Editor’s Note: Marina Chiaramonte is a graduate of Friends School of Baltimore and a current student at Barnard College. This semester, her studies at University of Bologna were cut short when the coronavirus spread through Northern Italy. She returned to the United States where she went into self-quarantine for two weeks. This is the diary of one day during that time.
I wake up, roll over to grab my phone and mindlessly scroll through TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook for about an hour. I can hear Molly, my fellow quarantiner, rustling around downstairs. For two months, she and I were college students doing a semester abroad in Bologna, Italy. As COVID-19 began to spread, Molly and I watched northern Italy slowly descend into chaos from our little apartment. Three weeks ago, when the CDC issued a Level 3 travel warning for Italy, our program was canceled and we were forced to return to the U.S.
Unfortunately, Molly and I were not able to return home immediately as both my parents work in hospitals and her father is immuno-compromised. Therefore, we could not spend our two-week self-quarantine near our parents. Fortunately, we were able to rent an Airbnb in Baltimore for two weeks before returning home.
I’m bored of my phone at this point. I start to stare at the ceiling and my mind begins to wander. I remember how naive I was two weeks ago. Sitting on the plane back from Italy, I brainstormed dozens of things I could do while in quarantine. I wanted to read so many books, finally start doing daily yoga, learn to actually cook something besides pasta, start journaling every day, research future graduate school programs, and finally finish a game of monopoly … the list went on and on.
In reality, aside from catching up on some much-needed sleep these past two weeks (I’m talking 10-12 hours a night), my days are generally unproductive, monotonous and tinged with sadness for what was, but no longer is. Each day I convince myself that tomorrow is the day I finally do something productive (spoiler alert: it never is). Most days the most interesting thing I do is go for a long drive. Thankfully I have been able to use my beloved car, an aging light green 2007 Prius with a barely functioning sound system nicknamed “Percy.” If I wasn’t able to escape the house and go on drives these past two weeks, I think I actually would have actually lost my mind.
I hear my phone buzz and I see a text from Molly saying that she talked with her parents and decided to fly home to San Diego tonight, instead of on Thursday like originally planned. Given the rumors of domestic travel restrictions, this makes total sense, but the thought of Molly leaving is overwhelming. Since the beginning, she and I were in this together.
I sit on an unmade bed watching Molly hastily pack up all of her things in the room she and I have been sharing for the past two weeks. With her half of the unworn clothes, dirty socks, and random moisturizer bottles packed up, the room looks bleak.
I realize just in time that today is my first day of online classes. I scramble to figure out how Microsoft Teams works, and once I figure it out, the system crashes from overuse.
Take two. After five minutes, I realize how rusty my Italian is. I’m frustrated because I haven’t been able to practice in Italian consistently since I got back to the U.S. The reason I chose the program in Bologna was for the intensive immersion experience of living in an Italian-speaking city, with Italian roommates, and being directly enrolled in classes at the Università di Bologna with other Italian students. Now I’m in Baltimore, no one here speaks Italian fluently, and Duolingo just doesn’t cut it. But, considering that there was a possibility at one point that I wouldn’t be able to continue classes or receive any credit for the semester, I’m grateful for every class I’m able to be enrolled in, regardless of the subject matter.
Home with kids and need more activity ideas? We got ’em.
I finish eating dinner. It wasn’t anything fancy, just some pasta and vegetables. I obviously drank a Corona beer for the meme. After eating I sit in my usual spot on the couch to try to read a book I’ve been meaning to get to for months. I turn on my normal Spotify playlist as background music. Then, “Rollercoaster” by the Jonas Brothers comes on. I get sad all over again because three weeks ago, before all of this started, I was at the Jonas Brothers concert in Paris with my roommate and best friend from college, Megan. We had that trip planned since last October. She and I spent the day exploring Paris and ended the trip with the concert. It was a perfect day and we had no idea it would be the last fun trip of our time abroad.
I decide to FaceTime Megan. She is also in quarantine, but in her hometown in South Carolina, after being sent back from studying abroad in London. She and I reminisce about how amazing that weekend in Paris was and how bizarre it is that things have changed so quickly. Megan and I talk about meeting up once we’re both out of quarantine, but are hesitant to solidify any plans or book any travel given how rapidly the situation is evolving.
I’m forever grateful to Megan because when I was unable to return to Italy, I went to London to stay with her. She graciously let me crash on her floor for four nights. She was also with me when I got the news that my program was canceled. Let’s just say there were a lot of tears.
Every night Molly and I would watch a movie because, according to the internet, it is very important to have a routine when in quarantine. Our most recent movie was “World War Z” (a cinematic “masterpiece”), which honestly felt a bit more uplifting than our current situation (thanks, Brad Pitt). Tonight I didn’t feel like watching a movie by myself so I re-watched an episode of “Baby,” an Italian drama, to keep up with my Italian.
I retreat to my bed. With not much else to do, I end the day how I started it, scrolling through my phone. I start to get overwhelmed by the constant COVID-19 reporting on Facebook, so I switch to TikTok.
I’m on TikTok so long that I get that notification from the app asking if I wanted to take a water break. At this point I realize it’s 2 a.m. and TikTok will still be there tomorrow. I turn my phone off and call it a night.
Thankfully my quarantine is essentially over. But, as I’m coming out of quarantine, the rest of the world is starting to implement intense social-distancing. I was so excited to celebrate my quarantine ending by sitting down at a Starbucks like I normally do. Sadly, that is no longer an option.
This experience has reinforced to me how crucial it is that we all quickly implement social distancing procedures to protect not just ourselves, but those around us who are more vulnerable. I may feel young, invincible and desperate to go back to living a normal life, but we all need to be mindful of the safety and well-being of the greater community.
I’ll see you in a few weeks’ time.