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Seventeen months ago, I saw my family for the last time. It was one of those normal days that pass without any special event to remember. Indeed, it would have been just one of the many “see you later” between me and my dad. Going back to the US for the semester, and meeting again in Italy during break was the normality.

It is a fact that the pandemic changed the world. Social distancing, online learning and quarantine are common aspects of the new ordinariness. After a year, mostly everybody gets used to these new aspects, as I did. But there is something that I am still facing which is actually difficult to deal with: the distance between my family and me. 

When the World Health Organization announced the pandemic in March, I instantly understood that going back to Italy would have been difficult. Living abroad and far from my family when a problem was taking place was an awful perspective. For this reason, I started to look for information about international flights in order to schedule a flight home. 

 At first, the San Francisco Airport reported the presence of international flights. But at the same time they also reported the two main problems. First, many international flights were constantly canceled a few hours before the effective departure without any notification. Then cancelations were established by the airline companies and not by the airport itself. 

In other words, I might have bought a ticket without the assurance of being able to travel to Europe. Then, considering the fact that there was not a direct flight from the US to Italy, the only possibility was to schedule a trip with two different planes. And the main risk was to be stuck in a country between the US and Italy because of a flight cancelation.

On March 9, the situation got worse when Italy announced the national lockdown. If at first, I was still hoping to schedule a flight, the new European limitations highlighted that the flights were only available for emergency situations and for people returning to their hometown. 

Each country had specific normatives and rules in order to limit the spread. The constant of these normatives was a fourteen days long quarantine for people traveling from another country. 

Considering that a direct flight from the US to Italy was nonexistent, the only possibility was to fly from the US to at least two other countries in Europe before landing in Italy. In other words, that meant that I may be quarantined fourteen days in each of those countries.

After understanding that the complications were effectively insurmountable, I had to accept and to deal with the distance. Although I am used to living far from my hometown, I will never get used to the pandemic consequences. 

Even if I know that a series of unlucky coincidences played a key role, it was effectively impossible to go back. Except for waiting there is nothing I can actually do to change the situation. 

The worst part of being abroad and far from my family during the pandemic is not the distance itself. It is the constant anxious thoughts that something bad might happen while I am not there. And even if the situation is slightly getting better because of vaccines, the end of the problem seems to be far.

My hope is to go back to Italy at the end of the semester. It is important to keep in mind that the situation is not stable, and it effectively changes day by day. However, I am looking forward to meeting my family again, eating some good Italian food and leaving behind this awful period. 

Alessio Cavalca is a staff writer for The Express. Follow him @AlessioCavalca.

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