COVID-19 Archive: Study Abroad Cut Short

As part of a short series, the Heard Libraries are highlighting unique experiences from Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff through the lens of donations to the Vanderbilt COVID-19 Archive. This archive will provide future historians and researchers detailed insight into the pandemic and how it affected members of the campus community. We’re featuring excerpts from submissions contributed with permissions to share.

For student Jakob Pearson, pictured here on Feb. 27 flying out of Florence, Italy, for a weekend trip, the awareness of a shift in thinking about COVID-19 was acute. In late February, everyone on campus was eagerly awaiting spring break, looking for a brief respite from classes or work before returning to campus to finish the semester. VU Study Abroad students in Florence, Italy, were no different, except they were distantly aware of the warning signs in Italy but were hoping things wouldn’t get worse.

Within two days Jakob’s study abroad program was cancelled, and he was headed back to the United States – not back to Florence to get his things – but home – straight home. To complicate matters further, one of his close contacts on the trip was one of the first confirmed cases in the U.S., and upon Jakob’s arrival, he was informed that he was to begin a 14-day quarantine in a nearby hotel, before heading home.

Submissions like Jakob’s will provide rich research for future scholarship. If you’re interested in sharing your own experiences with the COVID-19 Archive, the process is easy! Head to and click on the “Submit” button or email for more information.


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