I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that I had the best time in Rome, Italy. It got cut super short and although I was only there for a month and a half, I had the best experience I would have loved to try more food, see more soccer games, visit more places, and keep meeting new people but because of the coronavirus, that was not able to happen. Things happened so fast from when cases started appearing in Italy to when we were told we had to leave. When I say fast, I mean it. To be exact, it had been a whole week since the first cases popped up and we had to leave. Everyone in Italy was not really freaking out about it so I really didn’t think that our program would get canceled so fast. The whole week before, we were going to class like normal and really living our normal Italian lives. In the back of my mind, I kept wondering what would happen to our program but I kept trying to keep a positive mind because I could not imagine having to go home so soon.
The funny thing (not that funny in the moment) was that I wasn’t even in Italy when I found out that our program had gotten canceled. I was in London with my friend because as you do when studying abroad, you visit other countries. You can imagine how anxious I was being in another country and being told we had to leave Italy. The night before getting the email about our program being canceled, my friend and I had received the notification that Italy had gotten to a Level 3. In that moment, we realized things were getting real but the last thing we had in mind was that in a couple of hours, we would be getting told we had to leave. We woke up to missed facetime calls and messages from our friends back in Italy and the dreadful email. I was in complete shock and I could not believe it. We cried and were so sad. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to book our flights back home to the USA. Like I said, we were in London. The news really put a damper in our moods and we just couldn’t believe it. We only had one more day in London so we made the best out of the circumstances and enjoyed it the best we could. In the back of our heads, knowing that in a couple of hours we would be going back to Rome only to pack and leave the next day to the USA. We got to Rome Ciampino airport and immediately after they checked our passport, we were greeted with the Thermo cameras and the people in bright orange suits with masks. It was not the most calming sight to see and it brought a lot of anxiety even though I felt fine and I knew it was just protocol. It was very intimidating but we passed through. I got to the apartment and immediately started packing. I had imagined myself packing in the middle of May, not early March. The day was gloomy and it really fit the mood I was feeling. We spent our last night in Rome having a family dinner with all the friends we made during our time in Italy. I had the best food and the best time as a final goodbye to Rome. Something I will cherish forever! The next day, we were leaving by noon to the airport and for breakfast, I had my final authentic Italian gelato because why not!! The car ride was the hardest thing. Passing by the places we would walk by from our way back to school and seeing the tram that would take us to the main Piazza Venezia. It was all starting to hit me. I was actually leaving Rome… 2 months before I was supposed to. It was a very emotional car ride and I could feel tears falling down my face as I tried very hard to keep it together. Rome had started to feel like home. Everytime we would come back from a trip, even if it was for a day, I would come back to the apartment and Rome, and it felt like home. I just couldn’t understand how this was happening.
It’s been over a month since I arrived back in the USA. The first few weeks being back home were the toughest for me. There really was no time for me to even think about what was happening. It was so fast-paced. One moment I was in London, then in Rome packing and then back in Florida. It all happened so fast. Of course, I knew I was going home but had it been in May, it would have been a different (more happy) experience because I would have known I was leaving in May and having been able to experience everything I wanted to experience and see in Italy. Leaving was totally out of the blue and I was not ready. I was not able to do a bunch of things and I felt like I left without saying a proper goodbye to the city and country that I had promised I would see and try everything it had to offer. You dream about studying abroad and living your best life and just like that it was taken away from us because of the virus. I completely understand and am thankful the program got canceled when it did because of what occurred to Italy in the coming days after I left. It was probably the most heartbreaking thing to see. The country you lived in and experienced was facing the worst crisis yet. The busy streets I was once in were now empty, the hustling restaurants and bakeries were now closed, the packed trams and buses filled with people were now just empty seats. When I left Rome, it was not goodbye but a see you later because I hope to be back. Rome was magnificent and I genuinely wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.