My Trevi Wish Come True

This is my second time being in Ariccia, this time not as a student but as the graduate teaching assistant, and upon on my arrival I felt like I knew exactly what I was getting into. Spoiler alert- I was wrong. Every group to come through the Joseph S. Bruno program is extraordinary in their own unique way, making each semester of JSB a new adventure in a way students may not even realize.

When I left Ariccia as a student who had just completed the Fall 2016 semester abroad, I knew in my heart that I wanted to return. I couldn’t wrap my head around not returning to a place that meant so much to me for the past three months and which gave me a sense of adventure that one seldom can’t feel unless outside of their comfort zone. They say if you through a coin into the Trevi Fountain, you will one day return to Rome. Well for me, I returned three years later with a Bachelor’s degree under my belt and a confidence that I knew exactly how to navigate another semester abroad.

However the thing about going abroad is- you can never know what to expect. Add the uncertainty of traveling for three months to also living with a whole new group of 21 students, and I found myself quickly realizing I knew nothing at all. One thing I did know was even through the uncertainty, I needed to enjoy every moment, relish the new friendships and mentorships made, and embrace being outside of my comfort zone. Nothing was the same about my semester as a graduate teaching assistant as it was as a student, but nevertheless the one aspect that remains is all of the amazing moments and relationships that grow from a semester with the JSB program.

There are a lot of things I’m going to remember about this semester and this group. But because memories can be as elusive as the souvenirs you bring back home in your 50 + pound suitcase, I’m going to take this time to list some out:

I’m going to remember going to the lookout in Ariccia with the group for the first time on Claire’s birthday.  I’ll remember Naren singing to everyone on the bus after a long field trip, and Michelle making the kitchen smell amazing from whichever soup she decided to cook that day. I’ll remember Isla’s constant kindness and excellent sense of fashion, and Emma’s effortless confidence and ability to smile in every situation. I’ll remember Emily for being Emily and our hours-long conversation on the Fourth of July, and I’ll remember Morgan’s infinite ability to find at least one item to try on in every store we walked into. I’ll remember Ellie and I stuffed to maximum capacity after trying ten different kinds of pizza with our Italian family, and I’ll remember Chapman starting off her E&R of the non-Catholic cemetery by saying people are “dying” to get in there. I’ll remember our horrific experience trying to get from Mykonos to the Athens airport, and Jordan fearlessly running off the ferry in wedges to catch her group’s taxi. I’ll remember singing Adele karaoke with Virginia and Liz at Scholar’s Pub, and I’ll always remember Janie’s Hermés shopping bag. I’ll remember Clara’s stellar performance as Violetta in the fake opera, and Emma Rose working into the late hours of the night on a collage page of animals for her journal rather than the actual requirements. I’ll remember Maggie Leigh jumping off the highest cliff I’ve ever seen in Croatia, and Monique and I riding around the Eiffel Tower on scooters in the middle of the night in Paris. I’ll remember Lindsey’s impeccable ability to convince everyone to get gelato even if we just stuffed ourselves with pasta, and the Capri landscape fitting Temple’s blue and orange Instagram aesthetic perfectly. I’ll remember Allison’s undeniable ability to find the absolute best rooftop in every single city we visited, and Mary Claire being our real-life mascot for the Bachelorette all summer as Hannah B’s long-lost twin.

Most of all, I’ll remember the things that I learned coming back to the JSB program for the second time, in a whole new position. I’ll remember what it means to be an effective leader, and what it means to not. I’ll remember being the protective mother bear that tells the people bombarding students on the street to buy their cheap products to “back off.” I’ll remember all the laughter, difficulty, and love that comes with being a leader, while also being a friend.

I’ll forever be thankful for my opportunity to be apart of the JSB program, not just once, but twice. I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain with the dream of returning, and it worked. Only now I feel entirely unique from the person I was three years ago, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

With endless love,


Only my first espresso of the day (I promise!)

What Goes Up Must Come Down

A few weeks ago, sitting in on a Sorrento meeting, our co-director, Cinzia, told our class about a hike called the Path of Gods. It struck me with its stunning pictures and what seemed to be ten-out-of-ten views. I knew I had to do it when I touched down to the area of Southern Italy. Next thing I know, myself and two of my classmates, Claire Darnall and Maggie Leigh Faulk, embarked on the seven-kilometer journey from Angerola to Positano. We began by taking a cab to the top of this magnificent hill headed to the Path of Gods. We began the hike with confidence, no hunger, and little water. When we turned the first corner, we were in complete awe of the ocean views and Earth’s art before us. It was strikingly beautiful. As we continued on the hike, we encountered steep rocks, muddy terrain, cliffs, and more that made the hike more than worth it to all of us. We were so thankful we did it. After we completed the hike, we were anticipant for food and water, skipping along to find the way to Positano.

Conked out and tired, we moved quickly to the town, only to come upon TWO-THOUSAND STAIRS. Down, thankfully, but still two-thousand stairs. We held our breath, knowing what comes up must go down, and started sprinting down the cemented-in staircase. At the time, it was a mystery that it would be so difficult. Anyone can go down some stairs, right? Wrong. By the end we were wiped out, numb, sweaty, and parched. Surely we were in Positano by now, right? Wrong. At the bottom of these two-thousand steps, we came upon a couple who pointed us toward the town that was a 45 minute walk. We realized then that those ocean views and Earth’s beauty during Path of Gods was maybe a little tad not worth it, something we should have Googled.

We finished the last 45 minutes with smiles on our faces and true joy in our heart. This is when I realized the real lesson I was learning here. Not regretting the hike, but having immense gratitude for the journey; the positivity, endurance, and determination it took us to get there. Not that we had a choice, but I was close to glad we didn’t have another way out because it forced us to take the slow and hard way. I figured out quickly that this day was a huge lesson and reflection of so much I have learned here while in Italy. The views, hike, stairs, and walk to town reflected the reward, adversity, learning, and fight for positivity in the midst of all the temptations to complain along the journey.

What a summer.  I never knew how much I would learn through this study abroad experience. I was introduced to JSB as an incoming freshman at Auburn University in 2015. I was immediately drawn to it and in awe that my university in small-town Auburn, Alabama had a campus in Ariccia, Italy! How amazing! Little did I know four years would pass and I would embark on this journey and wow am I thankful I did. Through the uncomfortable, comfortable, exciting, and anticipant days here, I have taken so much away from this study abroad. I can confidently say I will never have an experience again quite like this one. JSB has taught me what comes up must come down, and it’s up to our mind set and gratitude on how we handle it.

Signed, Liz Phelps

Claire and Maggie Leigh racing down stairs in Positano

朋友一生一起走 (Friends Go Through Life Together)

I am from China and started my study aboard journey when I went to America for high school, and now I am an international student at Auburn. Can you believe I am studying abroad while I am studying aboard? At the beginning, I signed up for this study aboard program with my best friend Narengerile. I was only thinking about having a good time in Italy with her, and that we would make unforgettable memories for our friendship. I also thought it would look good on my resume later. However, I never thought that I would make 20 new friends here who I can share things with, talk with, laugh with, and have good time with.

I’m so glad I can spend so much time with these sweet American students. I am not only improving my English, but I am also learning confidence from them. I get the chance to show them special things about Chinese culture, such as sharing—you always give the best thing you have to others. I really like to share things I have with them; they are so wonderful and deserve it. We also explore a new culture (In Italy) together. We have learned so much about food, architecture, and art.

     To be honest, maybe ten years later, I will tell my kids about my study aboard experience in Italy. I might forget about some of the art and other knowledge I have learned from the classes here, but I will never forget all the sweet students I have met on this experience.

Yes, we have been through a lot, and not just sleeping at the palace together or sitting in class. We also run through the airport together, share cultures together, and help each other get through the tough times. Because we experienced all these things together, I believe we will continue to go through life together in the future.

Sincerely, He (Michelle) Zhang

Just a few of the many students I love! (Mary Claire, Morgan, Lindsey, Clara, Chapman, Naren & Me)

Step Up and Step Out

When I signed up to study abroad with the JSB program two summers ago I had no idea how much the experience would affect me. Whenever I thought of the program I would mainly think of traveling around Europe, potentially making new friends, and how it would be the best summer of my life. However, something that I never anticipated is how the program contributes to one’s personal growth and acceptance of themselves, while also learning how to function and interact with a diverse group of people. 

Throughout the past nine weeks I have been living alongside 21 girls, all from different backgrounds with different personalities, and together we have seen eachother’s highs and lows and how each person handles a stressful situation differently. We have been one another’s confidants and biggest cheerleaders and I have never felt more encouraged and supported than I have throughout the JSB program.

Now that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, we are humans. There are tiffs here and there, but by the end of the day we all realize that we see one another in an environment and in situations that not even our own mothers have witnessed us in. Therefore we have become one another’s support systems to make our remaining time here enjoyable and memorable.

This past summer has been one focused on growth and finding confidence within myself and my actions. It may sound cliché, but when I return home in a few short weeks I will be returning as a new person. Now I don’t mean someone with a completely different personality, but someone who is more confident in herself and her actions and won’t shy away from the challenges that she will face for the rest of her life. From this point on I’ll take these stressful situations and think back on this summer and remember how I traveled the world, made new friends, and had the best summer of my life. Through it all, I faced triumphs and failures to take the person I was and create a better version of who I am today.

Love, Janie

A picture of me taken in Mykonos as I was laughing at the funny and positive comments the girls were saying to make me feel comfortable in front of the camera.

How to Chase the Son

After finding out last minute that I was invited to go on this study abroad, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go, and I almost didn’t. But, boy am I sure glad that I have a supportive family and providing Father who made it all possible.

I never did anything to deserve such an indescribable and rare experience as this study abroad. Although I grew up on some of the most popular beaches of Florida that are many southerner’s destination location, I didn’t grow up traveling very much myself. And when my family and I did travel, it wasn’t very far. So, this trip has rocked my world way more than I ever thought it would. My heart of gratitude grows bigger every day. The real challenge lies in having a grateful attitude even when there are rough days, because there WILL be rough days.

The following are some tips that have helped me to have the right mindset and heart for traveling, especially with other people. These are things I am so thankful to have been able to learn in my time here.

  1. Don’t complain. Of course we all want to whine a little bit here and there when the weather gets hot or our feet hurt from walking. But, I learned that if I fight those thoughts from seeping into my head, I will be able to tolerate the experience a little bit better.
  2. Be content. I realized that lowering expectations for my plans will also lower my chances of disappointment. If I can find joy in whatever I am doing or however a situation turns out, I am less reliant on everything going ‘perfectly.’
  3.  Show a heart of thankfulness. Along with not complaining and being content, I started to grow a heart of thankfulness in all I was doing. When I am somewhere for a long time, my thankfulness can slowly begin to fade as I get accustomed to my surroundings. I have to keep the fire of thankfulness lit as long as possible, because I know that once I return I will reminisce of my time abroad.

I hope that these simple, and seemingly obvious yet often unpracticed, tips can help anyone abroad or traveling because I know that while I’ve been chasing the sun, it all the while has helped me to keep chasing the Son!

Stay rad,

Temple Nichols

-Literally chasing the sun on one of the many early morning, sunrise flights to our next destination on this study abroad.

Victory Lap

On May 1, 2019, most of my friends were preparing for graduation while I was preparing for a summer in Italy. During this time, I felt very insecure that I would be graduating a semester later than everyone else. I began to question if I was even going to enjoy my time abroad for the whole summer, and if I would make many friends because I would be so much older than everyone else in the program. I had such uneasy feelings about leaving for Italy on May 5th. I had this negative view of my upcoming summer; however, I knew the Lord was about to prove me so wrong. 

After arriving in Italy on May 6th, I quickly began to see small glimpses into the best summer of my life. The friendships were made so quickly, and they have been so real and consistent since day one. It is as if the age difference is nonexistent among everyone in the group. I truly could not have been more wrong about how my summer would play out. 

I could not imagine any better way to end my college career than by living, studying, and traveling around Europe for twelve weeks with twenty-one new friends. This has been the best semester of growth and learning more about who I am. If I could go back to making the choice of graduating with friends or attending the program, I would not change a thing. It has been such a rewarding experience thus far, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer holds!

XO- Mary Claire Pouncey

First trip to the Colosseum is in the books!

Don’t Go Too Fast or You’ll Fall Flat on Your Face

Coming off the midterm break I could not have been more sunburned, tired ,or worn out from a week packed with traveling. That being said, I would not change a thing from the past week, as it was full of amazing adventures and memories. Midterm break felt so far away these past few weeks, so as my family left, it was strange to realize it was over. I am now halfway done with this amazing experience. While my midterm break was packed with activities, I can say my family did it right. Living by the common idea of “once you fly to Europe, you might as well go everywhere” was the driving factor of everywhere I went. Starting in London, we traveled to Venice, Florence, Siena, Naples, Sorrento, Rome, Genzano, Ariccia, and lastly Albano. Due to this extensive travel, I can happily say I learned quite a few things over the break with my family.

  1. Plan out a dinner or two. I say this lightly because it can be hard to do in advance, but when we had been traveling for 5+ hours my family loved that I was so prepared. Yelp is my new best friend! We had some great meals at the highly rated restaurants on their site.
  2. Know some Italian.Personally being able to orders meal or drinks in Italian is one of the most satisfying and impressive things I am able to do. I studied up and attempted to use everything I had learned while with my family. 
  3. Pay attention on the tours around Rome. My family loves history, art ,and planning. That being said, I had to constantly “lead the way” and even recite some facts about every sight. While I knew simple things about landmarks such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, or Pantheon, some of their questions were left unanswered.
  4. Don’t overpack. Being an Apparel Merchandising major, I have a wide selection of clothes. Therefore when going on long trips… I overpack. The biggest thing I learned over break was that I need to spend more time planning out what to bring on trips. I was left with a bag full of clothes I never wore and without jackets or shoes I needed because they took up too much space.
  5. MOST IMPORTANTLY: It’s fun to see every sight, but sometimes just relax. My family had never been to Italy or London so coming in we aimed to see every historical landmark. While amazing, this leads to heat exhaustion, hangriness, and even falling face-forward into the streets of London while running to a church before it closes. The best part of our whole trip, in my opinion, was simply swimming and laying out in Sorrento for hours. It was simple, but so much fun and very relaxing.

All that being said, this trip flew by. I have learned to enjoy the small stuff, pay attention in class and on tours, and take adventures around Italy. There are so many amazing places at our fingertips, some even within walking distance. But most of all, I have learned to relax and just let life happen. Italy is full of adventures, and I have loved the ones I have had so far and look forward to more to come.

With love,

Morgan Brown

A picture from my family’s 1st stop, London, just a few hours after they landed on Friday. Although Big Ben is covered up, it was an amazing city full of sites!!

Learning & Loving: My Cultural Journey

This summer, I feel so satisfied because I joined the Joseph S Bruno Abroad in Italy Program. We have had many experiences during our program! We have learned so much about Italian history and art. We have leadership class, which helps me have a better understanding of my identity and the people around me. We visit many places that have a beautiful view and learn many facts from these fantastic experiences. Sorrento was my favorite weekend trip with the group. It was a beautiful town with a beach and a lot of delicious food.

As an international student from China, I also have the opportunity to make American friends and communicate with them. This is very beneficial for my English skills and I am able to learn more about American culture. At the same time, I am learning things about Italy. This is a challenge for me, but I am very appreciative for this program. When I finish this study aboard, I will miss this time in Italy with my friends. This was not only a great opportunity to study, but also a great chance to travel around Europe. JSB has given me many experiences that I will never forget.  I have visited places like Roma, Ariccia, Sorrento, and Germany, and each one has given me a unique cultural experience with all different types of people. I have heard so many different kinds of languages. Personally, I realized that I still need to learn more about this world. I never imagined I could have so many American friends, and we would have such a great time together in Italy!


A beautiful view from a boat in Sorrento.

Half of My Heart

I have always adored traveling. Ever since my first trip to Europe when I was 14, I knew that traveling was something that I valued highly. When the opportunity arose to be in Italy for three months, I could not imagine anything better. The time here has absolutely flown by and we just reached our halfway point through the semester last week. This means that midterm break was also last week. I was overjoyed about getting to see my family and spend time with them after being away for so long. I had started to feel the effects of homesickness and craved to be with them again. Seeing them was the best feeling in the world. However, as the break continued I actually found myself missing my friends from this program a lot more than I expected.

Midterm break was such a great opportunity to reflect on the time that we have had together so far. Through sharing stories with my family, I was reminded of all the amazing experiences I have shared with the girls on this program. While on the break, I raved about Italy so much that my family joked if I would even want to come back at the end of our three months. I answered with the truth: If I could move all of them and all my friends from the United States to Italy, I would never go back. I love Italy, especially the simplicity that is present in every possible aspect here. I love the appreciation that Italians have for art, time, and food. I love the beauty that is abundant in this area. I love the friendships that Italy has cultivated, in a totally unexpected manner that is entirely unique to an experience like this one. It is definitely safe to say that Italy has half of my heart.

With love,

Lindsey Young

The field next to our cooking class at Cucina Della Terre. Just one example of the simple beauty found all over Italy.

Food for Thought

Living in Italy for the past month and a half has been much more than educational. I have met so many great Italians and even Auburn students; therefore, I cannot wait to see these new friendships develop. My Italian family is really interesting and is always really kind to us. They are always willing to go above and beyond to help us out and show us hospitality. One of my other favorite aspects of the JSB program is learning about the Italian cuisine.

Food is a big passion of mine and being able to dive deeply into this aspect of Italian heritage has made me appreciate it even more. I have always thought about starting a food blog or food Instagram account. After Carmen from Aina Giving came to speak to us for a leadership workshop, I decided to go through with my food account. This program is giving me a lot of great content for my food page, and I am excited to see what other new exciting things will arise from this summer.

So far, we have had two cooking classes. This past week one of our instructors, Mary Lou, taught us how to make two pasta dishes and nutella cake. We all enjoyed the process and learned a lot about Mary Lou. She encouraged and empowered us with her stories and advice, all while giving us new recipes to bring home to the States!

Lastly, a week ago we received a great lesson from Cucina della Terra on making pasta and ragù. Something I learned was, “Never clean a pasta roller with water, always dust it with a brush,” and “If you don’t cook the onions long enough before adding an acid, like tomato juice, then the onions won’t taste sweet.” These are all just a little taste of the valuable things we are learning in the Joseph S. Bruno program.


Monique Burton

A tasty lunch after Cucina della Terra’s cooking class.