By Jordan Boitnott
Youngstown State University sports communication students went on a study abroad trip to Europe during spring break. All students from the trip must be quarantined at home for two weeks after their March 14 return date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guy Harrison, assistant professor of telecommunication studies and leader of the trip, said despite the coronavirus turning into a pandemic during the trip, none of the YSU travelers expressed worry.
“Aside from people wearing masks and gloves, we haven’t really seen it upfront in our faces,” he said. “The only scare was when our president announced a travel ban for people traveling from mainland Europe back to the U.S. because it wasn’t initially clear the ban didn’t include U.S. citizens.”
Mackenzie Opritza, a YSU communication studies major, said she and the rest of the students weren’t worried about the coronavirus at the time of the trip.
“I wasn’t scared of the virus for me,” she said. “It felt like while we were in England no one really talked about it. It didn’t seem like a big concern in the British media. Being on social media and seeing my friends talk about it, seeing Youngstown State close, kind of freaked me out a little bit but nothing crazy.”
Students in quarantine are not allowed to interact with others in person or leave their homes to visit public places.
Faith Marscio, a freshman communication media track major, said being quarantined has been extremely hard and boring.
“To be real, it sucks. I just miss being around people all the time. For me, the hardest part is not being able to see my friends and feeling pretty lonely,” she said.
Aside from the coronavirus fears, the students were able to have a successful trip, which lasted from March 6-14, and focused on three cities: London, Manchester and Paris.
Harrison said the main goal of the trip was for students to learn about sports culture in other countries.
“I know that in terms of London and Manchester, they are two sports-crazed cities,” he said. “The U.K. and Europe are sports-crazed in general, but I thought there was something to be gained by immersing ourselves in their culture and sports culture. I felt like there was a lot that we could learn just by being here [Europe] and being around the sports scene.”
The trip was organized around English sports sites including a cultural experience in Paris.
Harrison said the goal of the trip was to learn, but while on a trip like this one, students should be able to have a good time and see sites outside of the sporting venues.
On the first day of the trip, students went to the London Eye, a large Ferris wheel that allows riders to view many of London’s main tourist attractions.
On the second day, the cultural experience continued with the group spending a full day in Paris, visiting the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre while taking a guided tour through the city.
Monica Kurjan, a junior telecommunication sports broadcasting major, said the Eiffel Tower was breathtaking to see in person.
“Nothing can prepare you for seeing certain things like the Eiffel Tower. It is something you will never forget,” she said.
After the cultural portion of the trip, the main focus was visiting England’s biggest sporting venues.
Jenna Bonarigo, a sophomore persuasive communication major, said Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United Football Club, was her favorite site from the trip.
“My favorite part was going to Manchester. I think that was my favorite city I’ve ever been to. Comparing it to London and Paris, it was nicer, cleaner and more modern,” she said.
In addition to Old Trafford, the group visited many other sports sites in England, including Olympic Park, Twickenham Stadium and the All England Club in Wimbledon.
Harrison said Wimbledon was one of the most important sites for him to see.
“They did a really good job of presenting their business and marketing model in an engaging way. The tour of the grounds after were also very interesting,” he said.
Dom Stevenson, a senior telecommunication and sports broadcasting major, said the trip was a major success.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give this trip a million,” she said.