“I focused on keeping my grandparents busy”

Michela Giuricich, 22, Johannesburg (South Africa)

I was doing my bachelor’s degree in Milan, Italy, when the virus broke. Because my parents live in Johannesburg, Africa, I joined my grandparents on Lake Maggiore and quarantined with them. 

The greatest challenge was changing my daily habits — because I was home, there was only so much that I could do. But I focused on trying to help out my grandparents, who naturally became a little anxious when coronavirus took over our lives. I did my best to keep them busy with different activities. We cooked a lot; we also fixed my grandfather’s video camera and watched the videos he took of my mum when she was younger. I was actually quarantining in my own apartment, but only a few meters from my grandparents’ home. I felt lucky to have my own space but also some family members to spend time with — I visited them every day and we always had meals together.

When the virus started spreading in Italy, I thought about going back to South Africa, but it seemed best to stay. It felt risky to fly internationally and, in addition, I was in the middle of my third and last year of university. For the first couple of weeks of the pandemic, the university gave us time off as they were trying to figure out how to proceed. Then they moved all courses online — my professors now record lectures and upload them on a student portal for us to watch.

Surprisingly, we have been assigned lots of essays. It’s always been like that in South Africa, where I grew up, but here in Italy you usually have only final exams. I am not sure of why they are giving us more homework. Maybe they want to keep us busy, or maybe they just want some extra grades as they know that it’ll be easier to cheat during the exams since we’ll be doing them from home. They were supposed to be oral exams; instead they’ll be multiple choice. I’d rather do them orally over a video call so that I can truly discuss what I have been learning, but the university said it’d be too difficult to organize. 

I was supposed to graduate in July, but now I think that I might have to wait until September. I will graduate over video and I assume that my parents won’t be able to be there with me. It’s gonna be really sad — it’s one of those things that happen only once in your life. It should be a special day.

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