Study Abroad Cut Short

 

My flatmates and I on March 13, the last night before we had to start dispersing back to our home countries.

And, to conclude my posts about my study abroad experience, I will discuss said experience’s early conclusion thanks to the freaking COVID-19 pandemic that we are still dealing with today. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, but that does not make lost potential experiences sting any less.

 

As the spread of COVID-19 began to increase in countries such as China and Italy, I was definitely monitoring the situation through social media, but even as late as the beginning of March, I didn’t think that things were going to go the way they did, with everything shutting down and whatnot. Even that last weekend before things changed rapidly, which was around March 7, my flatmates and I had gone into London and visited multiple crowded places such as the Camden Market, and everything still seemed normal considering how much things were about to change.

Camden Market in London on March 7, just one week before COVID-19 was officially considered a pandemic and life would be forever changed.

 

I would consider March 11 to be the day that marked the beginning of the end, so to speak. It was the day that the WHO officially classified the virus as a pandemic, and it was also the day the NBA saw its first initial shutdown after the OKC Thunder/Utah Jazz game was cancelled right before tipoff due to Jazz player Rudy Gobert testing positive for the virus. I remember sitting in my flat in Hatfield and seeing all the tweets about the Thunder game, and that was definitely a sign in my brain that stuff was about to go down, but even then, I didn’t realize I was going to have to come home so soon. The next day, March 12, the first University of Hertfordshire case had been confirmed, and by Friday the 13th, of course, all of their courses had moved online at least through the end of the Easter holiday in April, though this later extended further, and I had booked a plane ticket home for Sunday the 15th. 

 

I am extremely grateful to have been able to have the experience that I did. My main, and pretty much only, regret, is that I did not experience more while I was over there because I thought I had more time. For example, in early February, most of my flatmates went on a weekend trip to Oslo, Norway because a couple of them had gone through the wrong gates at the airport and therefore had the wrong visa stamps for the length of time they planned to stay and therefore had to leave the country and come back. That weekend, however, I had elected to stay behind and go see Birds of Prey at the local movie theater on opening weekend instead, because I was planning to save all of my international travelling for the two-week Easter holiday in April… clearly that didn’t happen. I don’t regret my plans from that weekend in general, especially since that ended up being my last time in a theater too, but I definitely would have at least explored other parts of the UK a bit more if I had known at the beginning that I would be flying back home two months early.

 

That’s another thing that I felt conflicted about at the time, and still do today, to be honest. I am extremely sad that I didn’t get to have the same full travel experience that my older sister did the year before, and definitely plan to remedy that at some point when international travel becomes safer again, but I was also in turn given an opportunity to spend extra time with my parents that I wouldn’t have gotten to have otherwise. How quickly everything changed was definitely a bit traumatic, especially having to say goodbye to all of my flatmates two full months before I had planned, but as I said earlier, I do think that everything happens for a reason, and I also believe that those first couple of months of lockdown would have been even worse if I had gotten stuck over there or if otherwise I hadn’t been able to spend it with loved ones, especially as our ferret Snowberry became somewhat of an emotional support animal.

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