Sadie H. is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Chatham Hall in Virginia.
On Wednesday, March 4th, I walked to school with Lillian as we had done every other day of school. We were all very stressed - we had gone through a few scares with the Coronavirus, and some of our classmates were planning to return to America. Still, we had an English essay due the next day, and students from SYA China arriving on Friday, and life was continuing on. We were restless and eager for a moment of tranquillity that we had been searching for since the previous Monday, February 24, when everything started; a lot of my classmates had travelled to the north of Italy the same weekend that the virus had begun to spread there, and had to be in isolation until the school got direction from the government on what to do. The next day we thought it would all be okay again, as everyone could return to school normally. That weekend was when a few people had decided it was best for them to go home, by Monday it was all normal again, and we just needed a moment to breathe! By Wednesday, the teachers could see we were exhausted, so they gave us classes off and we did other school-wide activities instead. Tuesday we learned how to bake bread and made our own pizzas, and Wednesday we watched a movie together. It was extremely nice to have some time to relax, and we were all getting back to our normal selves. The chaos was definitely bringing our class even closer together. At lunch, we discussed how we would greet the students from SYA China when they got to our school, and we were all so excited to meet them. Our director, Mr. Scanlon, addressed rumors that were going around the city as well as the school, that someone in Viterbo may have coronavirus. We were all a little nervous, just hoping that everything would remain normal for our school.
We remained normal for a little while; we ate lunch, and I went to a nearby cafe for a tè alla pesca, one of my favorite refreshing drinks. At the cafe, I ran into a few friends from school, who informed me that the girl rumored to have coronavirus in Viterbo was tested positive and that schools in Viterbo might be closing, but that we had to wait until that evening to find out. I was definitely scared, but I was just hoping everything would go back down to normal again soon, as it had a few times in the previous week. We discussed what would happen if the schools closed, if we would stay home for two weeks, and if other people in our class would decide to go home. The answer to everything was I don’t know, which we all knew, but the unknown was getting more and more frightening. I finished my drink and went to the gym to try to get my mind off of everything. I was really convinced that this would be like every other time, a moment of fear, and then everything would go back to normal. I walked home and attempted working on my English essay, but my mind was too busy. At 5:09 pm, we got a message from the director of the school on our all-school Slack channel. We were asked to be at school at 6pm for an all school meeting. I called Lillian, and we decided we couldn’t just sit at home and wait. We grabbed our stuff and started walking to school together, although it was only a twenty minute walk. I texted my host mom and told her where I was going. Although nobody had any actual news yet, we knew what was coming. Every student stood outside of our school at 5:55 waiting to be let in. “Maybe they will just tell us that we have to stay at home for two weeks,” someone said. My friend told me she didn’t think we were going home, it just couldn’t happen. It had to be something else. We latched onto ideas of what they could be telling us, anything other than being sent home.
Six days later, I am writing this blog sitting at my home in North Carolina. The last six days were devastating. I don’t know if I have ever cried so much. I keep thinking back to that night; we all burst into tears at school, collected all of our stuff, said our final goodbyes, and then Lillian and I walked home together for the last time. We dreaded telling our host families, and it was as heartbreaking as I expected it to be. Eleven hours later I was on the way to the airport. I felt a piece of me missing on the flights back home. I stared out the window and listened to my favorite Italian songs, each one now holding a completely different meaning.
SYA Italy, you have changed my life forever. I have made lifelong friends, learned important lessons, and become a person who I am proud to be. To anybody considering SYA Italy, please do it! I can say without a doubt that these were the best six months of my life. To my teachers, friends, and host family, vi voglio bene. Grazie per tutto. Ritornerò presto!
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