Study abroad is referred to as the experience of a lifetime. And it has been a quite unique experience for all international students studying in Italy during the Spring 2020 semester. When several countries banned entry to and from Italy, most international students were invited by their home institutions to go back as part of their emergency plans. Some left and some decided to stay. Nevertheless all of them were offered the opportunity to take their courses online. We asked some students to recount their experience so far and tell us what they’ll do when the
lockdown will end.
Isabella Ciccone, The College of New Jersey
My experience as an international student at Cattolica with the emergency and online classes has been good. I have decided to continue my studies at Cattolica to be fully immersed on Italian culture and take home a study-abroad experience. The distance learning has been a bit of a challenge at the beginning, especially due to technology and internet connection issues. Some people are even in different time zones. It was upsetting that I did not get the chance to step foot into a classroom, and meet my professors and classmates in person. However, I am satisfied with the assistance that I received and the academic offering of Università Cattolica. I also feel more confident in reaching out to people for help. Moreover, I have learned to appreciate more the people around me even though we cannot meet in person. I feel upset that I had to leave Italy and go back home because I had to leave a country that I fell in love with and a culture that I wanted to be immersed for longer than two months. I encourage my friends and
classmates that we reach out to each other, whether they need help or just want to talk, because community is important in difficult times like this. We must stick together and help one another. One thing I know for sure: the first thing I’ll do when things get back to normal is try to find a way back to Italy.
Laura Resende Gual, Universidade de São Paulo
I decided to stay in Milan and continue the program because I still think that I am learning lots of new things. My university chose me for this program, giving me this amazing opportunity to study different subjects and gain new perspectives. Despite the situation, I must say I am quite enjoying the distance-learning classes. Considering that now I have more free time, I am trying to focus more on my studies. However, I miss the interaction in the classroom with my classmates and professors. During this difficult time, I reflect on how we must live in the present and not only focus on our future plans because we don’t
know what the future holds. If I could, I would tell all my friends and classmates that we must live what life offers and learn from it. If we only long for the experiences that we could be living, we are not going to realize how much we are missing out on our present lives. The global pandemic has questioned what matters to us, and if we learn from it, there might be a better future for us. And when all of this finishes, I will run to Panificio Luini, near Duomo, to buy and eat a good panzerotto then watch the sun set in Duomo as I catch up with my friends.
Warner Hellyer, North Central College
I have decided to continue my exchange program via online learning while back in the States, because I needed to be sure to receive credits for this semester to graduate on time. Plus, I am very excited for the courses I have enrolled in at Cattolica. My online learning experience has been different from what I expected when I first flew to Italy – mostly due to the fact that the materials, assignments, and structure were all designed to be in person and in the city of Milan. It has been challenging to follow, retain, and grasp the lectures. However, there is so much grace and appreciation to the Professors on how much effort they have put into converting their classes to online teaching. Through this experience, I have learned how important community and building strong relationships are. I used to share stories and cups of coffee with my friends, but today we log in on Zoom and talk about our day in our pajama. Then, I realize how important it is to support and encourage one another in this tough time.
The first thing I am going to do when things go back to normal is go out, celebrate, dance, and laugh with my friends!
Zijin Xu, Xi’an International Studies University
“To leave or not to leave?” I was at a loss when the pandemic broke out in Italy, but, in the end, I decided to stay in Milan and continue my exchange program. I love it here! I enjoy the study life at Cattolica and I’ve gotten used to the life in Milan. I have dedicated a lot for this academic year in Milan, and I am not willing to lose this precious opportunity. Even though the epidemic situation in China is getting much better, it doesn’t mean that I will be 100% safe. Going back could mean spending dozens of hours at airports and on the plane, which could lead to a higher risk of infection on my way home. Università Cattolica has switched in-person classes to online learning. I am quite satisfied with the transition. Moreover, there is the constant support from the International Office as they keep in touch with the international students. I try to look at this difficult period as an opportunity, where I learn to keep my spirit up, and to take care of myself. As the situation gets better in Italy, I become more relaxed and calm. I look forward to hosting a big party at a delicious Chinese restaurant with my friends. I haven’t seen most of them for more than two months. And I can’t wait to go back to Cattolica as soon as possible!
Article featured on Worldbound, edition n.4-2020.