Coronavirus forces study abroad students to come home

GBHS alum, Dylan Black, flees study abroad program in Northern Italy right before the lockdown and outbreak of COVID-19


DYLAN BLACK/Special to

Dylan Black, a study abroad student in Northern Italy, visited the Piazza di duomo di Milano in Milan, Italy before his trip was cut short.

   Dylan Black, former GBHS student from the class of 2017, was on what was supposed to be an exciting study abroad program in Northern Italy, but it quickly took a turn, leaving him with no choice other than to evacuate the program as quickly as possible.

   Black was planning to finish his economics electives away in Italy at a different school that had class options regarding business and the arts which Westmont College, his current university in Santa Barbara, did not offer much of.

   After leaving for the program in early January, a month before he was intended to leave, Black was beginning to get settled with his classes and new classmates. The program was supposed to go until May and potentially longer depending on his classes, but was soon cut short when COVID-19 took over and began to spread throughout Italy.

   “We did an international students retreat right before the semester started, the weekend before, where we went to Bergamo, where there has (now) been a big outbreak of it, but not at the time. The morning we were supposed to head back to Milan, we found out that classes were cancelled for the next week because of the virus,” Black said.

   Black was also told around that time period that one of the students there had contracted the virus, and since then a few others.

   Luckily, Black was able to flee just in time, before the outbreak became terrifying and the lockdown was put into place. 

   “I was supposed to move into my more permanent apartment stay on Friday during the first week of classes,” Black said, “I had already had some trouble getting some classes and stuff seemed kind of sketchy, so we just decided to come home for a little while – I still had an intention of going back.”

   On February 29th, Black flew home with only a day or two of time to make a decision to come home or not.

   “It seemed to just be getting worse, the metro was deserted,” Black said. Places like Duomo Di Milano were pretty much empty, which it almost never is. Stuff was just getting kind of weird and we weren’t really sure what to do.”

   None of Black’s fellow international students were worried at all, but they all collectively decided that since they wouldn’t know what the flight situation would be like out of Milan in the next few days, they went to Switzerland in order to get out of the contaminated city.

   Now looking back on it, approximately a month since he came home, Black sees clearly that the measures to protect the people of Italy were not taken correctly.

   “I think a large portion of the population (in the US) is still relatively unconcerned or not taking it seriously, which was kind of similar to how it was in Italy,” Black said, “It’s a really strange situation to be in right now because everything (in the world) is shut down right now.”

   Black added, “It’s a weird situation where it doesn’t necessarily affect most of us directly, since it doesn’t really affect us young healthy people that much, but in terms of protecting your older relatives and people who are immunocompromised, it’s really important.”