I sit here two days before leaving Italy for the second time wondering, “where has the time gone?” Four years ago, I participated in this incredible program as a senior in college. Now, as a third year doctoral student, I will leave Italy with a different perspective on what it means to be involved with a study abroad program. Before returning to Ariccia, when I reflected back on my time as an undergraduate in this program, I often thought about my travel experiences, the things I saw in other countries and around Italy, and my peers I shared these experiences with. Now that I’m leaving in about 48 hours, I am certain my reflections of this past experience will be much different – and this is not a bad thing! To start, I will never forget the feeling I had when I returned to Ariccia for the first time in four years on May 9th, a day before 21 new JSB students arrived. I walked into the Chigi Palace, so familiar to me, and I saw Cinzia Bracalente, the program facilitator. Seeing Cinzia in person, someone four years ago I realistically thought I would never see again, warmed my heart immediately. It was in this moment I knew I would find a different type of value in this international experience. Long story short, after completing my second three month tour in this beautiful country, my personal conclusion is that the people we share moments with ultimately shape our overall experience. This particular program allows an opportunity for Auburn students to share moments with some of the most interesting and special people I have ever met in my life. I’ve spent a lot of time around this group of 21 students and I’ve been very excited to see how they’ve taken advantage of this opportunity – just look at some of the previous blogs – they are really eating this experience up! The things that make study abroad programs beneficial – learning from knowledgable and passionate lecturers, interacting with people who have had such a wide range of life experiences, appreciating differences amongst cultures, immersing themselves within a foreign community, and developing into stronger and more confident young adults – are all happening on the JSB Auburn Abroad in Italy program. I consider myself so lucky to have had another opportunity to be a part of this experience. It makes me sad to think about the strong possibility of never seeing some of these special people again, but I am also aware of how fortunate I am to have learned from such a special community here in Ariccia.
A great group wraps up a great semester – JSB Summer 2016
During one of the free weekends this summer, I was able to visit Bordeaux, France. Although I did not know all that much about the city, it turned out to be one of my favorite personal weekend travels of the whole summer. Bordeaux is located in the southwest region of France, bordering the Bay of Biscay and is a port city on the Garonne River. Bordeaux proper (central Bordeaux) has a population of about 250,000 people. Obviously known for its spectacular wine culture and numerous vineyards, Bordeaux offers a multitude of options for budding sommeliers to explore. There is the newly opened La Cité du Vin, a modern wine museum offering 360 degree views of Bordeaux and wines from across the world. Something I was happy to discover in Bordeaux was the numerous amount of vintage stores scattered around. From vintage clothes and shoes, to the coolest old vinyl shops, I found some really unique pieces that I will always cherish. Bordeaux has a wonderful, fresh atmosphere, partly due to the various universities in the area. I would describe it as a younger, more relaxed Paris, but without the tourists and selfie sticks. Surprisingly, there was a plethora of various cultures’ restaurants here. We stumbled upon a wonderful Thai restaurant called “Santosha” that I highly recommend. I visited “Sip” coffee shop for a great latte and wonderful pastries. I strolled along the river – or you can even rent one of the city bikes and give yourself a personal tour. I had the best Sunday brunch at “Plume” – an absolute priority. Bon vacances, mes amies! – Anna Utley
The view from our Airbnb – try and spot the copper lanterns that line all of the city’s streets!
The Monti bus is basically a hired bus service that takes us all around Italy. I feel bad because some people just don’t like traveling by car for various reasons like car sickness. As for me, I absolutely love the Monti bus. The Monti bus is more than convenient transportation. It is a place of resting. The amount of times I have passed out on this bus this summer is pretty astounding. After a very early morning, after a long day, or just for a quick nap, the Monti bus is always the perfect place for a good nap. The Monti bus is also a great place for community. I have had more conversations and gotten to better know more people while sitting next to them on the bus than any place in the palace. Being trapped next to a stranger on the bus is a great way to make friends, especially for people like me that didn’t know anyone before coming on the trip. The Monti bus is also a place for fun. There have been jokes, pranks, laughter, and even karaoke parties all while contained within the huge cube that is our bus. One of my fondest memories of my summer was when we were driving from Orvieto to our first vineyard when the whole bus decided to have a sing off in the style of the movie “Pitch Perfect.” What it amounted to was all of us screaming at the top of our lungs for half an hour and laughing at each other and ourselves. On the Monti bus, I can be alone, even with so many people around. All I have to do is put on my headphones and I enter into my own little world. The bus is also a great place to catch up on some reading or to finish an assignment. I like the Monti bus because it is more than just a means to an end. A lot of times the drive is better than the sight. There have been a few close calls, some near accidents, and a couple of risky driving maneuvers but that is just adding to our cultural immersion. We get to fully experience how Italians actually drive. My final point in praising the Monti bus is that Rick Steves uses it whenever he’s in town, so there is an idea about the level of awesome we’re dealing with in discussing my favorite classroom in Italy: the Monti bus.
Monti bus nap time
By: Ansley Christensen
Anyone following this blog throughout the summer has read about the amazing places we all have visited as a group and several adventures that some have taken on our free weekends. Although it would be nice for me to talk about the many amazing weekend trips I have taken with friends and on my own, I thought this would be a great time to talk about the friendships that have been made this summer. For the majority of us, including myself, we arrived in Ariccia only knowing a few people within the group. It was basically like walking into a room full of strangers. I know personally that I was nervous about making friends within the group and was unsure how the summer would turn out. Well here we are with only a few weeks left in our summer abroad and I am glad to say that I have met some of the most amazing people and have made friendships that will last forever. One of my favorite memories of this summer was while we were in Florence a couple of weeks ago. One evening a group of us decided to go eat at an Indian restaurant. There were eleven of us so they set us in a room in the back with a big table and just enough chairs for each of us. After ordering our food, we sat around the table talking and someone suggested that we go around the table and ask each other questions about our lives. The questions started off as fun “getting to know you” questions, but eventually made a turn for more thought provoking and emotional questions. This continued throughout our meal and lasted even after we were finished eating. That night we shared pieces of our personal life stories with each other. It was one of the most down to earth, personable, and real conversations that I have ever had. We laughed, we cried, and shared our thoughts on events within our lives and the world around us. After we left the restaurant, I couldn’t help but smile at how well dinner went. The food and drink was great, but the best part was the communion that we shared with one another as a group of friends. This summer has given me so many amazing experiences. I have made so many great memories and learned so much, but my favorite part is the new friends I now have.
A group picture the day after our lovely dinner
For personal time this past weekend, a group of friends and I decided to travel to Croatia. We thought that this was a good weekend to relax by the sea and even splurge on a place to stay. After hours of searching Airbnb, we decided we had found the perfect spot to enhance our relaxing weekend: a “lavish bungalow by the sea” as stated by Airbnb. The problem was that the woman who owns it didn’t have any reviews on this specific property, but she did have reviews for her other properties and all those reviews were good. So, we thought that this was the perfect place to stay in, and we were all so excited to arrive at our lavish bungalow. On the way to Croatia, everything was going so smoothly. Our luggage was checked with a breeze, our flight was perfect, and passport control was quick. It wasn’t until we were in the taxi pulling up to the location that we realized we had a problem. Our taxi driver pointed out a trailer park that we were passing, and we all thought that was weird, but we just dismissed it. That was until he pulled up into it and said we were here. We all told him it had to be a mistake and that we would call the woman who owned the property for him to talk to. When he got off the phone he said that this was it, so we decided to give it a chance. We checked into our “lavish bungalow” at the reception and after trekking through loose gravel with all of our luggage, we arrived at what was actually a mobile home surrounded by other trailers. We ended up finding a nice hotel to stay in for the rest of the weekend but there were a few lessons I learned and were reminded of: 1. Do the research 2. Only book places that have reviews. 3. Google map the area to avoid false advertisement. 4. Even when things don’t go as planned, better things might be falling into place.
When things go better than expected: the view from our hotel.
Everyone knows the old saying, “time flies when you’re having fun.” I have heard this phrase my whole entire life, but I never truly understood the meaning until this summer. I cannot believe that it is already July, and the end of the summer semester is coming soon. While I have been reflecting on one of the best summers of my life, amazing memories come rushing to my head. The Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program has been an amazing experience for many different reasons. I have loved the things we have done as part of the program, as well as the things I have been able to do outside of the planned program events. One of my favorite parts of this program is the freedom to travel on many of the weekends and pursue personal travel. I was thinking just the other day how fortunate we all are to not only get to experience Italy with the program but also take full advantage of the nearness of so many other countries. I could not say which personal travel trip has been my favorite because they are all so unique. However, I would like to share about my weekend in Interlaken, Switzerland. This trip was full of beautiful sights and adventures. Upon arriving, I knew we were in for a treat. Interlaken is a town that is completely surrounded by the prettiest mountains and greenest grass. Just beyond this, I saw the beautiful snow capped mountains in the distance. I had heard such wonderful things about this place that I had to visit for myself. Amongst the kayaking, hiking through waterfalls, and bike riding, I somehow found the time, and courage, to try hang gliding. At first, I have to say, I was extremely nervous. After we made it to the top of the mountain and I looked below, my nerves set in even more. I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. We set up all of the equipment, and it was time to fly. The only advice I was given was to have fun and to not stop running. I grabbed onto the handles and we were off. I cannot put into words this feeling of being so high and literally soaring through the air, but if I had to choose a word, I would say this experience was absolutely breathtaking. While I was still very nervous when we were in the sky, my nerves began to simmer and I was able to enjoy the view and the rush that comes with flying. This whole weekend was so much fun, but jumping off of a cliff and flying was absolutely a highlight. I am so thankful for the opportunity to travel while in Europe and explore as many places as possible while they are so close. I truly believe personal travel has been just as much of a learning experience as the planned aspects of the program. I am thankful that the faculty has built in the time for us students to see as much as we can see while abroad.
Hang glide over the Swiss Alps?? Don’t mind if I do.
Livio during lecture today, with the paintings discussed below. On the left, is the original painting of the Roman Forum, and on the right, the newly revealed painting.
Compared to traveling and class field trips, sometimes class in the palace can seem less interesting, but today one class really caught my attention. Maybe because I got a decent amount of sleep last night or the fact that I drank a couple of espressos before class; either way, our lectures today were by far some of my favorite. The lecture that really caught my attention was the one on art restoration with our lecturer Livio Lacuitti. Livio has dedicated his whole life to restoring paintings, frescos, and even the ceilings in some of the churches that we will visit during our time in Italy. Today, Livio showed us a painting that was brought into him to inspect. The painting was of the Roman Forum with a river running through it. If you have ever been to the Roman Forum, you would know that there is no river running through it. Livio found this piece to be very suspicious so he decided to investigate the piece further. He asked the owner if he could see if there was anything painted under the current work. So after some further investigation, and the use of an X-ray machine, he found a hand, and Livio and the owner decided to scrape the current painting and see what was to be found underneath. After many hours, of work they discovered a painting of an unknown magistrate. The owner was very pleased with the end product and his completely restored painting, and it turned out that the piece of art was now worth more than the previous, due to the new painting being of better quality. I found it very fascinating that he could take one piece of art and have the skill and knowledge to know that there was another piece under it, just because of a suspicious feature he noticed on the previous painting. In addition, I found the restoration process to be extremely precise and intriguing. After learning about Livio’s step by step process, I am convinced that it takes a very special and skillful person to do this work. Livio has one of the most fascinating and challenging jobs in my opinion, and his lecture today illustrated further to me the importance of his job to this region.
As Miley Cyrus once sang, “There’s always gonna be another mountain, I’m always gonna wanna make it move. Always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I’m gonna have to lose. Ain’t about how fast I get there, ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side. It’s the climb.“
Mount Vesuvius was quite the climb. Nearing the end of a week of being inspired by our amazing professors, I found myself “awaken” by the hike we went on. It was breath taking in many ways; needless to say, the hike up was challenging. However, I have not done a hike that rewarding since the summer before my freshman year of college- there was something about having to push myself up this mountain when we were all hot, swatting bugs out of the way, and legs on fire from the straight uphill struggle. Finally reaching the top and looking around completely in awe of the view and the creation that is in front of me was so refreshing.
Aside from the physical aspect of this hike, I found myself hiking up the mountain with friends I had not had the chance to get to know yet. I loved this part of the day the most. This group is so special to me already. We have such amazing people with so many different personalities, but it is such a unique dynamic because of that. I am excited about these relationships developing throughout this summer and having the opportunity to go back to Auburn together in the fall makes it even better.
We survived Mount Vesuvius! | Thankful for a summer spent with these four sweet souls!
Amy Kate Simmons | Summer 2016
At the start of this semester aboard, midterm break seemed like it was so far off, but as it approached, the time seemed to have gone by so fast. For most of us our parents visited over the break and it was a whole new experience to get to show our parents around the continent that has made this semester abroad such a fabulous one. My midterm break was spent showing my parents around Rome and seeing again the amazing places as well as the breathtaking architecture that Italy has to offer. Before the break had begun I thought about how I might regret not being able to explore more cities and countries I hadn’t already visited, but looking back, revisiting the various cities in Italy was the best decision I could have made for the break.
Of course as a group we have gone to Rome many times throughout the semester, but over midterm it was nice to just be able to slowly explore the city when I didn’t already have an agenda for the day planned out. By walking through the city, I saw and explored many new areas and actually experienced a side of Rome that most tourists don’t even get to see. One of my favorite parts of the break was watching how my parents reacted to every new place we went.
The thing that stuck out to me the most from midterm break was how, even though we visit many churches during the duration of our study abroad, my mother wanted to walk into any and all churches we passed while walking around Rome together. Of course Rome alone has 1000 Catholic churches in its city limits and not all of them are well known. This was one of my favorite things we did mainly, because no matter how big or small or insignificant the church seemed from the outside almost all of them were breathtaking on the inside. This week when I was just supposed to be bored, I got to experience something entirely new about Rome that I didn’t ever think about doing and it ended up being one of my favorite things to do. The biggest lesson I learned this week was to never think that visiting a place twice is a disadvantage, because you’ll always find new things to do, see, and experience.
The breathtaking interior of an unknown church my family and I found while walking through the small side streets of Rome.
A few weeks ago our class took a field trip to Orvieto. We arrived in the late afternoon after a day full of sightseeing, so I changed into a t-shirt as soon as we checked into the hotel. Soon after, a group of five of us was wandering around the streets looking for a place to eat dinner. We stopped outside a restaurant with an outdoor patio to look at the menu when a man sitting with his family yelled, “War Eagle!” at us; he had seen the small emblem on my shirt. We talked to the family at length and discovered that the husband and wife were both Auburn graduates and now lived in Arkansas. We were so surprised at the odds of running into Auburn fans in this small Italian town that our night was made.
We decided to eat at the same restaurant as the family and when they left they gave us a parting, “War Eagle” and wished us well on the rest of our trip. About an hour later when we asked for the check the waiter informed us that the family had paid for our meal and instead of a check brought us a note from them. We were all so enchanted by their generosity; it was such an exemplary instance of “the human touch” at work. This small act of kindness proved to all of us how strong the Auburn family is, even across generations and oceans. On the walk home that night we all decided that one day we would have to return the favor if we encountered Auburn students in our future travels.
The note from our new Auburn friends