Six Mountains, Three Sisters, and a Star

Almost nine years ago, my oldest sister, Hallie, left behind family, friends, and the famous 2010 Auburn football season to participate in Auburn’s Joseph S. Bruno Abroad in Italy program. Our family likes to think that she made it to Italy by luck after an academic advisor gave her some bad advice. The simple mistake of taking the wrong humanities course resulted in her having to enter the elementary education a semester late. She could have either stayed in Auburn dilly-dallying around with no classes, or she could go abroad. Ultimately, with a little encouragement from my parents, she decided to study overseas in Ariccia for the fall term. Her semester was nothing short of remarkable, so remarkable that a Cam Newton football season could not even compare. In fact, this goes down as one of the best decisions she has made in her lifetime. From then on, the Joseph S. Bruno program became a family tradition for the Christensens.

In 2016, another Christensen sister embarked on her own journey to Ariccia. Ansley had the summer of a lifetime bringing positive energy to everything she did on her own “Grand Tour.” The program, the people, and the overall experience had such a positive impact on her life that she returned to Ariccia in 2018 to visit the people and places that hold such a special place in her heart. 

Now, here I am returning to Ariccia for my second time. This time for three months rather than a quick visit to see a sister. I am ashamed to admit that before I got here, I thought I knew it all. Funny, Emily. First of all, I thought three months was a long time. It’s not. Although the days sometimes go slow, the weeks come and go in what feels like a matter of seconds. This adventure that I keep telling myself is like a marathon, is somehow feeling like the fastest sprint I have ever run. I often find myself laying in my nest wondering how I can stop the clock. Another misconception that I had was my belief that this summer abroad was going to be some type of sacrifice as I left behind what felt comfortable. 22 days later, I realize that this is nothing short of a great privilege—a privilege that I did nothing to deserve.

As I look back on my time here thus far, I think about how my experience is so unique from some of my other friends who are studying abroad. The Joseph S. Bruno program is not just about taking that perfect Instagram picture. It is about learning about where the history of the world began and realizing that you are standing on the grounds where incredible people stood, and still stand today. As Chigi Palace Sister #3, I guess I owe a debt of gratitude to the academic advisor who told my eldest sister to take the wrong humanities course. That advisor accidentally and unknowingly changed the way my family sees beauty, history, and the world. So here is to a summer like no other. Here is to a program that is one of a kind. Here is to all the people who made it possible. And fiinally, here is to all of the past and future Chigi babies.


The Third and Final Christensen Sister—Emily 

Fellow Chigi Babies and I in front of the Vittorio Emanuele Monument on the first day of our “Grand Tour”

Full Camera, Full Heart

Going into college, I knew that I could not let myself graduate without studying abroad. Everyone that I talked to before coming to Auburn said they had either studied abroad and had the most amazing experience, or had not and regretted it. When I signed up for the JSB program at Camp War Eagle I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t research the program, I was not even sure of the minor that it would give me, all I heard was “Summer in Rome” and immediately knew that I needed to sign up.

Fast forward 2 years, and here I am. This short month that I have spent in Ariccia has changed my life completely, and this group has changed my life completely. Coming into the palace I was unsure of what to think. I felt like most of the students knew each other already, and I was intimidated. But, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Every single student on this trip is so special and genuine, everyone makes an effort to be friends with every single person. Having all of these different and unique friendships is something that has played a huge part in making this experience so amazing.

In addition to that, being able travel all over Europe is one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. There is so much culture and history everywhere I look. From the Roman ruins to the Vatican City, it is amazing to think that you are walking in some of the same places that various famous rulers, popes, artists, and many more once walked on. Every single field trip that we go on and sight that we see gets more amazing. My camera is full of pictures from every single place that we have traveled, in the hopes that I will capture enough of them to be able to relive this experience through the photos once I return home. Although, it’s not going to be easy to make me leave this wonderful place.


Isla Stewart

During a weekend trip on a sunset boat cruise in Barcelona

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

Emma Walker

During the past 3 weeks in Ariccia, I have learned a very important lesson: open your mind and step out of your comfort zone. 

I will not forget the first few days in the small town of Ariccia. I was dumbfounded by the buildings, the view from the bridge, the art, and of course by the food. I remember being overwhelmed by the cultural differences and almost timid to fully immerse myself. I have come to realize how important it is to open my mind and appreciate every piece of this town and the culture surrounding it. Some of my favorite times here are when we are able to interact with actual residents of the Castelli Romani. For example, when we visited the high school I was blessed with the opportunity of meeting a group of fourth-year girls and hearing their thoughts on their hometowns, learning about their day-to-day activities and having the opportunity to compare it with my thoughts on my hometown and day-to-day activities. This experience was so impactful to me because I was able to learn from girls that were close in age to me about the way others live outside of my comfort zone and outside of my bubble. 

I have not been in Ariccia long, but this experience is beginning to make me not just change the way I see the world, but actually see the world and appreciate places that are outside of my bubble and my comfort zone. I am looking forward to learning more important life lessons over the weeks to come!

An image of us immersing ourselves in Italian culture learning about Italian aperitivo and trying new foods!

Being Present in Appreciation

About four weeks ago, I was in Auburn, Alabama, stressing about final projects and how much school work was on my plate. I was running around like a crazy woman not able to truly think about or appreciate what I was doing, just trying to get through it all. Sooner than I realized, I would be headed to Ariccia, Italy to take on a great adventure!!

As I have been here in Ariccia for almost three weeks now, it has been pretty surreal to me. There is so much culture and beauty around me I fear that I won’t be able to take it all in! Almost every single day I have learned something new. Whether that be about the beautiful church across the street, a painting in Rome, an Italian phrase spoken with partial accuracy, or a new discovery even about myself. Being in Italy has made me realize what a gift education is, especially when it is interesting and applicable! I appreciate the information that our Italian professors are giving us, especially because you can see the excitement and pride they hold in their hearts for what they are teaching. They love to share the beautiful nooks and crannies of their country and, seemingly, never grow weary of it. I want to bring this energy and motivation to learn back to Auburn with me when I return. We have already learned so much here in Italy, and there is still much time to learn even more! I hope that we can all soak in this gift to its full capacity.


Claire Darnall

Our first trip to the Ariccia market! Learning to appreciate the little things like fresh food and simple Italian phrases such as “cuanto costa?’ (how much does this cost?).

No Time to Sleep When You’re Living in a Dream

It took until my feet touched Italian soil for returning to Ariccia to not feel like a dream. I couldn’t believe I had been afforded the opportunity to come back to the JSB Auburn Abroad program as the Spring 2019 Administrative Assistant. Sometimes it still feels like a dream, especially on days like last Thursday as we walked through the Ninfa Gardens with all the spring flowers in bloom.

While what I have been seeing isn’t always new to me, I am getting to share these experiences with new people. Each one of them has made my time here even more enjoyable. In these final weeks, I hate to go to sleep at my usual early hour as the time is running out that I will get to spend with them all.

Last night a few hours of sleep were exchanged for one last dinner at Fortini and a communal brainstorming and giving out of superlatives. Hearing everyone’s’ humorous quirks and personality traits reminded me how well this program bonds together those who may not normally have crossed paths or become friends back in Auburn but will now be life-long friends after sharing this experience.

I came here with the intention of serving these 21 ragazze (girls) well so as to make their experience the best it could possibly be, and after last night I think I was successful.  While exhaustion or homesickness make moods take a dip every once in a while, I think everyone is leaving with bittersweet feelings because we’ve come to love our time here so much. I know I will continue to miss my favorite place in the world and some of my new favorite people.

Fino alla prossima volta (until next time),

Morgan Winston

A picture I took on our field trip to the Ninfa Gardens

A Letter To The Girls Here

Before coming to Italy, I struggled with anxiety. This had plagued me since high school, and I believed anxiety was going to be something that I just had to “deal with” as I grew up. I thought anxiety was a normal feeling everyone experienced.

I would never have imagined the impact the JSB program would have not only on my anxiety, but on my self-confidence. I have been able to conquer this because of all the people here.

In the first week, I was thrown into an unfamiliar place with twenty-one other girls who I barely knew, but lucky for me, these girls are some of the best people I have ever met. Every girl here has had an impact on my life, whether they know it or not. Every morning I wake up and feel completely loved and supported. Never did I think that twenty-one girls who were not in my life before this experience would have such an influence on me now.

I have never been this confident with who I am, and it is because of the people on this program. Living so close to twenty-one other girls forced me to experience the good and the bad within the first couple of weeks. Tears from laughing so hard we could not control them, and tears from being away from home were shed in the first couple of weeks and immediately brought us closer.

Now, nine weeks in, I could not imagine not having these girls in my life.  Every bad day has been fixed with a little a smile, or for this group, a witty comment about what we are doing. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to meet and become such good friends with everyone here.

As I am writing this, I am sitting in the Palace kitchen, blasting music while we all sing along to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. It is little moments like these that I am going to miss. I always have said I wanted a sister, well now I have been blessed with twenty-one.

Evan Sharp

This was an amazing moment shared with one of my best friends!

Making wishes.. and Splashes

Today marks the first day of week five. It seems like yesterday when I was on a plane ride, surrounded by girls I did not know, and heading to a place I had never been. This morning I can look around at all these girls, and it does not make sense to think that a few weeks ago we had never known one another. It is bittersweet to see the time fly by, as the more it goes the more memories we have made, but the closer our departure comes.

I had so many dreams and expectation when embarking on this semester. I think that we all imagine things as we prepare for traveling and sightseeing. A lot of girls have had the ideas of memories and pictures floating around in their heads since they signed up for the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program.. This goes for me when thinking of our fieldtrip to Rome for our “Grand Tour.”

I for one love the Lizzie McGuire Movie. It is the ideal picture of what every girl’s study abroad experience could only hope to live up to. Particularly in this movie, Lizzie, the main star, makes her debut wish at the beloved Trevi Fountain, she falls head over heels for a celebrity Italian, and in the end becomes a pop sensation. As you can imagine my hopes were set extremely high for my wish at the Trevi Fountain.

My day had finally come, with a coin in hand, I arrived at the Trevi Fountain with my sweet friend Gabrielle arrived at the Trevi Fountain with the group ready for our picture. It was crowded but we waltzed our way up to the front and were ready to throw our coins in to cast our wishes. As I went to throw my coin in, little to my surprise, did I know I mistakenly had allowed my phone to be tossed into the fountain instead! Well, as my phone is my lifeline I did what any one would have done, and I proceeded to also throw one more thing into the fountain- my entire body.

As I was diving into the fountain it occured to me that what I was doing was an absolute mistake, especially after I could not even manage to find my phone, I knew I had really messed up. My friends helped me out of the fountain, and I had to endure the pain of watching my phone lie in the middle of the fountain while I stood soaking wet in the cold.

On the bright side I had to go buy a new outfit, and I got my new favorite pair of sweatpants, which keep me warm in the palace.

Trevi Fountain, I will soon be back to reclaim my wish, and I will have my Lizzie McGuire movie moment once and for all.

Me after my dive into the Trevi Fountain

Dreams Really Do Come True!!

I signed up for the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program when I was at Camp War Eagle before my freshman year. I studied abroad in high school for part of the summer, and since that day knew I had to study abroad for a whole semester! So, after four years of saving, two(ish) years of getting excited about studying abroad, and weeks of preparing the time has come. I said Arrivederci “goodbye” to America and Ciao “hello” to Italy.

Our first evening in the Chigi Palace we read letters from the students who attended the JSB program in the fall. The letters were filled with encouragement, advice, and fun places to visit. Seeing how much this semester has meant to those before us makes it easy to see it is true when people say this is an experience-of-a-lifetime.

On Friday, we went to Rome on our first field trip out of the Ariccia area. We visited the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and so much more throughout Rome. It was such an experience to learn about the history of Rome. As part of a school assignment, each student was assigned something to either research and be an expert on,or to remind the class of something we have previously discussed. It was so fun to hear what my classmates found interesting at the sites we visited.

As my first week comes to end, I cannot help but feel blessed. Blessed to get to study abroad, blessed to make new friends, and blessed to get to see so much in Italy and all of Europe during my time here.

——Elizabeth Bundrick

Bury Me in Positano

This past weekend we visited Positano, which essentially is a small town carved into the side of a cliff off of the Amalfi Coast. Of all the places I have been, Positano is the most captivating and breathtaking. The moment when I first saw the views from the winding streets above the water struck me as nothing else has before. I was instantly in love with Positano and everything it had to offer.

As a group, we were fortunate enough to stay together in a beachfront villa that was quaintly positioned between two restaurants. We had our own private beach with views of the cliffside. The greatest part about Positano was waking up with everyone enthusiastically throwing on swimsuits and sunscreen and heading out to relax for the entire day. We started each day with a cappuccino and a croissant and ended it with a nice glass of wine.

Reilly and me on the beach

On Saturday we took two private boats on tours of the coast and oh my goodness; it will change your life. From jumping out of the boat into the crisp, salty water, to snorkeling in caves, and eating gelato in Amalfi, it was the time of my life. The weekend in Positano was a time to bond and get to know everyone else better, and it has enriched this next week already.

The Positano field trip was not included in the program cost, but if offered the opportunity to go, take it because it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The trip was set up for me, which made planning very easy, but we made sure to book the boat trip well in advance of going.

The photo I have chosen is of Reilly and me standing on the beach with Positano in the background. To me, this represents the essence of Positano because the photo is almost unreal and Positano feels just like a dream. I tried to take advantage of every moment I had in Positano because I never wanted to leave. It is the most amazing place in the world.

Julia Roddam

Wandering in Rome

This is a picture of my first time in Rome on the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy Program. I learned a lot on this field trip . I indulged in many delicious foods, which was fair since life if about balance and I walked 12 miles that day.

Rome’s vast size requires to have somewhat of a plan before coming it is imporant  in order to avoid blood stained socks from blisters. However, I chose to wander aimlessly in Rome with my friends and the blisters and dirty socks were worth it. Every street is a new and exciting surprise, lined with shops on uneven cobblestoned with hurried locals shopping and yelling greetings through open doorways. It is truly a beautiful energetic city.

I chose this picture of myself on a random moped because it is a great representation of this program and why I came. I came to Italy to experience many random places and travel in new, fun ways. Also, the stickers on the moped had locations all over it and I hope to visit many places. So far, I have been to Budapest, Hungary and Positano, Italy, and both were amazing.

Another significant symbol is the Gelato cone. It has truly become a part of my everyday life, and I know already I will miss it dearly when I go back to Georgia in November. So, for now while I am abroad, on my many future trips to Rome, I will continue to be on the on the hunt to discover all the pizza and gelato I can handle.

-Anna Caitlyn Camp