Troy native in Italy on study abroad trip coming home

Published 9:30 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2020

By Anna Shay Wasden

Arriving for a semester-long study abroad in Italy seems like the beginning of every college student’s dream. But for one Troy family, it has come closer to a nightmare. Now among the countries within the Level 3 Travel Advisory category, along with China, South Korea, and Iran, Italy faces the dangers of COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Level 3 Travel Advisory discourages any non-essential travel to and from the affected countries. The newly discovered Coronavirus has sent the world into panic and Italian residents and visitors are not immune to the fears.

Dalton Gross, a 2016 graduate of Charles Henderson High School is now a senior Bible Major, History Minor at Faulkner University in Montgomery. His mother and father Barry and Amber Gross are involved Troy community members and have a daughter, Reagan, and a son, Sawyer, in addition to Dalton.

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Earlier this year, Dalton embarked on the opportunity of a lifetime, spending a semester in Italy, seeing the connection of the ancient wonders of the world to his Christian faith. On January 21st, he, along with 25 other students, 2 professors and their families, and the Assistant Director and his family, arrived in Montecantini Terme, Italy.

As a requirement for Faulkner’s Bible Majors, the annual trip for Faulkner University has been a very successful venture. Past travelers often come back with a greater knowledge of the Bible and the many places its books were written.

But, their excitement was soon overshadowed by the panic quickly covering the world about Coronavirus. “We initially heard of it crossing into Italy in early February. we did not think much of it at the time because Italian officials had done a great job of containing the two cases in Rome. It started to become a bigger thought in our minds when they closed Milan and Venice last week,” explains Dalton.

Despite Italy’s attempts to contain the spread of Coronavirus, over 3,000 cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed in the country. For Dalton’s family, the waiting has been the worst part.

Dalton and his fellow Faulkner travelers will be returning from Italy next week. As for what awaits them in their return, they are not certain. “As far as we know, we will be landing in Atlanta on March 11th, and from there, we will come back to Montgomery. After that, it is up in the air.” They are aware of the possibility of quarantine and are willing to take any measures to ensure the safety of both themselves and fellow Alabama residents.

Cutting their trip short by 6 weeks, there is an undeniable disappointment surrounding their premature travel home. “I was a good bit disappointed. Who would not be? However, when it came to my safety and well-being, I trusted the higher-ups to make the right decision.” Dalton and his fellow travelers have been well-informed on the decisions made regarding their status abroad. Both the on-site director in Italy and Faulkner’s President have worked to ensure the students were aware of the virus’ progression through northern Italy. They have also been actively informing the students’ parents as some coverage of the spread of the virus in Italy has been exaggerated and frightening.

Among the disappointment, his mother Amber also had to face the repercussions of the travel advisory. She purchased an airline ticket to visit Dalton just three days before the outbreak of Coronavirus in Italy. She is now actively trying to get her ticket refunded due to her inability to complete the travel.

A bright spot in the misfortune, Dalton and his group did get to travel to Greece this week. Travelers often take trips away from their home city of Montecantini Terme. In addition to their trip to Greece, Dalton and his fellow travelers had plans to cruise around the Greek islands and see the ancient city of Israel. Unfortunately, the cruise and Israel trip were cancelled due to the virus outbreak. But, their trip to Greece represented one opportunity still completed as they enjoyed the immense beauty of the country.

As Dalton plans to travel home soon, he will be met by the family and friends who have been worried about him in his travels. His mother Amber expresses it, “He’s disappointed but I am ready for him to come home.”