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“La Repubblica” reports that over 11.5 million Italians have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has made it challenging for recent college graduates to break into a workforce that isn’t hiring. One of the new graduates is Nicolò D’Elia.

D’Elia is a janitor at “Istituto Comprensivo Poliziano” an elementary school in Florence, Italy. In October of 2020 he graduated from Villa Aurora College with a master’s in theology and pastoral ministries. Today his life looks different than how he originally pictured it.

D’Elia has been searching for pastoral jobs since graduating. Originally he searched for work relating to his degree. With little opportunity, he had to get creative. Since most schools are still operating in Italy, D’Elia became a janitor. 

The first month of work was emotionally challenging for him. “Working as a janitor taught me humility. I have two degrees and I’m cleaning up after people.” said D’Elia. After five months of working at the school, his attitude changed. “Being able to work with the kids is heartwarming, they are so cute.”

D’Elia’s daily work consists of cleaning the classrooms, bathrooms and occasionally breaking up fights. While the work is humbling, D’Elia said, “You may have whatever degree you want, but if you aren’t willing to serve in little things, what’s the meaning of your degree?”

While he enjoys seeing the children at school every day, D’Elia knows this job is only temporary as he is still following his dream to become a pastor. “I want to help the church here in Italy, the church needs young pastors,” said D’Elia.

His plan to become a pastor isn’t the only thing being impacted by COVID-19. The pandemic has also postponed his wedding day.

D’Elia met Isary Sanchez At Villa Aurora College in September of 2014. Sanchez was an American student doing a study abroad program in Italy. The two started dating that November and traveled between Chattanooga, Tennessee and Florence, Italy to see each other.

In 2018, they got engaged and planned to wed in April of 2020 in Sicily. However, travel restrictions and a closed border complicated their future plans. “We should have reached this goal one year ago and we still are not married. It’s tiring and frustrating.” said D’Elia.

Italy has declared a state of emergency through April 30th. This means international travel is still banned and large weddings are prohibited. D’Elia and Sanchez are aware of this and are still determined to get married in April.

Entry into Italy from the United States is not permitted, except for a few special cases. Having a relationship with someone in Italy is one of them. “Even if there are restrictions, we are willing to do something even if it’s just her, me and the pastor. We don’t want to postpone it anymore,” said D’Elia.

COVID-19 has delayed his timeline, but D’Elia is still actively pursuing his goals. He has already interviewed with a church and will continue to follow his dreams to become a pastor. In the meantime, he patiently looks forward to starting his life with Sanchez in April.