Student Perspective: Studying Abroad During Covid
By Nicole Morin ’21
Florence, Italy was everything I dreamed it would be. Waking up to the hustle and bustle of the city was an indescribable experience, an incomprehensible feeling. Navigating the windy cobblestone streets to find my classrooms was a maze I looked forward to solving each day. My classes were small and intimate, filled with students from around the world—each of us eager to learn about wide-ranging topics from Italian language and culture to international sports marketing. I looked forward to my daily americano from the cafe below my apartment while immersing myself in the chaos of this city.
I had no idea that my study abroad experience was about to be over almost as quickly as it began. In late February, just days after Milan Fashion Week, the city became a COVID-19 hot spot, with hundreds of new cases popping up each day. Initially, life seemed normal in Florence (south of Milan). The streets were still crowded with people, and taxis and cars were buzzing through the streets; I felt safe. During the week of February 24-February 29, things would drastically change. I watched as panic spread. People began wearing masks, and the streets were significantly less crowded. I still remained optimistic that I would continue my journey; nothing could get in the way of my lifelong dream.
I was traveling in the Czech Republic on February 29 when I received an email from the International Programs Office explaining that, due to COVID, I must return to the states by March 6. I rushed back to Florence as quickly as possible to pack my belongings. I was heartbroken and disappointed; completely beyond anyone’s control, this experience I had spent months planning and daydreaming about came to a sudden halt.
My last few days in Florence were some of the most bittersweet of my life. I made sure to see the statue of David, climb the steps within the Duomo, walk the Piazzale Michelangelo, and enjoy local cuisine with the friends I made while abroad. We shopped, we laughed, we cried, and we made the most of a terrible situation. Although my study abroad experience was cut short to just five weeks, I have come to accept that everybody has had to miss out on something this year.
I grew in a multitude of ways that I truly believe only international education can provide. I gained fresh perspectives, traveled to five different countries and met people from all over the world. I know that someday I will return to Florence, just as optimistic, hopeful and excited as I was when I arrived on Jan. 25, 2020.