During the 2020-2021 academic year, the University suspended study abroad programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this overarching policy has been lifted for the next school year, many other restrictions remain, hindering student plans.
“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” The oraculous Douglas Adams once wrote a book about a book about surviving the Universe and its contents. Diseases that cause global house arrest wouldn’t exist if the Universe didn’t, but then again, neither would Pokémon Emerald or Joe Exotic. One thing that has made our Universe slightly more tolerable (before the age of quarantine) is the ability to travel while “studying” on our little, blue, insignificant planet. It makes us feel more significant (as we can tell by the abundance of social media outbursts from local acquaintances in foreign countries).
A couple of years ago, a friend introduced me to a series of four MBTI-style questions meant to analyze personality traits and preferences. They ask about our choices regarding the following: Favorite color, favorite animal, favorite body of water and reaction to being placed in a doorless, windowless room. This last one came up in a recent conversation with renewed meaning in this time of Coronavirus. Identical as our circumstances of self-isolation might seem, everybody’s experience has differed vastly – in ways that location, socioeconomic status or other concrete factors don’t seem to fully capture. As an international student studying abroad, there was a point where I felt like I had more doors, windows of opportunities than I knew how to responsibly choose between.
As one of my professors put it, “Italy is always great love or great sadness.” This past week was one of the craziest weeks of my life. I had been studying abroad at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy through Academic Programs International (a Cornell affiliated program) since Jan. 13, yet everything was about to change. Landing in Rome from a weekend trip in Zurich, Switzerland on Feb. 23, my phone turned on to a New York Times notification that there was a COVID-19 outbreak in Northern Italy: 50,000 people in 11 towns were in quarantine with over 100 infections.