“It will not happen to us”

08 April, 2020

With the Coronavirus outbreak, the world is facing an unprecedented challenge.

The Higher Education community has been immediately asked to react and to adapt to the big changes that this pandemic is causing not only to the students, but to the whole world societies at all level.

SGroup European Universities’ Network, always aware of global chances affecting its community, has dedicated the April newsletter to the pandemic, asking to two of its members from the countries mostly hidden by the disease, China and Italy, to share their first-hand experiences.

For Italy the experience has come from the University of Trieste, Agata Mannino in charge of UniTS international relations, Liason’s officer for the SGroup and also member of its Exeutive Committee, has written this short insight that we are proud to share with our UniTs community.

“It will not happen to us”

After China, the Coronavirus arrived in Europe, entering through Italian doors. 

And since the day when it “officially” arrived, we have gradually passed through different stages of emergency: first schools and universities were closed for students, then social distancing was introduced, but finally everything had to be shut down.

In the very beginning we all thought that only some regions in Northern Italy were affected by the infection, but very soon it started spreading through the whole country, until the “well-known” national lockdown was introduced. It was the 10th of March. 

At that point, the University of Trieste, as well as other Italian universities, had already started to deliver online lectures, our priority were the students. We wanted them not to lose time and confidence, we organized online examinations, even online graduations and online Open Days for prospective students. The most challenging part however has been helping mobility students who were already abroad for their semester, and who wanted to come back home. Unfortunately this is still an unsolved problem.

By the 23rd of March also all offices were closed on campus and administrative staff has been encouraged since to work from home. 

In the beginning of this story, in Italy we were reacting well to the isolation, we were singing on balconies, applauding to medical staff that were on the frontline, dancing and finding a way to fight the boredom, the scare. But now I feel that depression has taken the place of that initial euphoria.

We still don’t know when the lockdown will be suspended. The next deadline for governmental revision is the 13th of April, but I guess that it will postponed again, and there are many hypotheses on how to gradually reopen businesses, and industries, whereas it seems that schools and universities will be the last to be allowed to open.

Maybe you too observed this strange attitude of human beings: when we hear about bad things happening to others, we think “it will not happen to me”, maybe it is an unconscious reaction in order to survive. This emergency is a clear example of it: at first the tragedy was in China, it was there, far away, and we, in Italy, in Europe, we were all very sorry and worried for the people there, our friends and colleagues, but we also thought “it will not happen to us”.

In those days, after the 10th of March, I received lots of messages from all over the globe. Friends and colleagues were worried for me, for the Italians, everyone wanted to be supportive and nice, but, I’m sure that at that time they were thinking “poor Italians… it will not happen to us”. Unfortunately, we were all wrong. And after a very short time, the same tragedy infested Spain, France, Germany… the whole world.

So, maybe, if there is a lesson learned from this story, this lesson should be entitled “it can happen to us”, and this simply means that we should learn to be more aware of what happens next to us, to our relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbours. Being more aware means not only being better prepared to that situation when it will happen to us, it means also, and especially, being more sympathetic, inclusive, supportive for the others, no matter who they are. Then, yes, we can say ‘together we are stronger!’

If you like to read as well the Chinese insight, click here.