As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads across the world, I can’t help but think: This sucks. For everyone.
Over the past couple of weeks, I got to see my international friends get recalled to their home university one by one before travel restrictions get in effect. One by one, as fast as they entered my life, they left. It’s interesting how the effect of people leaving creates an underlying aura of danger. And when you don’t hear anything from your home university, it merely adds to the stress.
Two weeks ago, I was minding my own business in my room when I noticed an ambulance parked outside my residence hall. I didn’t think much about it, just hoped everything was okay. A few days later, I came across a video of the same ambulance from another angle, showing someone in a hazmat suit walking in a flat. The student who got examined tested negative, but nevertheless, the video went viral around here, feeding the fire of panic that is starting to emerge among students who are caring less and less about their studies.
The University of Manchester switched to online classes only this week, about a week later than almost all the other universities in the region, so students have been complaining online for a bit now:
Last Friday, I was chilling with the folks from the Manchester University Speleology Club (MUSC) at a birthday party (which got transformed to going away party for one of the members who got sent home) when I received an email from uOttawa:
I was devastated. A mix of frustration, despair and sadness overwhelmed me. I was fortunate enough to receive the news with my caving friends, I really appreciated the support, thanks guys.
After checking with uOttawa, I was told I could stay if I wanted to. I was now faced with one of the hardest decisions of my life. To stay here, or go home. I took a few days to decide, pondering on the pros and cons, and following the news in the UK and Canada regularly. As much as I felt like going home, I thought I should stay. I came this far, stayed this long, adjusted to life here and going back would feel like I’m aborting the most important mission of my life so far.
The situation is better in Canada, the British government is getting quite a lot of international criticism on the way they’re handling the situation (I found a good video about their way of doing things: Herd Immunity vs Isolation). If I did return to Canada, I’d still be stuck at home, strongly discouraged from seeing friends and family. It’s essentially a choice between self-isolation here or at home. A full lockdown is apparently weeks (or days) away, with the closing of borders very soon. I feel like most people are leaving simply because the window for going home is closing, and the uncertainty of when it’ll open again is worrisome. When I look at the hard facts and data, the risk for me here (or at home) is low; my immune system is good, I’m young, healthy and have no underlying respiratory illnesses. Plus my medical insurance is still covering me in case anything does happen. Nevertheless, it’s still a good idea to stay safe; wash hands and avoid face touching.
After careful consideration and analysis, it made sense for me to stay. I was lucky enough to be given the choice, and I intend on taking full advantage of that.
This is by far not the most ideal circumstances, I know, but I did do this semester abroad to live new experiences, after all.