As Covid-19 spread worldwide, Briana Maldonado, a junior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, figured that her longtime plan to study abroad was off the table.
But when she checked in with her adviser, she found that she could still apply to go abroad. “What do I have to lose?” she told herself as she filled out the paperwork. “The worst that could happen is that I couldn’t go.”
Instead, Briana is one of a dozen students in Florence this spring on a program run by CAPA, a private provider.
By and large, the pandemic has grounded education-abroad programs for the past year. Yet, a small number of students have managed to study overseas. I talked with three of them about what they’ve learned — and why they were so determined to go.
Catalina Barroso Delarosa, a senior at Temple University, had just arrived in South Korea last February when Covid cut her program short and she was told to return to America. This might be her only chance to get an international experience, so she crammed as much as she could into the day before her flight, visiting sites, going shopping, eating out at Korean restaurants.
But this semester, Temple decided to open its campuses in Rome and Toyko to study-abroad students. (You can read about how the university navigated Covid protocols in my article for the Chronicle, The Year Without Study Abroad
.) Catalina, who had won scholarships for study in Asia, decided to go to Japan.
There were a few hiccups — when Japan abruptly imposed an entry ban, Catalina and her 35 classmates had to depart early before the border restrictions took effect.
Living in Tokyo, where case counts have been low, she has mostly been struck by how normal everything is. Classes are in person, and the subway, which she takes to her internship working as a teacher’s aide, is crowded. When we spoke, she was planning a weekend bus trip to Osaka.
“It’s kind of like how I always imagined it would be,” she said of her study-abroad experience.
In Italy, the pandemic picture has been more mixed. With case counts on the rise ahead of the Easter holiday, Briana’s classes temporarily moved online. She also had to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in Florence, but she says dealing with the safety protocols was worth it:
“If I’m going to have to stay inside, I might as well have a different view, a different country, a different culture outside my window.”
Florence usually teems with foreign students, and residents have embraced the few studying there now, Briana said. While she hasn’t been able to travel to Paris or Rome, as she had expected, she has been exploring the city. She has her favorite coffee shop and gelateria and has learned to cook Italian dishes.
After a year of online learning, “I feel like this is really what I needed,” she told me.