Adan Youngblood: Architecture in Rome
Almost a year before my study abroad program took place, I sat at The Bean coﬀee shop, clicking the refresh button on my email over and over. My friends had started receiving their Architecture in Rome acceptance emails, and I was anxious to receive mine. When the email ﬁnally appeared, I opened it to conﬁrm that my dream of studying abroad in Italy with my friends and classmates would be happening in Spring of 2020! It would be my ﬁrst time traveling abroad, and I was beyond excited.
Even though I was exhausted, I couldn’t sleep at all on my ﬂight to Italy. I stared out the window almost the entire time, and got to see Spain, then the Alps, then ﬁnally the rolling hills of Italy as the sun rose. I knew already that this experience going abroad would be my favorite part of college.
As my classmates and I soon settled into our Italian apartments and routine. We attended class in a beautiful palace in the city center, and almost every day we would take class trips to visit famous pieces of architectural history, including Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Roman Forum. It was amazing to see all of these places in real life after having studied them in previous architectural history courses. In addition to these famous monuments, I also got to experience a more modern neighborhood of Rome in my studio class that I never knew existed, with works by famous architects Renzo Piano and Zaha Hadid. As I spent more and more time in the city and learned more about it, I enjoyed and appreciated it even more.
Every night, as I would read the news before falling asleep, I would read stories about a new virus that was devastating China. At ﬁrst, it seemed so distant that I did not give it much thought, but over time, the virus started to creep more and more into our lives. I was stopped by security guards in the airport who took my temperature, and I was confused at what they were doing, until I remembered the virus. I occasionally noticed people wearing face masks in the street. My mom would call me to talk about the virus, and I assured her that everything would be okay. One day, while walking around Rome and taking photographs, I got a news alert on my phone that there were two conﬁrmed cases of the virus in Rome. I felt a sinking feeling, and walked all the way home, refusing to take the subway out of fear.
Still, in between these slightly unsettling events, my abroad experience continued on. I got to spend my birthday on a trip with my classmates to the beautiful Hadrian’s Villa and Tivoli. I traveled to Florence, and got to climb to the top of the Duomo with my friends and look over the breathtaking view of the entire city. We took a train to Pisa, and admired the Leaning Tower. On a trip to Barcelona, I attended mass at the Sagrada Familia, the building I wanted to see more than any other in the world, and it was even more incredible than I thought it would be.
Then, during the last week of February, the virus began creeping into northern Italy. I had planned a trip to Venice that weekend, and we decided to still go, since the cases were only in the single digits, and the risk seemed low. The city was lively with Carnival celebrations while we were there, but as we took the train back to Rome, we learned that the remaining celebrations had been cancelled that night due to fears of the virus.
The next week, all the Auburn students debated every day whether we would be going home early or not. We saw on the news that several schools in northern Italy had canceled study abroad programs, and we were afraid we would be next. When one of the schools attending the same Rome Center as us got pulled home, we were sure that our program being ended early was inevitable. Still, we did not think it would be as soon as it was.
On my last night, I went to sleep with plans to go to the Borghese Museum in the morning. At 4 a.m., one of my roommates woke me up to tell me that we were, in fact, being sent home, and I should probably get up and make ﬂight plans, since everyone was scrambling to switch their ﬂight and make plans to ﬂy back home to the U.S.
I was heartbroken. I did not want to leave Rome, or my friends that I had grown closer to. There were still so many things I wanted to do. Still, there was nothing I could do, and by 11 a.m. on that same day, I was on a ﬂight back to the U.S. after saying a tearful goodbye to everybody.
The ﬁrst time I opened my laptop back at home, my Rome bucket list was still pulled up on my computer, with many things completed, but many still left unchecked. I closed it quickly, not ready to look at it just yet.
Now, almost 6 months after returning back home, I am so thankful for the time that I did have in Rome. Even though it was cut short, it is still deﬁnitely my favorite part of college. I got to see, experience, and learn so much, and I really felt like being a part of this abroad program helped me to grow as a person. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do, but that just gives me an excuse to travel abroad again in the future! As soon as it is safe, I hope to go abroad again, this time to France, England, the Netherlands, Germany, and, of course, Italy. I am so thankful for my abroad experience and I would not trade it for anything!