Written by Lauren Roth
The morning I got the email from my school in Italy that it was closing for the remainder of the semester, I was laying in my bed with the boy who I am now in a relationship with. That morning he turned to me before anything happened and teasingly told me, “It’s only a matter of time until all of Italy closes and America makes you go home.” When he said that I laughed and pushed him off my bed telling him to go grab cappuccinos and bring them back to my apartment. The second he left, I got an email. I get the email. The one that said the semester was over. That all 100 American students at the Umbra Institute must be out of Italy in one week, that we must be back in America in one week. Now, I’ve been fortunate enough to never have someone very close to me to suddenly die, but I imagine the feeling I had that morning was very similar to that. What I remember from that moment on was an onset of tears that didn’t stop for anything. I remember having my boy return from getting the cappuccinos and physically having to hold me up because I wasn’t standing on my own two legs anymore.
From that day forward I had a million questions and emotions flooding through me. I was asking myself “why is this happening? Why my school? Why Italy? Why this semester? The virus wasn’t even bad. It was just a flu.” My friends and I scrambled. We all ran around, with tears, questions, anger. We tried to figure out if we still wanted to go to Spain for our Spring break. My one friend, Livy, woke up that morning to the email from the school, and then her flight out of Rome back to America was that same day. All 100 of us were suddenly placed in a position we had no control over. America had declared Italy a level 3, and now we had to leave. There was no way around it. The place we all fell in love with and thought we had another 2 months in, we now had to leave.
That next week people figured out plans. People went home to America, some went to visit other friends abroad, others visited family in Europe, and others, like myself, traveled through Europe. Traveling through Europe seemed like a great idea, but the truth is, we did it because we all still needed the time to process what just happened. I wasn’t ready to face America. I wasn’t ready to stop meeting people who changed my life, who changed my perspective, and who changed me. I was selfish and angry. I wasn’t going to let my experience end yet. So, I traveled. I joined friends and we went to Krakow in Poland, Auschwitz, Prague, Amsterdam, Brussels, Ireland, and London. We did it in a week, or at least we were supposed to. I thought my life would stop turning upside down the minute I left Italy, but it didn’t. Our first night in Brussels I got a text from my two best friends back at Roanoke. It was a headline. Trump was closing the borders to Europe. My friends and I all frantically called our parents back home. I didn’t sleep that night. I got that message at 3am and two hours later I was in a cab to the Brussels airport.
The time frame in which I was forced to leave Italy and return to America was 13 days. In two weeks more events occurred in my life than I could have ever dreamed of. That first day I was convinced no one but my friends at the Umbra Institute would understand what I went through or how I was feeling. On the 13th day, I was confused and lost. A month later I’m sitting in quarantine in my house in America, along with thousands of other students studying abroad who had to return home. A month later America has the most cases in the world for Coronavirus and people still walk free on the streets whereas Italy hasn’t let their citizens see the outside in a month. One month ago I told my friends in Italy that I had never been happier, that I never felt freer and that I truly was living in a movie. In one month the entire globe was altered. In the beginning, I thought no one would understand how I was feeling, but a month later it seems as though we’re all suffering in some way.