COVID-19 testing, vaccination cards and face masks are probably not what come to mind when thinking about Florence, Italy. But in the age of the COVID-19, these measures are what allow for students to have study abroad experiences in the city.
Like many other Fairfield students, Claire Brown ‘23 had always planned to study abroad. She says that she knew studying abroad was something she wanted to experience long before she signed up for her trip.
“I really wanted to study abroad like my whole time at Fairfield, even before going to college,” Brown said. “So it was something I knew I had to do.”
Today, Brown is living and studying in Florence. Her plan to study abroad came to fruition as she had hoped, but the process to study abroad was uncertain. She applied to go to Florence last December, when COVID-19 was less under control.
“This was before even the vaccine came out so I was like, who knows how the next few months are going to go,” Brown said. “But lucky enough, it did happen and I’m so happy I’m here.”
According to Global Fairfield, all Fairfield students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to study abroad. They also need to take other precautions while abroad. For the time being, students cannot leave their host country to visit nearby countries.
In Italy, Brown carries around a green pass.
This card proves that she is vaccinated and gives her access to restaurants and stores. She says that many of the safety measures in Italy are more strict than what the United States has in place; for example, she gets her temperature taken whenever she enters new public places.
For a while, Brown didn’t know whether she would be going to Florence at all. After an unsettling process of being unsure about how her plans would unfold, she is now enjoying her time in Italy. She says that the restrictions in place have not greatly impacted her experience.
“COVID has changed a lot,” Brown said. “But in the moment, it doesn’t really process. We’re so used to it now it doesn’t seem like that big of a difference.”
Unfortunately, this type of study abroad experience was impossible for students last year. Students from across the world were sent back home early from studying abroad in March of 2020 when the pandemic began.
As the pandemic continued on, studying abroad was not feasible last school year. Senior Caroline Kent remembers how it felt when her friends who planned to study abroad last year learned that they could not do so.
“Once it got canceled, it was pretty upsetting,” Kent said. “Once COVID hit, everyone kind of saw that it was going to get cancelled.”
For many in this year’s senior class, this was a devastating setback to their plans. Many students who planned to study abroad during their junior year last year have chosen to stay on campus this year after past years were disrupted by the pandemic.
Kent says that the sense of community on campus was different last year than usual, since everyone was on campus rather than many people being abroad like in pre-pandemic years. Despite the challenges, she noticed that her class grew closer during the year.
“I definitely think it helped our class kind of just get closer, leading up to senior year, because we were all together,” Kent said.