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Study abroad, family-style

November 2, 2012

By Diane Hageman

After an eventful train ride to Veranazza, Italy, it was time to relax and enjoy some good Italian cuisine. L to R: Laura Fruci, Mary Edwards, Diane Hageman, John Stemper, Nicki Stemper, David Stemper and Greta Bajari. Missing from the photo is Rita Roberts, Greta’s mom, who was the photographer.

Editor's note: CSB/SJU Communication & Marketing colleague Diane Hageman recently returned from a visit to Italy, where son David Stemper, an SJU junior, is participating in the Roman/Greco study abroad experience. Diane, husband John Stemper and daughter Nicki  Stemper spent time with David during the weeklong interval between the study site in Rome and the site in Athens, Greece. Here is her story.   

It's often said that Bennies and Johnnies are everywhere.

This statement rang true during an excursion our family took. After a whirlwind five days in Rome with excellent guidance by David, we took a 4 ½-hour train ride to Veranazza, Cinque Terre, one of a series of villages perched along the cliffs of northwest Italy between Genoa and Pisa.

Upon disembarking the main train in La Spezia, a small town five miles from Veranazza, it became obvious we had no clue how to navigate the last leg of our journey.

After a few minutes of bewilderment, we approached a group of four women who looked as lost as we were (which they were).  One of them broke into a big smile. She was Greta Bajari, a CSB junior and David's study abroad classmate.

Thank goodness, Bennies and Johnnies are everywhere!

Greta was traveling with three family members, and they were planning to spend the night in Riomaggiore, another of the five Cinque Terre villages. It was a huge relief for all of us to board a small train and travel the last leg together. But our adventure continued, when Greta's group missed their stop.

Given that it was pitch dark, and we were all in unfamiliar territory, there was universal agreement that all eight of us should get off the train in Veranazza.  Just a few steps from the train station we were greeted by a friendly restaurant manager who helped us get in touch with the proprietor of Francamaria Rooms, our accommodations for the next two days. As luck would have it there was an extra small apartment available for the Bajari group.

As we enjoyed a celebratory meal, David and Greta agreed that acting as tour guides for their families was a lot of hard work!

Over the next few days we all enjoyed the peacefulness of Cinque Terre.  As we snapped a group photo and parted ways - our family heading north to Venice and the Greta's family going back to Riomaggiore and Rome - we were all grateful for the fact that, in this case....

Bennies and Johnnies are everywhere!