Third Time’s A Charm

This is the third blog I’ve had the opportunity to write about this program. I was a student in Summer 2021, a Teaching Assistant (TA) in Summer 2022, and now, a TA in Spring 2023. Each semester taught me lessons about the world and myself. They were each challenging and beautiful in many ways, and they were so different from each other as a result. However, among the variances there were a few constants that grounded me and reminded me who I was. These constants taught me as many lessons as the different challenges have over my time with JSB. 

Every morning over the past 9 months I have lived in Ariccia, I would visit the same coffee shop. The friends I have made in that sweet café have turned into family. They welcome me and remind me of the home I have in Italy. When I think of them, I think of the haven they have created for hundreds of students, including myself. Their shop is a constant I have come to rely on not only for the necessary boost of caffeine, but also for the comfort and friendship and feeling of home.

I have also spent 9 months learning from our dear Cinzia and Roberta. They are everything I could ever want to be: strong and gentle, kind and giving, patient and loving. They have been there for me in every capacity: faculty, mentor, team, friend. They have been and always will be a constant in my life. 

These constants, amongst others, have shaped me into the woman I am today. They were there for me as I grew up throughout college, and I know they will be there for me as I grow beyond. As I struggle to decide what I want to do in this next chapter of life, I am reminded that what is more important is who I become, not what I do. It is the constant leadership and love from these friends that I am reminded of this lesson. 

Thank you to my friends, both old and new, that have walked alongside me during my time in Italy!

Cat Powers

A beautiful sunset in Ariccia, another constant!

Odd Man Out

I have known that I wanted to study abroad from early on in my high school career. When I was a freshman in college, I started researching every program Auburn University had available. I had one specific criterion when it came to finding the right program. I wanted to study abroad for an entire semester. I wanted to be fully immersed in the culture and country I was studying in, and I felt this wasn’t possible to do in just a few weeks. So when I was introduced to the Joseph S. Bruno program, I found it had the most to offer with what I was looking for in my abroad experience. There was just one catch. This program consisted of predominantly female students. 

With this program being in the College of Human Sciences, that did not come as a surprise to me. I was told that there was one other male who signed up for the spring 2023 semester program. If I signed up, the total number of students would be two males and sixteen females. Now, most men would be jumping at the thought of spending a whole semester abroad by being one of those two males; don’t get me wrong I was, but back at Auburn I am involved in a fraternity where the majority of my surroundings are male-dominated. So I knew that this drastic change in my living situation could come with its own set of challenges. So naturally, I was a little wary about spending a whole semester here. I thought, maybe I could find a program that is more similar to my lifestyle back in Auburn or find a program with an even mix of men to women. Ultimately I decided that this program would be one of the best ways to step out of my comfort zone, learn new things about my fellow students, learn new things about myself, and see the world while doing it. 

Once I fully committed to the program I had a million thoughts going through my head. Of course, I had some preconceived views about what it’d be like living here with the majority of women. The typical girl talk, listening to pop music, the constant social media posts, and the countless cappuccinos ordered at the local bars are all things I knew might be included in my everyday life abroad. But since living here, I’ve discovered things that I could’ve never predicted. For example, on Valentine’s Day, I walked into the classroom like it was any other normal day with the program and was met with a sea of red and pink outfits in celebration of the holiday. I did not get the memo. I was quickly told that we would be taking a picture and I must change what I was wearing immediately, to follow the color scheme. So naturally, I did. Or the fact that the amount of salads I have seen made here is absurd. Don’t get me wrong I love a good salad, but I will never understand how someone can survive the day just off of a few hundred calories of fruits and vegetables. Another example is our similarities in humor. Whether it’s talking about our favorite comedians or egging a joke on way longer than it should be, these girls love to laugh and have a great time, and that is something that anyone couldn’t pass up on. 

Throughout my time living in the minority, I’ve found that these women are some of the sweetest, most thoughtful, and most genuine people I’ve met. From someone doing the dishes after a long day of school work even though they aren’t assigned to the task, decorating the classroom to make it a more vibrant and lively place to be, or writing a personal Valentine’s Day card to everyone in the program, these women each semester are the ones keeping this special place and program alive. If anyone is hesitant about doing a program like this or simply stepping out of their comfort zone from everyday life, my advice for you is to do it. You might just find that the people you’d least expect to have anything in common with are the ones with the most similarities, and if you’re lucky, you may make a few life-long relationships along the way. 

From halfway around the globe,

  • Michael Hardin
Trip to the Caserta Royal Palace Gardens

Mad Dash Through Malta

I’m a planner. It’s what I do. I plan in advance, and I plan in detail. In Auburn, I’m known for having at least three planners or calendars that I’m keeping up with per semester. Coming to Ariccia has given me the chance to do lots of planning. I plan out my assignments, my grocery shopping and cooking, and, most importantly, I plan weekend trips.

Our weeks usually consist of classes Monday-Thursday with the opportunity to travel on your own on the weekend. This gives you the opportunity to take quite a few trips externally of those planned by the program while you’re here. When I finish the JSB program, I will have been to 9 countries in 12 weeks. This was only supposed to be 8.

Over spring break, I had planned a highly ambitious trip with my friends Sara and Sophie which included visits to several cities in Greece, Spain, and Austria. I worked on this schedule for weeks. Part of this journey included a late flight from Athens, Greece to Malta where we would have a layover and then fly to Barcelona, Spain. Then, we would arrive around midnight at the houseboat we were staying on (I affectionately referred to this as our Airbnboat). No amount of planning could have prepared me for the struggle it would be to make it from Athens to Barcelona. Our first flight from Greece to Malta was delayed, and we landed about 10 minutes before our next flight was supposed to take off. We ran through the airport barely holding on to all our things. We could still see the plane sitting on the tarmac; the sign above the counter flashing “Last Call”. When we made it to the desk, the flight attendants tried to radio out to the pilots who told them they had already closed the doors and we would not be allowed on the plane. Sophie, Sara, and I sat down in the airport and watched our plane take off without us.

At this point we were very upset, and some tears were shed as we realized we would be stuck in Malta for the night and had nowhere to go. We ended up staying in a sketchy hotel and having to book two more flights for the next day because there were no direct flights to Barcelona. On one of these flights, we boarded and sat on the tarmac for two hours before we took off. Luckily, this was our last flight, so we had no more connections to make. All in all, it took us over 24 hours to make it from Athens to Barcelona, which is only about a 3-hour direct flight.

Missing one of our nights in Barcelona meant we had to condense all the things we had planned into one day. This wreaked havoc on my little planner brain, and I was very upset because I felt like our trip would be ruined. However, Barcelona ended up being one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to. We all agreed that we’ve had some of the best experiences there of the entire semester, including being able to watch a flamenco show.

This experience taught me lots of things. One, that there’s no possible way to plan for everything, which I would probably have argued with you about previously. Two, sometimes when you have no idea what you’re doing, you can make some of the best memories. And three, sometimes plans go out the window, and that’s okay.

Especially if you’re with your best friends. Which I was.

— Elena Gagliano

From left to right: Sophie, Sara, and I on spring break (shortly before the Malta airport fiasco).

A Love Letter to Friends

Moving to a new country is terrifying. Terrifying to plant yourself in a place you’ve never known, with people you’ve never known. When I first came to Ariccia, I expected it to be a really fun experience and a more different semester than I’ve ever had. Even knowing this, I never could have prepared myself for just how much I’ve learned and loved here. The city of Ariccia and the entirety of the JSB program have shown me how to fall in love in a completely new way. Love comes in all forms, and to me it comes in the people I meet. Without the people, this place is just a small town outside of Rome. Add in the people, Cinzia, Lydia, Roberta, Cat, Ettore, Ryan, Maurizio, Francesco, and everyone else met along the way, and you create this beautiful Italian town with an abundance of love that I’ve never felt before coming here.

With almost ten weeks behind us, and two to go, appreciation and love have taken new form. I think love is always about appreciation and my favorite kind of love is through friendship. Gabriella, Sophie, and Elena, better known as Gib, Soph, and father, have meant more to me in the past 10 weeks than I could ever express to them. Home to me isn’t a place. Home is where you feel your most comfortable and is your safe place to land. It’s weird that people can feel like that to me, but they do. They’ve been my comfort, my laughter, my memories, and my love story for the past ten weeks. I’ve never met people who can make me feel the most like myself, and I will always know and see them for the way they show love and friendship.

Finding friends that feel like a Sunday morning, a sunset dinner after a long beach day, or a good book, has always been one of the most important things to me. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but it does in my brain. Their hearts are the best part about them and knowing them has made my heart brighter and more abundant. I don’t really think I would have had as much fun running through Roma Termini (multiple times), spending a very weird night in Malta after running through an airport barely holding any of my belongings, spontaneously taking a trip to the Hard Rock Café on a random Wednesday night, or having food poisoning the first week here, if I didn’t have them to do it with me. All three of them are so special to me in different ways and have become my best thing about this experience. Knowing them now, our lives align so much it’s almost insane we didn’t cross paths before this semester, but I think the pieces of our friendship fell into place right when they were supposed to. I feel so lucky to have met my for-lifer friends, and I’m so glad I get to take them home with me. I could never thank them enough for being my love and appreciation for this program, and I’ve never been prouder to know people!

Bacio forever,

Sara Hanna

(Left to Right) Sophie, me, Gabriella, and Elena, aka the loves of my life. This is our first, and actually only, photo of the four of us! This is my reminder to take more pictures with them 🙂

Sweatpants In Italy

There is a saying in Italian culture called “Bella Figura” and it relates to the idea of how people present themselves to society in the way they dress, act, and speak. While we have similarities of this in the US, nothing quite fully encapsulates “Bella Figura”.

The idea of “Bella Figura” makes sense and if you have or are going to spend time in Italy you will quickly notice how the majority of people here are dressed to the 10’s. While I am a fashion major and enjoy seeing something different and stylish compared to the Lululemon head to toe outfits in Auburn (no offense), I honestly miss parts of the American way of dressing.

I like to be able to dress up, which I have gotten to do plenty of in Italy, but I also want the choice to dress down, and Italians don’t have this option unless they want to be considered “Bruta Figura” (the bad version of Bella Figura). I understand it is their lifestyle and part of the culture, but I like to be able to step outside in my sweatpants, possibly unbrushed hair, and no makeup and be accepted that way.

Even though Americans don’t have the best reputation in other countries, and probably for some good reasons, I do appreciate the fact that we can be accepted for the way we are and not harshly critiqued because we decided to step out of our house in sweatpants. I believe in the saying “come as you are” (which happens to be a Nirvana song) because there is something comforting about being accepted exactly as you are in any moment and I don’t feel as though “Bella Figura” is accepting of that.

There are so many things I love about Italy, but this is one thing that I struggle with.


Katie Davis

A weekly field trip to a palace!

Does Doordash Deliver to Ariccia?

After signing up for this program a few weeks into Fall of my freshman year, I considered myself ambitious and one that likes to take advantage of every opportunity presented. I am also big into planning and knowing exactly what to expect. After two and a half years of researching Europe and more specifically Italy, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what was to come for the 12 weeks I would be living there. I can honestly say the research did not match what I have experienced.

The first thing I’m pretty sure everyone thinks of when they think of Italy is the food. I couldn’t wait to try the amazing food that would put Olive Garden and Domino’s to shame. Unfortunately, I have yet to have that perfect bite. I’m not saying the food has been bad by any means, but it has overall been middle tier, and given me a newfound appreciation for America taking a cuisine and making it objectively better (I’m looking at you Auntie Anne’s and the cinnamon sugar pretzel). Also, the melting pot of food variety in America has far surpassed the pizza and pasta options that can very quickly get old…and don’t get me started on the lack of iced coffee!

As a Fashion Merchandising major, I feel obligated to mention the difference in fashion trends. Prior to coming here, I was informed to bring neutral clothing and athletic/grunge was not worn. This was stressful for me because I love both color and leggings. While athleisure has slowly worked its way into younger fashion and is more common, 95% of people wear black on black. I have accepted that I may stand out and choose to wear color on the daily, but the lack of self-expression in terms of color was shocking.

While there have certainly been some culture shocks, there have been so many amazing moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything since arriving in Ariccia. This opportunity has given me the confidence in knowing I could live abroad permanently and would be more than happy and thriving. It has also taught me to continue to value and rely on the friendships and family bonds that I have already created because they are vital to my success. So even though I don’t have a cheeseburger on demand and can’t wear a bright red coat without a few stares, I’m happy to be here and am embracing more of the unexpected, because it has led me to greater experiences from lower expectations and better than anything I could’ve planned.

My short lived Fendi coat I thrifted and had to leave in London.

Ciao and War Eagle!

Elizabeth Eberwine

You Have to Go to Grow

You have to go to grow. A statement my dad has told me throughout my life that he grew up hearing from his uncle, said to me in times of uncertainty and doubt. This statement has led me to make many of the best decisions of my life. One of which was the decision to spend my spring semester abroad in Italy with the JSB program.

Being in Italy surrounded by rich culture and history was the easy part of the decision. Truthfully, I doubted my own ability to adapt to living with fifteen other girls and two guys, sharing my living space and constantly being around each other. Back in Auburn, I live alone and as a more introverted person. I value my alone time and personal space which can be difficult when living in the palace. I will not lie and say that this didn’t make the first couple of weeks difficult for me. Thankfully, I am surrounded by so many amazing people that have made that transition easier than anticipated.

I have my fellow girls in Roma room to thank for a great beginning of the semester. I will forever cherish memories of laughing until my stomach hurts huddled around one of our nests late at night. Or never forget sushi Wednesdays at Sushi Hero when we just need to “scratch an itch” with some very average fried rice and edamame. Abby T., Abby I., Emma, Madison, Kyle, Ivy, Katie, Cat, and Sophie you all have grown to mean so much more to me than I can write in one single blog post. My confidants, travel buddies, partners in crime, and biggest cheerleaders I love you all so much.

This semester has pushed me out of my comfort zone and pushed my personal development in ways that I couldn’t have planned for. So yes I am starting to think that my dad might have it right.

Me and my girls in Barcelona!


Maggie Davis

Family, Food and Friends… What More Can a Girl Need?

One thing that I talked a lot about before coming on this trip was how excited I was to try all of the authentic Italian food. This past week, I was lucky enough to have my parents come visit me and to experience even a sliver of what it’s been like for me this past month and a half. Our first stop was Milan. Luckily, we were able to catch the last few days of Milan fashion week, but more than anything, I was on a mission to give them the best food Milan had to offer. 

We started our first night at a restaurant called Sophia Loren’s. Before we ordered any of our food, I was so happy to see one of my friends Maggie who is on this abroad experience as well since we happened to book the same time reservations with both our parents. For our appetizer we split the eggplant parmigiana which my parents would not stop raving about it, so much so they are currently trying to recreate it at home. My mom and I ended up splitting the Capricious pizza and Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina while my dad went ahead and got the catch of the day covered in salt. Was definitely an interesting choice but wasn’t expecting anything less from him.

For our second night we went to a restaurant called STK Milan. The atmosphere was chic and relaxing, but the food was definitely a nice switch up in terms of all the carbs I’ve been eating since being here. We started off with the calamari and the beef carpaccio and for our entrees, my parents both ordered Ribeye’s while I ordered the prawn tartare tacos with the truffle mac and cheese.

The next day we left for Rome which I was most excited for since I was not only most familiar with but also since I booked a few restaurants in advance that were recommended to me through locals and also with the help of YouTube. Our first night we went to Alfredo Alla Scroffa which is supposedly where the “birth of fettuccine Alfredo” all started. For our appetizers, we all split tuna tartare and another eggplant parmigiana since they just had to get it again before leaving. My mom and I ended up splitting the Cappellacci ripieni cacio e pepe and the original Fettuccine Alfredo, which was absolutely amazing, while My dad ended up ordering the Pork ribs with myrtle. 

Although there were many meals in between, I had to end this off by talking about a restaurant that was recommended by one of our teachers which was Salumeria Con Cucina Roscioli. This restaurant had a wide variety of foods but most specifically meats. We started off by splitting the Roman Artichoke and fried tripe. As for our entrees my dad ordered the coniglio which is rabbit. I was surprisingly jealous that I didn’t order it myself because the flavor was amazing. My mom ended up ordering the traditional roman meatballs and I ordered the tail ravioli and pecorino. 

It’s safe to say that Italy has yet to let me down when it comes to their food, and I can’t wait to continue to try more of their amazing dishes. Ciao!

– Madison Edwards

Our entrees from Salumeria Con Cucina Roscioli

The 14th of February

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.

With an overabundance of love,

Ivy Cole

From strangers to close friends. My valentines this February 14th.

“You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”

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.

Here is me after climbing the ruins in the
Ancient Greek town Selinunte in Sicily!

Grazie mille!

Kyle Arsenault