I remember vividly when I was at Camp War Eagle signing up to be on the waitlist for the JSB Summer 2021 Study Abroad Program. I had heard of so many interesting stories and was so excited for when it would be my turn to go. When signing up two years ago, I would never have expected it to turn out like this, but I am beyond grateful it did.
Being the first group back to Ariccia in over a year has shown me just how lucky we truly are. The people of Ariccia are so excited to see us here because it gives them hope that things are starting to get better. It puts the biggest smile on café owners’ faces when they see our group all coming in to buy some cappuccinos and ‘cornetti’ which are croissants. It makes me realize how much the pandemic affected business and how the Italian citizens struggled due to the lack of tourism and lockdowns. This program has not only been able to show me the kindness and appreciation in the hearts of Ariccia citizens, but it has also showed me a new side to the program that has never been seen.
Since we are not able to use public transportation, there are places we would normally go to but unfortunately, we cannot this time. This is actually allowing us to be able to go see places and sites that JSB students have never gotten to see before.
One of the places we visited was the Royal Palace of Caserta, and we were the first JSB group to go in several years. It is the largest royal palace in the world and it definitely lives up to it. I was awestruck at how beautiful and breathtaking it was. There was a beautiful garden that had a long flowing waterfall and a huge field of flowers.
We also were able to go to Matera for the weekend and stayed in a cave hotel. It will forever be the coolest hotel I have and will ever stay in. We talked so much about how amazing and wonderful staying in a cave hotel was that I would not be surprised if our program directors take Matera into consideration for future JSB groups.
I think that this was the perfect time for me to attend this program, and in a way, I feel as if it was fate. I have learned not to take things for granted and to live in the moment and take it all in. I do not think my eighteen-year-old self realized what a once-in-a lifetime opportunity she was going to get when she signed up for the waitlist in 2019, but I can say that it is even better than she could have imagined in her wildest dreams.