannah Bernard, Mary Lou, Marco, Erica Froonjian, and Ali Klebous
Bottom Row: Emily Klippenstein, Jennifer Allison, and Casey Van Hout

Surviving: L’unico uomo (The Only Man)

“Wait here for a second, I want to check this out” …” Your hair looks so good!” …” He’s so cute” …so cute…so cute…cute…cute…shopping…shopping…ladies…girls! Being the only guy on a twelve-week study abroad trip with 18 girls has been interesting to say the least. Historically, there has only been one other guy alone with so many women that finished the program. The rest just couldn’t make it, and as much as it pains me to say, I get it. Living and traveling with the opposite sex is always difficult, but this is a little excessive. There have been times that it has been very lonely and it seems like some people have no empathy to how it feels to be so outside of a comfort zone. More often than I liked, I would rather sit in my room than watch the 14th chick flick that they have blaring on the TV. Often times when we are out on a field trip or walking through a city in a group, I just wander off due to the fact that some of the ladies had to talk about how cute a Swiss guard is or because the shoes in the store were just too cute to walk away from. But, there have also been times when we all get along as great as 19 20- somethings can get along and I fit in so perfectly. But I have learned from all of this that it is easier to get to know the individual person than assuming the whole group is more or less the same. On several occasions, going to dinner with one or two of the girls proved to be the best way to unwind after a long day or to really get to know someone. Of course, I could have used some more testosterone around the palace, but going to the places we have and seeing the sights I have seen have made every bit of this trip a life experience I hope I never forget. Apart from learning how to live as a foreigner in a new culture, I have learned how to live like one of the girls.

Will Bush

We're wandering the streets of Rome and I decide to wander away from the group.

We’re wandering the streets of Rome and I decide to wander away from the group.

Under The Tuscan Sun

The region of Tuscany is something out of a storybook. Driving through the rolling hills of the countryside made the two-hour bus ride, turned four, more bearable. We have seen so many wonderful things and done so much that it is hard to keep track of it all. This rare opportunity to travel around Europe has been an immense blessing and I would not trade it for the world. Now, let’s get back to Tuscany. Like I said, driving through the Tuscan countryside was something from a dream. I had seen the region of Tuscany in movies and in books, but it was so much better seeing it in person. Watching the movie Under the Tuscan Sun before going to the region made me that much more excited about going. The way of living of the people there is so different from the American suburbs that I grew up in. But they make it work! There were countless vineyards and olive farms waiting to produce products that we have grown to love. And with the vineyards comes wine tasting. Having the opportunity to have wine tastings in the heart of the Italian countryside is amazing. The culture and joy of the people teaching us makes it even better. Tuscany also has things that are not common to the United States, at least where I am from. Wild boars are beautiful yet destructive animals. On one of our stops in the countryside, I saw the wild boars running up the hills and it was a sight to see. Tuscany has captured my heart and I hope that everyone has a chance for it to capture their hearts as well.

Ciao, Hannah Bernard


Feeling fall vibes in the Tuscan countryside!



Churches and Gardens and Museums, Oh My!

On Thursday, we went on a tour of Rome with our very own teacher, Francesco Petrucci, as the tour guide. Our tour started with churches in Rome that represent baroque architecture (courtesy of Bernini, of course) as well as Jesuit churches. Francesco’s knowledge of the symbolism behind the artwork in each of the churches made the experience much more enjoyable. Each church that we walk into is very impressive, so impressive that we usually have no idea what to even focus on or what is important about the many statues that we see.

After the churches and the quick tour of Palazzo Albani – which was on a street corner so it had to be quick to ensure no one was run over by a tour bus or motorcycle, we went to the Borghese gardens. For me and the group thatI did the Scavenger Hunt assignment with, this brought back some unfortunate memories, because these gardens were where we got lost during our first experience in Rome. I’m still not sure how we managed to wander around a park on the opposite side of Rome for two hours. Seriously, we stopped and had lunch here because we were so lost. Walking through the park with Cinzia to guide us was a much better experience.

We toured the Borghese Gallery where we saw incredible statues such as “Apollo and Daphne”, and “The Rape of Persephone”. The Rape of Persephone has been my favorite sculpture yet because of the incredible detail. Bernini was able to make the statue unbelievably lifelike, from the way the foot was curved, to the veins in Hades’ hand, to the impression he makes on her skin as he is grabbing her. The gallery, gardens, and churches were such an amazing experience and I can’t wait to learn more about Italy’s history and art as we venture into Venice and Florence in the upcoming week!

“The Rape of Persephone” showing the complex detail of the statue.

Hailey Schorsch

Let Down Your Hair

I know we live in a palace, and even though it feels like we are living a fairytale, we aren’t locked in the castle. We can get out of our comfort zones. I believe that you only fully experience the opportunities that present themselves if you allow yourself to get out there and do things you might not normally do. I have approached my few weeks here with the intent of meeting as many people as possible, seeing as many places as I can, and soaking in everything I have learned.

Here is a bit of advice I have collected over the past few weeks for the next round of JSB students. While it is important to make friends in the palace, it’s a really good idea to get out and meet the locals of Ariccia, Albano, and other surrounding cities. These people find us just as interesting as we find them. They desire to speak to us and learn about why we are here, just as much as we want to hear about their lives. If you are trying to learn their native language then speak to them in Italian, regardless of whether they speak English. Also, you don’t have to go to a huge city like Rome to meet locals. They are right outside your front door. As for Netflix: don’t do it. Watching the occasional episode or two when you need a break is completely acceptable, however, netflix and movies are things you can do from anywhere in the world. You can’t hang out in a small Italian town on the outskirts of Rome from just anywhere.

I want to look back and make sure I have taken advantage of every opportunity that has been offered to me. So, when thinking about what you want to do, don’t wait for things to happen. Break out of the Palace and create your own fairytale.

A night in Rome with friends from Albano

A night in Rome with friends from Albano

A Night at the Opera

Last night we went to an Italian opera and I’m still in awe. Having been to several shows on Broadway, including Les Miserables, I knew vaguely what to expect: lots of music, an enticing storyline, etc. However, I wasn’t expecting how emotional I could get over words that I didn’t even understand. Of course there were subtitles, but I found myself not even reading them and just getting lost in the performance. The sets, the lights, the voices, it was indescribable. It was impossible not to get emotional and I now fully understand the reaction Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman had.

It was also the first night that everyone got to dress up and just relax all together as a group and it was much needed. We’ve all been so busy with our own trips and it was nice to do such a classic Italian thing with our little Italian family. The night didn’t feel like a field trip but like a group of friends that all wanted to get together and do something fun. I keep feeling this sense of family when I’m doing random things like cooking dinner or doing homework, but it’s never felt stronger than it did last night. We all wanted pictures with each other because we all knew these would be moments we would want to remember. We all talked the whole way home on the bus because we were all just putting off such great vibes. It was an amazing night, one that I know I’ll cherish forever!

A few of us before the show

A few of us before the show

Bailey Schaff

High Tide in Venice

St. Mark's Square flooded

St. Mark’s Square flooded

I had heard through the grapevine that Venice is “sinking”, but until my personal travel to Venice over midterm break I thought this was only myth. The troubles of living in a city built over water didn’t fully occur to me until visiting Venice myself and walking on the sidewalks as the water from the Grand Canal began to cover them.

Upon arrival to our Bed & Breakfast the first night in Venice, the owner warned us that we may be woken up by alarms the next morning. He said we shouldn’t be worried because they aren’t bomb alarms, “they’re high tide alarms.” Fall is the worst season in Venice for flooding and rain.

We didn’t let the impending high tide affect our plans and we got an early start the next morning, before any alarms, and visited St. Mark’s Basilica. It was raining as we walked from Rialto Bridge to St. Peter’s Square, but there was no flooding yet. When we entered St. Mark’s Basilica it only looked like a dreary day, but when we exited, St. Mark’s Square was covered by water. The flooding ranged anywhere from a few inches to over a foot, and for Venetians this is normal! They deal with flooding from the Grand Canal as part of their daily lives.

I got the chance to talk to a handful of Venetian locals, mostly shop owners, and I was shocked by how much they deal with flooding. They told me that water comes into their stores, homes and museums as high as several feet. Several Venetians showed me water damage on their walls. As I was looking through a Murano Glass shop, the owner began moving the expensive glass artwork to the back of the store, preparing for the water.

As much as I would have loved to enjoy a sunny day in Venice on a gondola, seeing Venice in this state opened my eyes to an aspect of life in Venice that not every tourist gets to see. I left with completely new knowledge of a foreign city that I had experienced firsthand. I look forward to returning to Venice next week with the JSB Program, and I am hopeful that this time I won’t need trash bags as shoes!

Ciao, Ali Klebous

Rome Sweet Rome

For Midterm Break, my mom had been unsure of whether she was going to be able to make the trip to visit me in Italy while she had the chance. Fortunately, her decision became final a short month before. Neither of us had much time to actually plan out days in each city we were going to visit, but the one thing she told me was, “I want plenty of time to see everything you have gotten to see in Rome.” With as much time as our class has spent in Rome, I was going to make sure we made this part of the trip her favorite. I began planning the two days that we would have here to ensure that we got to visit each landmark, wine and dine in local spots, and most of all enjoy everything a city so near to me has to offer.

When my mom arrived, we travelled to other cities first, but still the number one thing on her mind was visiting Roma. When we arrived at Termini, she was already blown away by the public transportation system here, specifically how efficient and easy it makes traveling. As we started our Grand Tour of Rome, our first stop was the Trevi Fountain since it was near our hotel. When we arrived, the number of visitors trying to see the same beautiful piece of art as us was actually overwhelming. As I started giving her the fun facts about it, I was overwhelmed as well. It was crazy to hear myself give her over fifteen facts that I have learned during my time in Ariccia. The same thing happened when we visited our next stop, the Pantheon. I had no clue how much information I had actually absorbed on those long, hot field trip days.

After our last stop, my mom was thrilled; I had accomplished taking her to every sight she had wanted to see and then some. She was even more excited that she had her own personal tour guide. At dinner, sitting with a view of the Colosseum, she asked me, “Do you think you will ever make Rome your ‘Home Sweet Home,’ so I can come visit here more often?”


My mom and me preparing to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain after she learned all the facts

Alexandra Howard

A Fish Out of Water

Earning my degree in the College of Agriculture, and especially the School of Fisheries, I have grown used to learning in an environment where the male-to-female ratio skews drastically towards the males. I’m lucky if there are two other girls in my fish classes for me to associate with. All in all, though, I feel like I do quite well for myself. I seem to get along better with guys; they usually don’t venerate the Kardashians or gossip for sport. They speak one at a time and actually listen to what the other has to say; it’s a good time for everyone.

Now throw me into a situation where I live, eat, and sleep with seventeen other females for twelve straight weeks. I’m a fish out of water.

I almost feel like an anthropologist observing a completely different culture. They like to talk about clothes, beauty products, and dieting. The words ‘like’, ‘cute’, and ‘literally’ are used in pretty much every sentence. Photo ops are a must everywhere we go, especially if we’re somewhere ‘cute’.

Before coming to Italy, I just knew that coexisting with this many females was going to be the worst part, and even had the potential to ruin my whole trip. It turns out I was wrong. Girls can be pretty awesome to hang out with. We can go swimming and hiking and do all the stuff I like to do, and at the same time talk about shopping and nail polish and Lizzie McGuire. Photo ops, it turns out, are very helpful for my ‘Insta game’, which is a really good way to keep my family and friends updated on my time here.

So, it turns out that girls really aren’t so bad. And even though I’ve only been here for five weeks, I know that I’ve made friends that will last for years.

Me, Emily Klippenstein, and Lauren Lynch having a wonderful weekend on the shores of Positano, Italy.

From left to right: me, Emily Klippenstein, and Lauren Lynch having a wonderful weekend on the shores of Positano, Italy

Jennifer Allison

All Packed up with Nowhere to Go

My bags still packed a week later.

My bags still packed a week later

Friday, September 23rd will be one of my most memorable days on the Joseph S. Bruno trip for a number of reasons. My friend Morgan and I planned a weekend trip to Geneva, Switzerland starting on the 23rd and ending on Sunday the 25th. We started our day off in good spirits as we toted our bags to catch the train to Rome. After arriving in Rome we had a great lunch at a restaurant in the train station called WOK that makes great Asian stir fry. We bought our train tickets to Fiumincino Airport and headed on our way.

We arrived at the airport about 2 hours before our departure time and decided to explore the shops a little before going to our gate. After walking around, we went to our gate and sat for about an hour and a half while waiting to board. They started to board the plane about fifteen minutes late and only called people with disabilities and priority boarding to get in line. For about twenty minutes there was a consistent line of people boarding the plane and they still had not called for our section to board. It was getting pretty close to time for the plane to take off so we were getting a little worried. We finally stood up and got in line, but we noticed that the screen at our gate had changed to another flight and both of the airline workers were gone. After running to the nearest information desk, we were informed that we had missed our flight, and were sent to the airline ticket desk.

At this point, we were shocked and very upset. We spoke to at least three people at the ticket booth and they were all very rude and short with us and told us there was no way we could get our money back. Of course, this made us even more upset, and it didn’t help that we were all alone in a foreign country that we’ve only been in for a few weeks. After calling our parents and the airline’s customer service line, we decided to talk to one more person at the ticket booth. We finally got the answer we were hoping for and were told that we could submit a claim online to try and get our money back.

By the end of the day we were so over the entire mess that we couldn’t help but laugh about it on the way back to Ariccia. We even decided to stop and get some of our favorite gelato in Albano on our walk back to the palace. This day was definitely a learning experience for me and I will certainly never forget it.

-Noa Amundson