With a fantastic month in Italy, 10 new friendships, and an expanded knowledge of Italian classical literature and art under my belt, I was as reluctant to return home as I was excited to see my family again. Even so, I was looking forward to some peaceful nights sleeping in my own bed and taking a break before working on the final.

After a day of long flights, mask breath, and trekking through airport lines, I was glad to be home. I showed off my souvenirs and gifts (while discovering I have a shopping problem!), played board games with my family, and had a long, long night of sleep. My rest wasn’t meant to be very peaceful, however.

When I woke up the next morning, I saw a message stating that one of our group had tested positive for COVID, ratcheting up my stress levels. I felt fine, and my test that day came back negative, but we decided I should isolate just to be safe. As it turns out, that was the right decision, because I tested positive for COVID my second day home.

My symptoms weren’t bad, but I was concerned about spreading it to my family, so I holed up in my room and got to spend some days and nights in my bed (I jinxed myself!). As a consolation, I did decide to take the break and waited a few days before starting work on my final. 

Since then, I have tested negative, recovered from my symptoms, completed my coursework, and received my final grades. Even though the last few days of my summer trip weren’t ideal, I can still say that I really enjoyed my time abroad and I’ll remember it forever.

Some advice for future students on faculty-led study abroad trips:

Shopping on a Sicilian beach
  • If going on a trip which involves reading, try to get some of that done before you leave. It was much easier when I could review a few chapters of The Aeneid online before class than when I had to read through sections of Dante’s Inferno after a tiring day out and about.
  • While abroad, start thinking about assignments early. For essays, having an idea of what I wanted to write when the assignment was introduced was very helpful in fleshing out my writing later on.
  • Don’t wait too long to work on the final: This was a mistake I made. I found that, coming back to the material later, I had to reread a lot of it to recall exact details. Doing a little every day, or maybe only skipping a day or two, would have made the texts stick better in my mind.
  • Don’t be afraid to be silly. One of the times I had the most fun was when I watched the sunset with my new friends, climbing on top of a lamppost dramatically and swinging around it like we were in a musical.
  • Take pictures! I swear I took more pictures this summer than I have in the last 3 years, and I’m glad I did. They were helpful with assignments when we needed to write about art or architecture, but also to remember the adventures we had.
  • Take some down time. These trips can be a lot more than studying – I loved spending time with my fellow travelers, individually, in small groups, and all together. All of my best memories are memorable because of them.

Though my time in Italy is over, I hope to maintain the friendships I made there and to visit Rita’s for gelato with them as a reminder.

Arrivederci, Italy.