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Coming Home from Study Abroad During Coronavirus

After dreaming of the day I would get to study abroad and travel Europe for nearly seven years, this is not at all how I expected my adventures to play out. Ever since I can remember, studying abroad in Italy has always been something I thought about throughout high school, and then in the beginning of college. I’ve always been someone who loves to go explore, try new things, and adventure out of my comfort zone, which is exactly what my two month experience abroad gave me. Along with all the stories that I have from being in Europe, I can now add to that the stories of coming home amidst a global pandemic that was still fairly new at the time.

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I began my study abroad experience in January of this year, and like most semester long programs we were set to stay until May. I am incredibly grateful for the time that I did get to spend in Italy, but there will always be a part of me wanting more of this experience. When the first few cases of the Coronavirus came to be in Italy, we had a sit down meeting with all of our school administrators, and they told us that since our region wasn’t affected, we would be able to stay. Good news, right? It’s funny how things can change so quickly in just a week's time. When the topic of Coronavirus was first announced to us, people in Italy were in disbelief. My host dad was telling me all about how it’s just a hoax, and that nothing would happen, and it would blow over in a matter of two weeks time. As we all followed the news more and more, we learned that it was a more serious problem than we had expected.

During the week between the first cases hitting Italy and when we got sent home, myself and the 20 other students that were in my program were all constantly watching the news and waiting for our schools back in the United States to send the email saying we're coming home. Throughout the week, more and more schools were getting sent home, which only made us worry more about the inevitable fact that we wouldn’t be staying in Italy for much longer. Once our schools told us that we needed to get on a plane as soon as possible and come home, the mood immediately dropped for the remainder of the time we spent abroad. We made our flight arrangements as quickly as we could, and packed in a matter of hours. Because of this situation, I flew home on a full flight of people since everyone was in a rush to get back home before they wouldn’t be able to. Walking into JFK airport once we landed, it felt like a ghost town. We were the only people getting off a plane and there was no one else around the airport except for all of our parents waiting for us to arrive. 

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At the end of the day, I can say that this experience was something that I never in a million years dreamed of happening to me! Coming home with the unknowing of what would happen next was scary, but thinking back staying in Italy would’ve been much scarier! My two month experience was still amazing, but next time I travel I’ll definitely be more prepared to face things like pandemics that may strike at some point during my trip!

Jess is currently a senior Marketing major with a HR minor and Digital Marketing concentration at Siena College! She is apart of HerCampus, Lost in Sound A cappella, the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi and is a tour guide on campus! Some of her favorite things include the beach, Boston (and their sports teams), Disney, and being with family and friends!
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