Some suburban Chicago students studying aboard are facing an uncertain future as the coronavirus spreads across northern Italy.
“We knew it was in Italy, but it wasn’t in Milan yet,” said Carley Peldiak, a University of Illinois sophomore currently studying abroad this semester at Bocconi University in Milan.
Peldiak, from Lake Zurich, and fellow student Grace Klevorn from New Lenox, were surprised to get an email Sunday morning from Bocconi, saying the school was shutting down for a week.
“The evolution of the situation relating to the spread of Coronavirus requires the adoption of precautionary measures to protect public health…” the email read in part.
The University of Illinois students have been studying at the Milan university since January. One of their first stops was the cathedral in Milan, which is now closed, as Italian officials work to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“It’s terrifying, I don’t even know what to do and the worst part is we just don’t know,” Peldiak said.
“We decided we should just get out, if it does get really bad,“ Klevorn said.
With no classes for a week, the students headed to Vienna, Austria where they FaceTimed with NBC 5.
They said leaving Italy was eerie.
“Everybody was wearing masks," Peldiak recounted. "It was very closed down. I would say there weren’t as many people. So many masks in the airport too, so just a scary feeling altogether."
The students said they’re even seeing an impact from coronavirus in Vienna.
“We did try to purchase masks today at different pharmacies just for when we’re traveling in the future and they were all sold out,” Klevorn said.
The friends said they will take an already-planned trip to Budapest this weekend, but whether they will return to Milan remains unclear.
“It’s the first time in my life when, I’m like, 'I don’t know where I’m going to be next week', I could be in another country,” Klevorn said.
Peldiak and Klevorn said there are 24 University of Illinois students studying in Milan and one of them flew back to Chicago Tuesday. A one-way plane ticket to Italy could be in the foreseeable future, if the university in Milan reopens next week.
“I’m really freaked out and called my parents all concerned and they’re not that worried about it," Peldiak said.