UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Silvia Batello ’12 remains positive through the COVID-19 pandemic despite rarely having left her Milan apartment for the last month during Northern Italy’s quarantine.
“One positive consequence is I get to spend more time with my partner,” Batello says. “Also, with all of the technology, we still have dinner with friends or a glass of wine. I think relationships can really grow from this. We have more time to dedicate to our personal lives since things have slowed down.”
As a law student in Italy, Batello came to Penn State Law in University Park in 2011 as an exchange student to the LL.M. program. She was meant to spend only one semester but took the opportunity to stay the entire year and earn her Master of Law degree.
“I still stay in touch with many of my colleagues from the program. We have a WhatsApp group called ‘Penn State Family’ and we talk almost every month, especially now with this emergency," said Batello. “So, I know how people are doing in Taiwan, the U.S., Europe. That was one of the best things I brought home with me.”
Batello now works as an associate at Rödl & Partner - Italy, where she specializes in sustainability and energy law. “I do a lot with businesses and human rights, energy contracts, M&A. It is a German firm, so before the restrictions, I had to travel often to Germany and to Kenya because we have a lot of renewable energy projects there.”
Batello was in Kenya when the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Italy. “I saw in the news that they had found one case in a little town about 40 km south of Milan. Then they just kept finding new cases. First, it was one, then five, by the end of the day it was already twenty-five.”
She returned to Milan amidst a great deal of uncertainty. Following the initial concern, the region returned to “normal” life for a week.
“That week it all went mad,” said Batello. “Following that is when the entire country became locked down and we could not leave our homes anymore. It all felt like it started very far away, and then it came very close, very fast.”
While working remotely she tries to behave as if everything is normal. She dresses for work. She takes her usual lunch break and maintains a set schedule. An end of the day call with her team from work helps to separate the workday from her home life, which she admits can be difficult now that they feel so similar.
“We do not know how things will evolve. We have no idea if this isolation is working, and what the costs will be on the economic side, but it really is the only thing because otherwise we would go around and all get sick and then the system would really collapse.”
Despite living within this uncertainty, her thoughts remain with others. Batello asks about the LL.M. program during this crisis. She advocates to help others where possible, to appreciate the beauty around you, and appreciate even more the beauty you no longer have access to.
“I hope we keep this sense of closeness. I hope that we will remember that if we do something wrong it won’t just affect us, but it will affect those around us. And the same for good things, that the good I do can positively affect others.”
Fixed in one of the epicenters of this global pandemic, Batello keeps finding the positive.