“These Days, These Days”

“…We’ll sit down together, and laugh with each other, and we’ll wish we could come back to these days, these days…” – lyrics from “These Days” by Rudimental

As I sit here listening to these lyrics on repeat, I realize no song could be more perfect to describe this semester. After spending 12 weeks in Ariccia (for the second time), I am more grateful than ever for this incredible JSB Auburn Abroad in Italy Program and these special days we get to spend here and all over Europe.

When I last left Ariccia at the close of 2016, I knew I had to find a way to return, but I had no idea how I was going to make that goal happen. This town and these people held a special place in my heart—so special of a place that it was something I couldn’t go a day without thinking about. When the opportunity opened up, I jumped in head first.

I have shared life-changing experiences with 20 girls who, at this moment, I can’t imagine not being able to chat with every second of every day. We have had the pleasure of taking on very big tasks that we couldn’t have done without each other. From all the humbling and not-so-fun ones like serving lunch for over 500 people at Caritas in Rome, encouraging each other while we were climbing almost 500 steps of the Dome in Florence, being on the verge of tears, and digging for a passport in the airport trashcans at midnight to very opposite and amazing extremes, like watching the sunset in Positano from our balcony with our feet in the hot tub, riding in gondolas in Venice while drinking wine, and stuffing our faces with the yummiest pizza in Naples.

Because of each and every one of these girls and this experience, I have a new perspective on life I never knew existed. I had no idea how special, yet different this time around would be for me. I could go on and on about how much I learned about myself and the world. Most importantly, I learned how globalization really is impacting my life on a daily basis and that my career opportunities are endless. I learned patience is a virtue AND I became even more emotional (Who knew that was possible?!). Although there have been hard and challenging times, these times have been priceless and I wouldn’t change them for the world. I know we will always be able to look back and laugh, cry, and wish we could come back to these days, these days.

Alexandra Howard

Our very first group picture where we barely knew each other’s name to our last picture

An Easter Rainbow


Holidays away from home are always hard. My typical Easter in the States is full of church, family, Easter baskets, and classic American comfort food. Last weekend I celebrated Easter in a Croatian church with people that until 2 months ago were complete strangers and my Easter dinner was shrimp pasta. However, I still had the best weekend celebrating one of my favorite holidays with friends that have become like family in just 10 short weeks.

JSB gives the opportunity for personal travel on weekends, and since it was Easter, we had a 4-day weekend! If I had to pick a weekend of this semester where I learned the most important lesson, I would choose last weekend. There have been weekends where I have learned to navigate big cities, and weekends where I have learned about cultures completely foreign to me. However, 4 days in Croatia taught me a lesson I will never forget. It taught me that no matter where I am in the world I can choose to feel blessed or choose to be dwell on what I don’t have.

The weekend started off with gloomy skies and inconvenient rain. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. Several of the girls I was with were spending their first major holiday away from home, and we were stuck in a tiny Airbnb hiding from the rain. Then Sunday morning came and we decided to go to church at a small Croatian Baptist church. The service was so foreign to us and nothing like what we were used to experiencing at Easter Sunday church. It would have been easy to walk away discouraged. However, I walked away from the 2-hour service, amazed at the universality of the Gospel!

As our weekend continued, we started to find small signs that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. First, it was a beautiful hike that blew us away and unexpectedly led us to a majestic white cross. Then it was the most amazing sunset over the water. As we sat on the rocks amazed by the beautiful colors, it started to rain. It could have been a tragic end to the day, but instead we turned around and saw a perfect double rainbow! It was one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen and the perfect symbol of our weekend. There is always a rainbow if you wait long enough and look hard enough.

This lesson I will take with me long after I leave Italy, but one that I think sums up this program perfectly. JSB has been one of the most impactful experiences of my life. I have learned so much and grown in a million different ways. However, it is not always the easiest. There have been many times when I have to take a step back and remind myself that while I may not have my favorite peanut butter and the WiFi may cut off my FaceTimes at the most inconvenient times, I get to live in Italy!

That right there is the biggest rainbow of them all. Just like how I will talk about the rainbow in Croatia for the rest of my life yet completely forget the rain, I will talk about everything amazing about JSB and completely forget the hard because it is so beyond worth it! I cannot believe it is almost time for me to go home!

A perfect double rainbow at sunset on Easter

-Anna Beebe


Looking back over these past few months, I can’t believe that we only have a few weeks left here in Ariccia. It feels like just last week we were arriving at the palace and meeting everyone for the first time. This experience has taught me to not waste any time, and to take full advantage of the opportunities we have here, because it goes by so much faster than I thought.

One of the things that is really unique about the Joseph S. Bruno abroad program, is that we get to see a lot more during the week on fieldtrips and other class activities than many of the other study abroad programs. This has allowed us to spend our weekends traveling to so many amazing places that we may not have normally been able to go to. I think it is definitely important to try and go to all the places that are at the top of our lists, because chances are there is always someone that wants to go there too! However, I have learned that it is also really important to be flexible and compromise, because if plans change, no matter where you go, it is always absolutely amazing!

One of my all-time favorite places that we have gone to so far was Greece this past weekend. I have always wanted to go to Greece, and it was even more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. We rented a car and drove around the whole island of Crete through the beautiful mountains and gorges. Another one of my favorite parts was visiting some of the famous beaches, including Balos Beach with beautiful blue water, and Elafonisi Beach, which is the beach with pink sand! These are a must-see if you ever are in the Chania area, because they were absolutely beautiful. Greece was definitely one of my favorite weekends abroad so far, and one of the trips that I will never forget. These last few trips are going to be some of the best yet and I’m so excited for the weeks to come!

Balos Beach!

— Allie Billock

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Week 10 in Italy provided me with one of my favorite experiences we have had abroad. On Tuesday, we loaded up the buses and headed to Rome for the day. We started off at an organization called Caritas. Caritas is an organization started by the Catholic church that helps the impoverished by providing meal and support for them through various services. One of their main purposes is to inspire Christians “to place charity as the central motive of the Church’s life, and mission.” We were given a brief overview of their system by one of the head coordinators, then we all prayed together with the rest of the volunteers and staff before the lunch guests arrived. Sharing a moment of prayer in another language, but in unity, is always such a moving moment for me. It gives me chills that regardless of language barriers and different cultures we can all praise one God and have him understand fully. After the prayer, we were assigned our stations and started setting up. I was assigned to the milk station to pour cups of milk for them and hand out cups for water. All at once, the guests started pouring in for their lunch. It was so special to get to serve them and see the excitement on their faces when receiving this delicious, hot meal. One would think that serving milk would be one of the easiest tasks, however it quickly proved to be a minor challenge when a language barrier Is included. We were instructed to hand out either one cup of milk or an empty cup for water to each guest. They were not allowed to have both. Many of the guests were upset about this, but we didn’t know how to explain to them in Italian why they couldn’t have both. We quickly figured out a way to overcome this challenge by learning small Italian phrases to explain or by recruiting help from some of the staff or regular volunteers. After 4 hours and over 450 guests served, it was by far one of my favorite experiences I’ve had during class days.

After cleaning up, we headed to the World Food Programme headquarters.  We went through the intensive security required for a UN organization and headed to one of their meeting rooms to learn about what WFP is all about. We were greeted and taken care of by the nicest men that work at WFP. They started the presentation with a video that played ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ that highlights all their biggest accomplishments. It also symbolizes that they have conquered so much, and continue to serve so many different countries. WFP helps feed over 80 million people a year in around 80 countries. They shared with us their goal from 2015-2030 to completely end world hunger. WFP operates through 5,000 trucks, 20 ships, and 92 planes working daily throughout the different countries they serve. They are an incredible organization, and I loved getting to learn more about it in their headquarters. We have learned so much about the history and ancient civilization of Rome, but it was so refreshing and fascinating to get to have two experiences that were about modern day issues.

The lobby of WFP that provides guests with some of the main statistics


-Hannah Binion

Moher and More Adventures


Goodness, what a whirlwind this study abroad journey has been! Today marks the beginning of the final 30 days I have here and I am already feeling so sentimental and sad as I watch the weeks fly by so quickly. A bit of advice: if you ever find yourself on this study abroad trip or on another similar experience, do NOT let your mind begin imagining what the last night on the trip will be like. It is actually one of the most depressing thoughts I can conjure up right now! The best thing to do is to really make the most of each and every magical moment here… and luckily, there are many of them!

One of my very favorite places I have visited so far was the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland on my personal travel time during spring break. The day I went there did not start out or even finish as planned and many mishaps occurred that day, but they were all worth it because I still got to see one of the most frightening, yet beautiful scenes in creation. Frightening because I was standing on the edge of some of the tallest, most treacherous, deadly cliffs. Beautiful because, well, if you have not been to these cliffs, just take a look at the photo attached and you will see!

I truly appreciate Ireland for its green grass and beauty. Its colors are so vivid and its views are incredible. Even the city of Dublin was beautiful and visually pleasing. However, right before walking away from the Cliffs of Moher to go back to the bus, I looked back and saw the most beautiful, vibrant rainbow stretching from behind the cliffs and diving straight into the waters before the cliffs so that I could see exactly where it ended. I don’t think I had ever been able to see the end of a rainbow, but there’s a first time for everything, and it is no disappointment of mine to have seen such a sight and at such a breathtaking place. It was an experience like no other and I was thankful to have had the chance to experience the beauty and the miracles of creation on a different level than before.

I will always be grateful for my time abroad and the opportunities for personal travel that allow me to see the coolest of places, like the Cliffs of Moher. I recommend for anyone who hasn’t visited those cliffs to visit them, but if you find yourself standing close to the edge at the same time a huge gust of wind is coming through, back up and sit down immediately or may the Lord have mercy on your soul!

-Carrie Johnson

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Spring With a Bit of Break

My mom and Me at the Castle!

Well, spring break has come and gone, leaving us with only five weeks left here in beautiful Italy. I honestly cannot believe that we have completed seven weeks here and have done so much. I did not think that I could become so close to these girls in this short amount of time. The break was so nice and I loved seeing my parents. One thing I did not think about when signing up for three months in Italy was how much I would miss my family. A week away from the palace seemed like such a long time in the beginning of the week, however, it went by so quickly. My mom and dad planned a full week. We travelled to six countries, nine cities and drove 1600 miles (I did not count the steps because it would be too many). My favorite place by far was Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. It was such a unique place to visit and I was fascinated by both the interior and exterior design. My favorite room inside the castle was the king’s artificial grotto, which had an artificial indoor waterfall. My family rode on horse and carriage up to the castle and then back down, but we walked to the Queen Mary’s Bridge, which allows for the perfect photo background of the castle. Overall, it was hands down, the best spring break I have ever had and I am so happy that I was able to experience it with the ones I love the most. I am so excited for the next upcoming weeks and I am so happy to be back together with all the girls in the palace.

~Abigail Benz




I cannot believe that time is flying by so quickly here. It truly is amazing how short a week can seem when filled with so many activities. This experience has already been so eye-opening and full of growth already, and I am so excited to see what the coming weeks bring!

I had some expectations for what I thought I would experience here in Europe, and my experience has been not what I expected at all. There are so many things I enjoy seeing and learning about the Italian culture. It really is a beautiful atmosphere, not only with the landscape and architecture, but with the social aspect as well. I admire the Italian appreciation of relationships and community. Here, time spent with friends is not rushed and squeezed into sections of the day; it is prioritized. I admire that mindset a lot and hope to take the practice of prioritizing my community back to America.

One of my favorite things to take in from the culture of Italy is how intricate the process of creating is. We have gotten the amazing opportunities to visit handmade workshops of weaving and pottery in the Umbria region. These visits blew my mind and my eyes were opened to the effort that is put into producing some of the most beautiful products I have seen, all with the human touch and care. I especially appreciated visiting the weaving studio in Umbria because we learned about the history of how the local business formed, and the family background that went along with it. Not only are these pieces incredibly gorgeous, they take a devoted amount of time to prepare and produce. This is another example of the Italian culture not being rushed. We were informed that a table runner can take months to create because of all the intricate handmade details. This process of making things by hand really intrigues me and I wholeheartedly appreciate it. I am inspired by the passion and story behind each handmade good!

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for being excited for all of us as we continue this journey in Italy!

Auguri (Best wishes) ,

Rebecca Feldman

A beautiful embroidery in an Umbrian weaving studio.


A Taste of Umbria


I would have to say, without a doubt, one of my favorite places we have been so far in Italy is Umbria. It is such a beautiful, hidden treasure. While Rome and all the other big cities we have visited have been out of this world, to me nothing compares to all the little small towns we have visited. They feel more authentic and like a little retreat.

My favorite day while in Umbria was our cooking class right outside of Assisi in Agriturismo Malvarina. It was the most beautiful country house located on a farm with horses and dogs and a garden! It was just magical! They greeted us with espresso and delicious cream-filled pastries: I only had about 10. The cooking class was led by an amazing women named Maria. She was about 80 years old and we could tell that she was the most talented, hard-working woman. She told us she had been making pasta since she was a little girl. She taught us how to make homemade pasta, one with eggs and one with water. Though made with just two simple ingredients, eggs or water and flour, learning the technique and skill used made me learn to appreciate pasta and the Italian food culture so much more. We had to knead the dough for what seemed like hours, while in reality it was probably 45 minutes. But still! It couldn’t have been more worth it though. They then showed us how to make two different sauces, one a red sauce and one with artichokes.

We ended the afternoon with eating what we had created in the most cozy, beautiful room. The tables were set and surrounded by beautiful art, a real wood-burning fire and a wooden serving table. Like I said, truly magical, and exactly what you think of when you think of an Italian meal. The table was set with an endless amount of plates for aperitivo, including cheese, bread, porchetta, prosciutto, bread, and more bread! Then to the pasta, salad, and dessert. It was truly a day my stomach and I will never forget!

I can’t forget to add, we ended the day with a beautiful winery tour. Talk about a perfect day in Italy!

I would like to leave you with a quote I found that perfectly describes my feelings on Umbria: “My idea of heaven still is to drive the gravel farm roads of Umbria and Tuscany, very pleasantly lost.”- Frances Mayes


Hollin Boy


The dining room with the beautiful wood fire surrounded by rustic pots and pans, flowers, and wine bottles


Belgium with a Side of Waffles

Bonjour, Hallo, Begroeting!

As part of the program, we get Friday through Sunday off to travel and this weekend I went to Belgium.  

In Belgium, each sign looks like my intro above, because they have three national languages: French, Dutch, and German!  Most people there also speak English because that is what is spoken at the universities.  It was so impressive to me that many people there potentially know three languages because that is not very common in the U.S.  Their culture is very unique because of the heavy Dutch and French influences.  I would consider Belgium, specifically Brussels, the melting pot of Europe because of this.

We stayed in Brussels for the weekend with one day trip to Bruge.  Brussels is a very unique city and was not at all what I expected.  To start the weekend, we completed a walking tour in the snow.  While this was beautiful, we were frozen!  The tour was really interesting and informative though, which was nice because otherwise we would have been lost and not known where to go or what to do!  If you are ever in the city, I would suggest a visit to Grand Place.  This was my favorite part because each building was so beautiful and nothing has changed since the late 1800s.

Another great aspect of Brussels was the food.  Of course we had to have Belgian waffles, which lived up to their expectations!  Brussels is also known for their french fries because they fry them twice.  As a huge fan of fries, I ate some everyday, but my favorite were the ones we got from a street stand!  Lastly, we had to try the Belgian chocolates!  Since chocolate is one of my favorite food groups, it was very enjoyable discussing the different truffles in each store with the workers and trying the unique flavors.

One tip I have for students in the Joseph S. Bruno program is to take advice from Roberta and Cinzia about what to see!  They know their stuff!  Roberta suggested we go to Bruge and that soon became my favorite part of the weekend.  It is a fairytale and I expected Princess Belle to jump out of a building at any time.  We took the train there, which was cheap and only an hour each way.  Once we got there, we explored the city, ate food, and took pictures.  It is considered the Venice of Northern Europe and there are many canals that you can take a boat tour on.  It was absolutely beautiful!

Belgium was a great weekend trip, but if I ever go back I want to go during the summer months.  This is because it was very cold and there are many more things to do in the summer that aren’t available in the winter.  Nonetheless, it was an amazing weekend that I won’t forget!


Au revoir, Tschuss, Doei!

Madison Brown

Grand Place

Night at the Opera

I cannot believe that we are finishing up week five. Everyone told me that the time would fly by, but I honestly did not believe them. We have done so much in just five weeks, but one of the highlights for me so far was the opera. Last night, we went to Giuseppe Verdi’s, La Traviata at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. It was directed by Sofia Coppola and the costumes were by Valentino.

This whole trip for me has been about stepping out of my comfort zone and being open-minded through experiencing different cultures. Going to an opera was something that I never thought I would enjoy, but I loved it. I have to admit that when I found we were going to an opera, I was almost positive I would not like it. I love Broadway musicals, but I thought an opera would be drastically different. I was surprised to learn that going to a Broadway show in New York is like going to an opera in Italy.

I was concerned I would not know what was going on or I would get bored because it was three hours long in a language I do not speak. All these problems were solved because earlier in the day, we performed our own hilarious version of the opera written by Linda Ruth. This helped everyone know the storyline. Not to mention, the opera has subtitles so we knew what was being said the whole time. I was also surprised to find out that the actors were not using microphones, yet I could hear every note perfectly, even at the top of the theater. Coming on this trip has been such a life-changing decision for me and I can’t wait for the next seven weeks to come.

-Emily Conn

Madison, Abi, and me at the opera