Written by Ben Trombetta (University of Virginia), CET Siena, Spring 2020
Obviously, when we decided to study abroad this semester, none of us would have predicted that the coronavirus would escalate into a global pandemic. When the outbreak quickly followed us from Italy back to the United States, however, we all realized the severity of the virus, and proceeded to self-isolate and stay at home with our families.
Transitioning from a completely immersive experience in Italy to learning about Sienese art or the Sicilian mafia or Italian traditions and language online was more sad than anything at first. It was difficult not to think about the “what-ifs” and “what could have beens” while browsing through lectures and slides on Canvas, but I quickly came to appreciate all of the work our professors put into the online transition. In a matter of weeks, our professors and the CET staff learned an entirely new platform and delivered courses online with the same intellectual rigor as we had in person. All of our professors were extremely flexible with deadlines, which I greatly appreciated. Moving back home comes with a whole new set of responsibilities for students, and our professors understood this and trusted that we would get our work done on our own time.
The CET staff, some of our Italian friends, and our professors continued to reach out via Whatsapp and email, providing us with a sense of normalcy and togetherness during these strange times. Our connections with our professors and fellow students did not go away; if anything, they grew stronger despite being faced with a difficult situation. Though videos about Italy will never replace the experience of being in Siena, CET made sure to deliver our full course load online, ensuring that we would receive the necessary credits and grades for the semester. We also got a small refund, which helped to cushion the blow of leaving a 14/15-week program only five weeks into the semester.
Overall, while this is not what any of us were expecting, I am so grateful to CET and our professors for their flexibility and commitment to teaching, and look forward to the day I can return to Siena!