Being far from home during the pandemic

This year I spent a lot of time in solitude, and I have learned how mentally and physically hard it can be. Still, there are so many people who lost their jobs, houses, and loved ones. When I think about it, there is still much to be cherished in my life; I am grateful to have my dad’s smile and my mother’s embrace again. Whoever reads this, if you ever feel like giving up, remember we are all in this together. By supporting each other, we can find new friends, colleagues, or create a dialogue that may bring so much needed clarity during such unsure times.

I was in my second year of studies working towards my BA in International Relations and had every detail planned out for 2020. Thankfully, the University of Westminster gave me an excellent opportunity to study a semester abroad at the University of Miami in the United States. It was such an enjoyable experience; I was at the heart of a beautiful and inspiring campus surrounded by ocean breeze and palms.

I remember going to class at the beginning of February and discussing thoughts regarding the “new virus,” something unexplored and potentially very dangerous. Who could imagine that only a few weeks after that discussion with my colleague, the states one after another declared a state of emergency?

After additional Spring Break week, to protect their students, the universities, including my host university, decided to close campuses. Being one of the top destinations for Spring Break, Florida immediately become a hot spot for coronavirus with daily increasing numbers. It is not a secret that health care in the USA is costly, and I was very anxious about not only getting sick but also not being able to support myself financially. Fears start to appear in my head, fears that it may affect my loved ones, my health, my studies, and my future.

Most of the students decided to fly back home; however, there were students like me, who could not do that. Being a citizen of Moldova – a small developing Eastern European country, you need to be prepared that government, even if they wanted, not always can provide sufficient help and assistance. Many of my compatriots were forced to sleep days at the airport in Paris, waiting for planes to take them back home as all commercial flights were suspended and borders were closed.

While I was on another side of the world, the only support I had was provided by my family, the University of Westminster, and the University of Miami. After a few emotional breakdowns, I have decided that I will use this time to do something which I wanted to do for so long but always postponed. I started to paint, learn French, looking for new opportunities in my field, and being grateful and more aware of every day I had. COVID-19 impacted all aspects of my life, but it only depended on me how I will perceive things and how I will use the time which was given.

I was able to fly back at the beginning of August, after four months of trying to get back to my parents safely. Despite all the difficulties, this year taught me to be stronger. Seeing what people are going through everywhere around the globe, their unification and support in demand for justice and equality, gave me hope for a better future. Still, it is so much more that needs to be done, and it is our responsibility as citizens and as students not to be ignorant and support each other.

Anastasia Butacova, 3rd year BA in International Relations

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