One year into the pandemic, students reflect on being sent home from precious times abroad

Quinn McGuire abroad in Rome.

Jessica Ames Reporter

One year ago, as he stood on top of Florence, Italy’s famous cathedral, current KSU senior architecture student Quinn McGuire was in awe of the European city surrounding him. He believed the city would be his residence for the next four months. 

McGuire and a cohort of other students were one month into their study abroad program in Florence, Italy, when in late February they received an email alerting them that they were being sent home because of COVID-19 risks

Now, McGuire reflects on his time abroad, stating, “because it was such a chaotic period of time, I wasn’t really thinking about all of the incredible things I got the chance to experience and I was just pretty angry that I was being sent home so soon.”

Many students felt emotions similar to McGuire, such as senior fashion merchandising major Maggie Kesler who spent months prior to her departure planning every aspect of her trip and purchasing tickets for weekend excursions that never happened. 

Kesler expressed her frustrations and stated that after she arrived back home, she would exchange texts with her roommate reading, “we were supposed to be in Paris today…”

The financial impact of the sudden departure from the foreign city was felt by senior fashion design major Mattney Yates, as she had to take out student loans for the first time to attend the program. 

“I went into debt to study overseas and to travel to places that in the end I wasn’t able to go to,” Yates said. 

Although the experience was unusual for the spring 2020 study abroad group, as they reflect back on the memories they were able to make, they express appreciation for the opportunities they were given.

“I now realize it was surreal living in a city as beautiful and historically rich as Florence; it was hard to believe,” McGuire said.  

Kesler was able to go outside of her comfort zone and participate in activities she wouldn’t normally do, like skydiving. 

“I might have thrown up afterwards, but I am so happy I pushed myself to do it,” she said. 

And Yates wouldn’t change a thing about her experience as she was still able to travel to places like Rome, Paris, Siena, Switzerland and Amsterdam.

“You don’t take opportunities like those for granted and I am thankful I was able to see the beautiful places I did,” Yates said. 

McGuire, Kesler and Yates hope to go back to Florence, but since they are seniors, they will not be able to experience the Kent State study abroad program again. 

“Although my trip was cut short because of the pandemic, I would still recommend for people to go abroad because it was well worth it,” Kesler said.  

The Kent State study abroad program in Florence, Italy, has been educating students for more than 40 years. As of last spring, the program has been on halt indefinitely.

Jessica Ames is a teaching reporter. Contact her at [email protected].