Returning from Abroad Part Two: Featuring Danielle Guida’s Journey Home from Italy
April 15, 2020
Danielle Guida (C’21) was one of the first students to be evacuated from her study abroad in Bologna, Italy due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in this area. While she was sad to be suddenly uprooted from her new home after spending six months abroad, she is grateful for the experiences she had and knows the importance of living in the moment.
A Year Cut Short
Guida, who is a double major in Economics and Italian, decided to study abroad to fully immerse herself in the local culture.
“I know my Economics major might seem more practical, but Italian is something that I am passionate about,” says Guida. “I have been studying Italian since I was in high school, and I have fallen in love with the country and culture.”
The junior said that she decided to do a full year of study abroad in Bologna, Italy so that she could feel like a true Italian instead of just an American tourist. Though she was fortunate to have been there since August of 2019, Guida said it was very difficult to leave the new home she had found in Italy.
“I was so excited to begin my second semester, because one semester did not feel like enough time to fully adjust to differences in classes and the culture,” Guida says. “I was looking forward to a second semester where I was truly comfortable. But the hardest part by far was suddenly having to say goodbye to all of the friends that I made – I did not know when I would be able to see them next.”
A Canary in the Coal Mine
Italy was the first country in Europe to become overwhelmed by COVID-19. As a result, many people did not understand the severity of the situation.
“My program was through Brown University, and they had merely given us the option to return home that day on February 28, it wasn’t a mandate yet. But that changed very quickly,” Guida says.
By the evening of that same day, the CDC raised Italy’s threat level from a Level Two to a Level Three. The next morning, Guida was told that she had until March 7 to come home.
Guida said that one of the most surreal aspects of her journey home was the discrepancy between the city, which was still operating as normal up until she got in her taxi to leave, and the airport on the day she left. When she arrived, every person she encountered was wearing gloves and facemasks, and all of the TV monitors were playing continuous coverage of the virus and the mounting death toll.
“It was very somber, I remember sitting there surrounded by other college students who were being sent home too,” says Guida. “We just couldn’t stop looking at the screens. I was glad I was going back.”
Adjusting to a New Life
When she first returned to her home in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, Guida was told to self-isolate for two weeks. Initially, she thought that an upside to this experience would be that she could see her friends from back home after quarantining, but sadly, COVID-19 had made its way overseas.
“As my personal quarantine was ending, the quarantine was just starting in the United States, so I have not really seen my friends or my family,” says Guida. “I don’t really feel like I am back because I haven’t really seen it yet.”
Guida was also unsure of how she would continue with her classes as she had returned home before Georgetown had established GUGC, the Georgetown Global Community specifically created for students whose studies were disrupted by COVID-19.
One of the classes that Guida was enrolled in through her Bologna program was very specific and not offered by the GUGC program. However, after speaking with her dean, Guida was given permission to attend the same course through an online community college.
“I thought initially that I was going to be unable to graduate on time since my classes through the University of Bologna had been cancelled,” Guida says. “But because of GUGC and my dean, I am taking two courses, one of which is a core requirement and I will be ahead of schedule. This was scary experience, but it takes an emergency to see how much Georgetown and my program cared about my safety and well-being before anything else.”
Taking It All in Stride
Though the transition back from Italian to American education has been complicated by the transition to online learning, Guida is grateful for the experiences she had and the support she has received.
“One thing I keep in mind during this, particularly in the transition back to being in the United States, is a quote from my Italian professor,” says Guida. “She would always say ‘Other cultures aren’t wrong, they are just different.’ Right now, I feel like we are all adjusting to a new culture and a new way of life.”
In this new virtual environment, Guida makes time to Zoom with friends and fellow classmates, as well as go on socially distanced picnics. Though she is unable to see many people in person, she does not want to miss out on the experiences she does have available to her.
“My takeaway from this is that things can happen very quickly, so it is important to do things while you can and take advantages of opportunities when you have them,” Guida says. There were so many things that I still wanted to do in Italy that I pushed off – I won’t be making that mistake again.”