By Filippo Massobrio

It’s hard to fathom that I was hanging out with friends, playing golf, and finishing up my senior year of college at Purdue a month ago.

My current world bears no resemblance to that dystopian land of memory when handshakes weren’t terrifying, and social distancing was typically perceived as something negative.

I vividly remember rushing to pack everything up and leaving my apartment without so much as a genuine goodbye.

The Coronavirus pandemic was sweeping the world. Classes were canceled, and I had to catch a flight back to my family in Italy.

It was a weird way to end my collegiate career in the United States, but it was also something that needed to be done to secure the safety of people all around the world.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the friends I left behind, including my golf teammates, that didn’t get an opportunity to have a proper ending.

Perhaps we’ll have a proper reunion at least, once the chaos subsides and the world starts spinning again.

Like Father, Like Son

Not being able to make that graduation walk with my friends is soul-crushing. Academics have been a core component in my life ever since I can remember.

I’ve always been quite successful at school, and my parents constantly pushed me to be a great student. It shouldn’t come as any surprise with me growing up with a father with an engineering career. His work ethic and love for construction projects was passed onto me since birth. I basically always knew I was going to follow my dad’s footsteps into civil engineering.

And there was also golf.

My dad was an avid player, and he used to take me to the golf course every time he’d play in a tournament. It wasn’t long before I was attending classes and swinging my own clubs. Little did I know my sudden spark of interest would turn into a roaring blaze.

As a teenager, I traveled all over Europe, competing in golf tournaments and national championships.

It quickly got to the point where I was having enough success to think about the possibility of continuing my playing career in college.

So, my parents and I settled on me traveling to the United States to finish up high school and attend college.

We were always going on trips for family vacations, and the U.S. was a country we frequented. That small bit of familiarity and opportunity green-lit the move for me.

An Ocean Between Homes

Adjusting to life in a completely different country was really hard for the first month. It isn’t easy blending in with a different lifestyle and going to a school where everyone is speaking a different language than your native tongue.

But that homesickness didn’t last too long. 

I got acclimated quickly thanks to all of the time I spent traveling and competing in golf tournaments. If anything, it prepared me for life on the road and being away from home for long periods of time.

Overall, it definitely helped to have attended high school in Florida first. I mean, who couldn’t settle into a life of palm trees, beaches and sunshine? The weather was great there, and the golf courses were even better.

Yet, neither could satisfy my yearning for old-fashioned Italian food. It isn’t easy finding authentic Italian cooking away from the homeland. I was fortunate enough to dabble into some cooking with my mother and grandmother before I left, but it’s still a piece I’m missing a bit today.

So, that’s how I managed to survive in the U.S. for six years.

Education Over Golf

My schoolwork was the best escape from those random moments of homesickness. I was determined to get into a college to pursue an engineering degree like my father, but I also really wanted to play golf as well. It was tough to find a good fit for both.

Fortunately, one of the coaches in Florida reached out to some Division I schools with great engineering programs, and we managed to get into contact with the golf coach at Purdue.

I decided to attend Purdue and start on my engineering degree before eventually walking onto the team. Engineering is very demanding with the sort of course work and complex school projects, but I’ve always been really good at managing my time.

Sports and school mix like oil and water in Italy. They aren’t very compatible, and you have to be incredibly efficient in time management. It’s something I got used to doing, and it continued to translate well throughout high school and college.

I see myself as a civil engineer in the future. I’m not going to pursue a career in golf, but I also feel like golf helps me focus more. Engineering isn’t for everyone, especially for people that enjoy sleeping. But I’m a strong believer in success coming to those that work for it.

Purdue has given me the best of both worlds, along with providing the help and support I’ve needed every step of the way.

An Unexpected Ending

It’s a shame I couldn’t finish what I started at Purdue.

The emotions are the same for every senior impacted by the shutting down of classes amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

I was genuinely heartbroken for everyone. You put so much effort into school and sports, and everyone was robbed of a chance for a proper ending.

The most difficult part was actually traveling back home and seeing the drastic change in the way of life for a country that was once so community-based.

I couldn’t even leave the house for 14 days upon arrival due to a mandated quarantine period for every person that gets back into the country.

We’re still on lockdown and not expected to be out any time soon.

They are taking very strict measures in hopes of saving lives and continuing to lower the number of new cases.

It looks like we are at the peak or at least in the descending phase of the infection curve. It’s tough to make decisions right now about the future with so many uncertainties in the world. It’s also hard to be stuck at home for such a long period of time.

I can’t go outside, go for a run, or play golf. Those leisurely activities I once took for granted have all been taken away.

Online school work has thankfully kept me busy.

While I certainly miss the whole college atmosphere and being around my teammates every day, we have to quarantine for now and hope for the best.

Looking back, all of the memories I have of Purdue are going to be even more important now that everything is canceled.

It’s truly a sad situation, but you have to move on. I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given, and I’m happy things worked out the way they did, even if it didn’t end the way I envisioned.

Hope can be found in the end of a chapter rather than the closing of a book.

There are still many more stories to tell, and I’m sure mine will intertwine once again at some point with my friends back at Purdue.

A coming together over an inauthentic Italian dinner in a Coronavirus-free world, for example—I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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