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,