GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — After five semesters of study abroad programs canceled, 17 students from East Carolina University are finally getting on a plane to head to Italy later this month.
“We had to bring all of our students back home in March of 2020,” said Jon Rezek, ECU assistant vice chancellor of Global Affairs. “After that period of time, we had to cancel summer programs for 2020, fall programs of 2020, spring of 2021 and summer of 2021, as well.”
That means it’s been 18 months since ECU students have been abroad, and for ECU Tuscany Program Director Linda Darty, she’s ready to travel again.
“I get chills to think that we’re actually going back,” Darty said.
Darty and her students will travel to the small town of Certaldo Alto in Tuscany, Italy. Students Alexandra Williams and Christian Hassell said they are looking forward to the change in pace.
“We really like ECU on campus but especially during the lockdown we want to venture out a little bit more,” said Williams.
The delta variant and rising COVID-19 case numbers are still an issue, but the group is going to be cautious.
“They are requiring that we all be vaccinated,” said Darty. “We’re going to wear our masks everywhere, use hand sanitizer, sanitize the classroom constantly and restrict travel.”
There are still a few doubts about the trip from students.
“We are knocking on wood every time we think that anything could happen especially with the Delta variant,” Williams said.
Student Eli Riffle is thinking positively.
“I’m choosing to say, ‘We’re going to Italy, we’re going to make it there and whatever happens will happen,'” Riffle said.
For the students and Darty, this is an exciting time to get to know the world.
“It feels like a great privilege to even get to go,” Williams said.
“Meeting people across the world is going to be completely life-changing,” said Riffle.
“I watch these students change,” Darty said. “Their view of the world broadens immediately. They go as one person and come home completely changed.”
Neither Darty or the students want to be sent home in the event of another lockdown, but they have a plan in place to isolate in Italy or come home if the COVID situation worsens.