On my final day in Rome, I absorbed my favorite parts of the city — visiting the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Piazza Cavour one last time. The streets were packed despite the overcast skies. Though fear over the coronavirus in Italy was mounting, all I could think about that day was how much I was going to miss this place.
On Feb. 29 the decision was made to repatriate students from Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center (JFRC) due to concerns over travel advisory changes because of the Coronavirus, The Phoenix reported.
Students were told to make travel arrangements back to the U.S. no later than Wednesday, March 4. Any additional charges incurred by students on return flights will be reimbursed by the JFRC.
Though the situation is unfortunate, the decision was necessary given the current health crisis in Italy. Currently, there is a 30-day travel ban from the U.S. to Italy and most other European countries.
“When the virus became heightened to a Level 3 I expected to be sent home,” said JFRC student Chris Skinner, “Though I wish I could’ve spent more time in Rome, it was the right call.”
Once everyone knew that their days in the eternal city were numbered, it became all about taking things in one last time. With the knowledge that the worst of the outbreak was hundreds of miles from Rome, students walked around the city — visiting their favorite monument or a new museum.
“It was weird getting calls from my parents saying how worried everyone in the family was because walking around Rome felt no different our last few days there compared to the rest of my time in Rome,” says Mackenzie Cronin, sophomore JFRC student.
As the days winded down and students began to return to the U.S., the nonstop adventure turned into quiet, reflective times. All students returning to the U.S. from Italy must undergo a 14 day observation period during which they’re not allowed to return to any of Loyola’s campuses. Once the quarantine period is up, some students are considering carrying on with their adventure, depending on the health situation in the U.S.
“I am very determined to not let coming home ruin the next few months,” says Cronin, “I am thinking of traveling around the U.S. or something.”
Coronavirus has claimed 4,613 lives and infected 125,048 people, according to World Health Organization Data. It has caused the stock market to plummet and spread fear across the globe. The closure of study abroad programs in Italy such as the JFRC is a symptom of a much greater beast — something that is important to recognize as all students reflect on this experience.
The JFRC has been helpful throughout the whole process. Leading informational meetings and maintaining constant communication with students, the transition has been as good as one could expect given how fast the situation has evolved.
As everyone settles back into the day-to-day in the U.S. it’s hard not to focus on the health crisis that’s plaguing many countries. While it’s hard to comprehend the situation now, many students are remaining positive.
“Being able to study in Rome was a life changing experience,” says Eric Palacella, sophomore JFRC student, “and having it cut short only deepens my desire to return to Europe in the future.”
As the coronavirus continues to spread, it deserves everyone’s attention. It’s impacting more people by the day and everyone must be on board to contain the disease. An early end to study abroad at the JFRC is sad, yet necessary, given the escalation of the virus. As students, all we can do is stay positive and do what is best to stop the disease from spreading further.