Well, it is March 16th, and I am back at home in my bed writing this last post, when I should be at my homestay in Barcelona right now, exhausted from a weekend trip to Amsterdam and trying to catch up on homework. However, the corona virus that began in China in December spread to Europe this spring semester, beginning in Italy, and got to be so intense that it forced all Spring 2020 study abroad students to return home early, just as the virus began exploding in the US, as well. So, in addition to myself having to be quarantined for 14 days in my house, my brother’s classes have been moved online, my mom is working from home, and my dad is forced to stay home from work. So, these next two weeks will likely consist of intense family bonding. I was looking forward to at least being able to return to UA after these 14 days to see all my friends and boyfriend through the end of April, but since UA’s classes have also been moved online for the rest of the semester and they are advising students not to return to campus after spring break, I suppose I will have a nice long summer here in Chicago.
Before the corona virus cut my study abroad experience short in Spain, though, I was truly thriving there. Although I was forced to miss out on my weekend trip in mid-February to Geneva, Switzerland due to a bad cold I got right before we were supposed to leave, after that I was able to visit Nice, France, Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Girona & Besalú, Spain. I also had planned and booked trips to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, The Pyrenees, Spain, and Lisbon, Portugal, as well as spring break to Athens & Santorini in Greece and Rome & Florence in Italy, all of which I was forced to miss out on due to the corona virus. It’s truly a shame because I am not sure when I will be able to return to Europe in the future what with how expensive it can be, but I am so grateful, at least, for all the places I was able to explore during my two and a half months there.
My classes were also going smoothly in Spain, and I am now required to complete them online, which is an adjustment for the professors as well as the students. So far, all of my professors have reached out already about the online platform they are going to use, and it is relieving to know that as long as I complete the work and pass the course, I will receive credit for them. It was a concern when students from Italy began being sent home if they would receive credits for their classes because if not, scholarships and student loans might be taken back and required to be paid back, but luckily, that seems not to be the case for me and my program.
Of course, I am devastated to have my precious time in Europe be cut short, but I am also relieved to be safe home with my family during this crazy time. All sports are cancelled and stores and restaurants are shutting down due to the virus. It’s truly like a sci-fi movie. I hope it doesn’t last too long because it is a bit freaky. Because of the hype over the virus, my journey home was a nightmare. The flights themselves weren’t too bad: I had a flight to London from Barcelona and then from London to Chicago. My cousin who was studying abroad in France this semester was on my flight from London to Chicago, as well, so that was nice to be with her. But, once we landed in Chicago, it took over four hours to get through customs and screening because the government had limited international travelers to only be able to fly into 13 airports in the US, therefore creating an extreme overabundance of travelers in the international terminal at O’Hare airport. So, I am currently scarred from airports and have no desire to go into one anytime soon due to the insane lines I was forced to wait in. I am simply grateful I am home safe now and at least had a couple months to see as much of Europe as I could.