While Auburn, Ala. and Ariccia, Italy are separated by thousands of miles and lie on different continents, the bond formed between the two cities was born out of a vision from former College of Human Sciences Dean Emeritus June Henton and leaders in Ariccia, the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad program will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at a special night in the Chigi Palace.
Twenty years and more than 1,000 students later, Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy is the preeminent study abroad experience as the historic Palazzo Chigi 17th-century palace serves as Auburn University’s sole permanent international campus located in Ariccia, Italy. “Dean Henton had envisaged an initiative to give vision and international exposure to the College of Human Sciences and Auburn students and within a few months we conducted a pilot program with five students in the summer of 2002,” Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy Resident Director Maurizio Antonini said. “That was a great success and opened the path to an uninterrupted presence of Auburn students in Ariccia since that time.”
Henton’s belief that College of Human Sciences students at Auburn deserved to experience a fully immersive educational experience through global programs and initiatives came to fruition with the assistance of long time and beloved resident Marco Antonini. Together with the Antonini family, they developed a curriculum combining class lectures with excursions throughout Italy, while simultaneously reinvigorating the town of Ariccia with international perspective.
“More than 1,000 students have experienced this transformational offering in Italy over the past two decades, most saying their time here left an indelible mark and broadened their worldview and cultural awareness while growing their family well beyond America’s borders,” College of Human Sciences Dean Susan Hubbard said. “We look forward to expanding the space where the students live in the Chigi Palace, making this available to more students each semester.”
The results have been nothing short of remarkable as the curriculum gives students in the program a chance to experience it all in a time span of 12 weeks where incredible art, history and culture converge. Through a fast-paced mix of classroom lectures followed by field trips to bring meaningful context to what students learn, the memories and relationships made will last a lifetime.
Kaitlyn Reedy, a student who took part in the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad program in the fall of 2022, recounted an experience that was one-of-a-kind.
“The JSB program fulfilled my dream of studying abroad,” Reedy said. “I gained a deeper understanding and love for Italian culture through the hands-on experiences and made lifelong friendships with my teachers and classmates as well. The people I met in Ariccia welcomed me with open arms and made the Chigi Palace feel like a second home. I have also become more confident in stepping outside of my comfort zone and experiencing different things.”
Executive Director of the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program Lydia Witt said the main thing that sets apart the experience in Ariccia is how fully immersed students become in the community where they aren’t just merely visitors.
“There's a lot of great opportunities at Auburn to go study abroad, but this opportunity in particular is really about becoming more immersed in the Italian culture and the Italian culture of a small town,” Witt said. “Through the program activities and the projects that they do, they are then put into direct contact with people, and they are communicating with the citizens and working on a capstone project which is meant to give back to the community. So, they're not there as just purely observers or learners, but they're there as contributors and collaborators within the community itself.”
When asked what it means for Auburn students and faculty to build such strong connections with the Ariccia people the last two decades and in a way become solid ambassadors, Witt said it’s a testament to how successful the relationships between the two cities have been.
“I think what's really special about it are when the students get here in Ariccia people are excited,” Witt said. “They’re so excited and ready to welcome them and it just shows that this relationship that's been ongoing the last 20 years is so important to both parties involved. I think it's a great opportunity for the city of Ariccia and it's a great opportunity for Auburn that we can gain so much from each other.”
Maurizio Antonini reiterated that the relationship between Auburn and Ariccia has only strengthened in the last 20 years, and growth and expansion are expected in the future.
“In the students time here they lived amidst the cultural richness of Ariccia and Rome and for many it has been a real life changing experience,” Antonini said. “For all of us in management here it has been an honor to be able to help this relationship grow and prosper. We are now looking at an expansion in another level of the palace that will help host more students and programs in the future, thus strengthening our bonds.”
For more information on Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy, visit humsci.auburn.edu/globaled/jsb.php.