Photo courtesy of Zoe Bernardi Zoe standing at the Piazza Michelangelo in Florence.

By: Zoe Bernardi, Columnist

Ciao! Another week, another big change in my life. Last week Italy was in a level two stated by CDC, and overnight it was pushed to a level three. To which UMaine and the risk management team held many meetings to decide what to do.

UMaine chose to pull all programs from Italy and other countries that had a level 3 for coronavirus.

This news came to me late Friday night, I was told that I have to pack my things and leave Italy on Tuesday. This was my last full week in Italy. This is what I did.

The first thing that came with the news was the devastation and sadness. I had been dreaming about studying abroad since I can remember. I was planning this semester a year in advance. I had packed and set goals and wanted to do so much while I was here. To hear a month in that I was being pulled and needed to go back to my house and be self-quarantined for two weeks felt surreal. I was heartbroken. This meant I had limited days to see the town I was just starting to call my own. To say goodbye to the friends I had just started to know and connect with.

However, I was not the only one who had this news. I was one of 5 girls who had the same email sitting in their inbox.

After accepting and processing what needed to get done I needed to plan my week accordingly. I planned on spending as much time with each person in my apartment as possible. First was Yuping, she was sadly the first to return to her home to Taiwan. We spent the weekend drinking wine and reflecting on our shared memories. Having dinner as a group for the last time., all nine girls shared a meal, listened to music and retold stories, followed by dance parties with Gill and Taylor while everyone else cleaned the dishes. The next day we walked around the sunny Florentine streets, snapping pictures and laughing while we ate Italian pastries.

Then it was Kassie, we had been fortunate to share a trip to Milan for Fashion Week and many other daily trips and activities. She took us on the adventure of conquering the 463 steps in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo. Walking up the steep and dark narrow staircases, we went higher and higher up the cathedral. It was a workout, to say the least, but the view from the top was gorgeous. 375 feet high, we could see the whole city, including the apartment we live in, the route we take to walk to class, our favorite gelato shop.

We all laughed as our legs were shaking and in awe of how beautiful our city was. We live here, we shared memories here. It was a moment of acceptance. I have to leave this place, my adventures are coming to an end. But I am so fortunate for the memories I have made and the things I will remember forever.

After Kassie left my roommate, Lindsey, left too. It seems like yesterday we were both so confused and timid sitting in our orientation groups, laughing about the bachelor and getting lost in the streets of the city. I will miss our apartment bachelor Tuesdays when we had to wait 24 hours to view it after it aired in America. We would all wince and cringe at the contestants, wondering what we would do in their shoes. These small moments where we sit in the living room together made us so much closer.

When you live with 9 people that instantly feel like family it is so easy to open up. I am so beyond fortunate and grateful to have met these beautiful people. I was excited to come home and be able to share my day with them. We were all obsessed with each other and cared so deeply about one another that the apartment truly felt like home. I wouldn’t have asked for better roommates to share these moments with.

My roommate Bri left this week as well. This was one of the weirdest changes for me. Living in the same room as someone and then suddenly being alone in the room is a strange transition. Bri and I would often find ourselves staying up late chatting about our lives back home, learning about the day in the life of someone who goes to school in Idaho. We clicked almost instantly. making study plans to get coffee every week and correlating our alarms in the morning. Bri’s last day was special. Together, we started with the Giotto’s bell tower and the baptistery, walking another 280 feet up in the air. Our legs were jello. We also went to the school’s cafe and treated our other roommate Mica to some coffee and pastries. After that began another uphill adventure to Piazza Michangelo, a scenic piazza that oversees the entire city of Florence. You can see the Arno River, the Duomo, Santa Croce and the beautiful mountain range that surrounds Florence. We sat and ate paninis while we shooed away the Italian pigeons.

Although it was sad to say goodbye to everyone, I know it will not be the last time I see their smiling faces. As the bond and connection grew, the apartment we grew together was magical and will never break. I am so fortunate for the time I have spent in Florence and all that I was able to do. I have a few more days to soak up the Italian sun and bathe in the culture before I must return to America.


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