HHS Student in Italy Gives a Glimpse of Coronavirus in the Epicenter


via Gloria Realbuto

Junior Gloria Realbuto taking in the sites in Italy.

Kate Shanahan, Staff Writer

Although everyone in the HHS community is being impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, one student in particular is affected far more than the rest. Junior Gloria Realbuto decided to spend her year abroad in Italy to become fluent in Italian in preparation for her college endeavors. 

Inspired by her older brother and sister, Realbuto made the choice to follow in their footsteps and have the experience of a lifetime. Realbuto is enrolled in Liceo Scientifico G. D’Alessandro, a high school located in Bagheria, a town in Sicily.

Realbuto has found that there are many discrepancies between American culture and Italian culture. One main difference she explains is the family oriented warmness of Italian culture. Realbuto has also seen that food is a central part of culture in Italy unique to America. “Cooking a meal with someone is a way to show affection and love which is something I had never really experienced in America,” said Realbuto. 

Before the closure of Italian borders, Realbuto was able to experience European culture outside of Italy. So far, she’s visited Spain, Switzerland, France, Germany, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria. “My favorite thing about visiting new countries is the feeling of a culture shock,” said Realbuto. Traveling to so many different countries, each with their own way of life, has opened up her eyes to the countless different ways of living. 

Realbuto has a rare story to tell because of her first hand experience of the pandemic impacting Italy. The entire country is officially in quarantine, and it is not at all like what we are experiencing in New Jersey. “The only time we can leave the house is to go to the supermarket or the doctor’s office and when doing so, we have to carry a document which explains our reasoning for going out,” explained Realbuto. Police are around every corner so if the rules of quarantine are violated, police have the right to fine or jail violators. For Realbuto, the only time she goes outdoors is to take out the trash. 

Most teenagers and children would be anxious having to go through a global crisis without the comfort of their parents and familiarity of their hometown. However, Realbuto has faced this challenge head on with the help of her relatives who live in Italy. Given that she is living with her cousins, Realbuto feels a sense of security from the family that she does have. Her and her cousin Sophie, who is the same age as Realbuto, have been having lots of fun before and after the pandemic.  

Prior to the outbreak, Realbuto was looking forward to coming back to New Jersey for spring break to visit her parents, family, and friends. As the situation in Italy and America escalated and borders began to close, Realbuto was faced with the decision to stay or come home. Even with Trump’s travel ban, Realbuto would have been permitted into the U.S. because of her citizenship, however, there are no flights leaving Italy and if she left, she would not have been able to return to Sicily to finish the school year. “Instead, I am now planning on coming back at the end of June once I finish my school year,” said Realbuto.