When you tell someone you're studying abroad for the semester, you don't necessarily mean from your hometown or on a computer. For Albion goalkeeper Max Loria, his semester abroad was prematurely ended by three months as a result of COVID-19.
Loria, a business major with a minor in international studies, was beyond enthusiastic about studying at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy for the spring semester.
"I was a little culture shocked at first," recalled Loria. "Coming from the suburbs to a big city where everything was on top of each other was such a change."
For the first two months of his trip, Loria did everything one would expect when studying abroad. He traveled to different countries on the weekends, played on the school's soccer team and attended a handful of professional soccer matches. With the Vatican right down the street from campus, Loria always found exciting places to explore during his time abroad.
"I went to nine professional games in the first two months," said Loria. "I really was living my best life."
He landed himself on the John Cabot men's soccer squad -- a group that was excited to have a new goalkeeper. Loria, 20 at the time, was usually one of the youngest players on the field, as most of his teammates and opponents were 25 to 30 years old.
Near the end of February, Loria and some friends ventured to London for a weekend getaway to attend soccer matches, a common occurrence amongst him and his friends.
"At the time we left for London, there were only two positive COVID-19 cases in all of Italy," said Loria. "By the time we got back, there were over 300 in northern Italy alone. They even did a temperature check on me when I got off the flight."
Those 300-plus cases were enough to send northern Italy into a Level 3 quarantine, being one of the hardest-hit European countries by the pandemic. Despite being in central Italy, Loria wondered how long it would be before they were told to quarantine as well.
As the spread of COVID-19 widened and borders tightened, Loria became anxious that his time abroad was ending as midterms hit. Many of Loria's friends in the study abroad program began receiving emails from their colleges about needing to return back to America within the next week.
"All of my friends from bigger schools were getting sent home. I knew it was a matter of time before we did too," said Loria.
Rumors swirled around the John Cabot campus that if students didn't return to their home countries, they would be forced to quarantine in Italy. Within days of his friends from other universities being sent home, Loria and the two other Albion students at John Cabot got word their time in Italy had come to an end, and they should seek flights home immediately.
"I was definitely scared. We didn't know what was going to happen or how much worse this would get. I didn't want to get stuck quarantining overseas for an unknown period of time," recalled Loria.
Luckily for Loria, he found a flight out of Rome back to Detroit to return home safely before the quarantine in central Italy began.
Back at his home in Sterling Heights, Loria still had to complete his semester abroad. He notes that while remote learning presented challenges to everyone this spring, it proved to be even tougher navigating the situation while enrolled at a school overseas.
"There were people from all over the world in my classes, so the time differences didn't allow us to have a 'live' Zoom lecture," said Loria. "Professors had to give homework and allow us to do it on our own time because nothing could be done by the class all at once."
Loria conquered the difficulties of remote learning, earning him a spot on the MIAA Academic Honor Roll.
Disappointed his time was cut short, Loria remembers his time overseas with fond memories, especially his time at soccer stadiums -- particularly Emirates Stadium, the home of Arsenal F.C.
"Looking through my pictures from my trip, I just think about how cool it was to be in the big crowd of a soccer stadium with so many fans. Those fans have a different level of dedication and it was so much fun to be around them," said Loria.
With hopes the virus can be controlled by summertime, Loria tentatively has a trip back to Europe lined up following graduation.
Photos courtesy of John Cabot Athletics