Hello, friends and family! When I started this blog, I never would have thought that I would have to write a post like this one. It has been officially confirmed that I will be returning to the United States in a few days. It breaks my heart to end my journey early and unexpectedly. Here are my thoughts and feelings over the last 2 weeks and what is coming in the next week for me.
I knew I’d be sad to leave this beautiful country. However, I was expecting that sadness to come on April 16th and 17th of 2020. Instead, I was hit with the news on March 17th, 2020. I was somewhat expecting it, because of everything I have seen in the media, but I wasn’t prepared for everything it would bring. For weeks, I’ve heard of the coronavirus. In the last two weeks, I’ve seen things escalate. I watched Clemson University send kids home first, many who attended Bond Uni with me. Then there was a period of silence. Everything went on as usual. Everything was fine. Then all of a sudden, there was chaos. I heard of the universities at home shutting down and sending kids home for two weeks and eventually the entire semester, including my own. I heard of all the study abroad students in Italy and then all of Europe being sent home. I watched my friends studying abroad in Latin America return as well. I constantly thought “It must be my turn next. I am just bidding my time”. My family told me how my high school was shut down and people were stocking up on food. I got a lot of confusing information and stats from the media. I heard so many things and I didn’t know what to believe. I tried to not think too much about it and just enjoy my time in Australia. However, the virus quickly became the only thing that anybody talked about for weeks. It was so hard to comprehend everything and I definitely wondered why I was still here, but I certainly had no desire to send myself home.
I think it really hit me on Thursday, March 12th around 6:45pm, how real this all was. That’s when two of my friends told me that they were being called home by their home universities. At the time, everyone thought that was extreme for their universities to do. I said goodbyes that night. Goodbyes that I didn’t plan to say for weeks. The weekend got worse. Every hour, there was something new. I started to expect an email any second. I was on edge and anxious all the time. I slept horribly. I dreaded checking my email every morning. However, I didn’t let these worries stop me from living my life. But they definitely impacted me. I started living everyday like it was my last. I didn’t take anything for granted. On Tuesday, March 17th, 2020, I woke up at 1:20am to an email from GW. The email had finally come. They asked me to come home. I didn’t sleep much that night. So many things ran through my mind. I didn’t know what to expect because the email was so vague.
The next morning, my program was in touch with me. I was told that my program and Bond planned to stay open and that I could stay if I requested to do so. I contacted GW and relayed this news. I felt relieved for about 2 hours. Then came the next email. The final email. My program was shutting down all programs in Australia and New Zealand. That was it. It took me a while to come to terms with this news.
I had been coping with the anxiety and stress that this virus has brought by making light hearted jokes and memes. It was the easiest way to deal with it. Many people my age have been handling things this way. Not because we are insensitive to those affected by the virus, but because it’s a coping mechanism (maybe not the best one, but it is how we have gotten through hard times). I am fully aware of the toll that this virus has been taking on people worldwide and my heart is breaking for everyone across the planet. I sympathize with everyone that is being impacted by this virus and wish you all the absolute best moving forward. I feel for those that have tested positive or have loved ones that have. I feel for the high school and college seniors that didn’t get to have their last sports season, their last in person class, their last lunch block, their prom, or their graduation.
I didn’t cry for a while after reading the email. Things like this normally take me some time to fully comprehend and have emotions about. It was on my flight back to Melbourne, that same Tuesday afternoon, where it all sank in. I’ve found that flying on airplanes while listening to sad music always hits me in the feels (and probably isn’t my best idea, but oh well). I’m actually writing this on my plane back to the Gold Coast from Melbourne right now and will be posting it later.
Part of the reason why this entire pandemic has been hard to understand is because things have been so different in Australia. School has been functioning without any differences besides the dining hall employees always wearing gloves. People have been out and about, living their regular daily lives. Restaurants and bars are completely functioning as usual. The only sign of a pandemic that I’ve seen is the stores being out of toilet paper. Even when Tom Hanks tested positive only 3 miles from where I go to school, things did not change here. Schools are still in session and people are working. However, the cases in Australia are increasing every day.
I definitely have not come to terms with this experience ending just yet. I have no idea what awaits me in the United States. But I know that traveling home may be one of the most frightening and stressful experiences that I walk into, especially because it comes by force and without a choice. Although, I have accepted that it is probably the right decision to go back home and be with my family during this time. I’ve heard many horror stories of what people have gone through after landing back in the United States recently. I am currently preparing myself for the worst.
Despite all the negativity that is being spread throughout the world right now, I know that I will be okay and am remaining as positive and optimistic as I can possibly be. I want to thank my friends and family for their support through this difficult and confusing time. Thank you to GW Club XC for giving me the friends that have offered me endless support and love throughout this semester and in the past. I want to shoutout the seniors on the club team who I will miss so much and who won’t get their last track meet. I hope to run again with you all soon (@Jack, I expect a Hains Point run when I return to DC). Thank you to Oliver for always listening to my rants and being there for me throughout this entire semester. Lastly, a HUGE thank you (and I miss you already) to Alyssa, someone who has quickly become one of my best friends in just 11 weeks. I’m so thankful that this experience gave me some hard goodbyes. I really couldn’t ask for more than that.
The next time I write, I’ll be back in the United States. That is when I will share about my recent trip to Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road. I will also share about my experience entering the United States. I am taking the next 5 days in this beautiful country to live everyday to its fullest. I will definitely be back in the near future.
Thank you for reading. Stay safe, everyone. Support each other during this time of uncertainty. I’ll be in touch soon.
Lot of love,