The name of the hotel we stayed at for our very first weekend excursion in Viterbo, Italy, was called Le Undici Rose, which means ‘The Eleven Roses’ in Italian. When I discovered the name of this hotel during our first week, I couldn’t help but smile at the coincidence: eleven girls, eleven weeks. We were the eleven roses! For the remainder of our unique semester, I fondly thought of the Summer 2021 students as the eleven roses, and by other names as well: the Chigi Babies, my little ducklings all in a row, my ‘girlies,’ my friends.
As I reflect over the time I shared with these ten students, I remember how thankful I have been for our unique semester. Due to restrictions related to the pandemic, our students had to abide by a new set of rules: a much smaller group, no travel outside Italy, no personal travel, no summer break, and fewer field trips to ‘well-known’ cities… just to name a few. While some may think these restrictions would hold our students back from having the experience of a lifetime, I can assure everyone that the Chigi Babies of Summer 2021 are leaving Ariccia having enjoyed a semester unlike any Chigi Baby before them.
Many of them have waited years for their turn to study abroad. Some had been continuously disappointed since the onset of the pandemic when they heard the news that JSB would be paused yet again, semester after semester. Some had their hearts set on other study abroad programs before they were approached with the opportunity to join JSB for a summer in Italy. We all waited anxiously to hear the final decision on JSB Summer 2021, and each of us jumped through hoops to get us here: moving around class schedules, cancelling summer plans, receiving vaccines, taking PCR tests, and much more. All of these things made it so much sweeter when our plane finally touched down in Italy in May.
These ten special students were willing to sacrifice so many things and jump headfirst into the unknown to study in Ariccia for the summer, and this was something many others shied away from when they heard news about the program changes. In the end, their risk paid off. Together we traveled to over 30 cities in Italy. (This fact alone sets our summer apart.) We used our Italian language skills every day. We created strong bonds with the locals in Ariccia, and sought to make new friends in every place we visited. We immersed ourselves in Italian culture and learned a lifetime of lessons. We laughed, we cried, and we took advantage of every precious day we were given to be here.
I am so thankful for the Summer 2021 Chigi Babies and this special summer we spent together. Without them, I would not have been given the opportunity to return to Ariccia as a teaching assistant, to travel throughout the country of Italy, or to grow so much as an individual and leader. It has been a joy to lead them in their study abroad experience and I hope each girl looks back on these eleven weeks fondly. I hope they never forget the memories we made together and that they feel forever changed by the marks left on them by JSB, Italy, and one another.
With love from Ariccia,
Skylar Biedenharn (Fall 2019 Alumna and Summer 2021 Teaching Assistant)