When planning for a study abroad trip, the process starts about a year out from when the program actually starts. Throughout that year, long nights are spent researching different programs for their opportunity academically and not to mention the touristic aspect of living in a place like Rome, Paris and London. However, many long nights are spent researching or attending study abroad meetings to prepare you for different situations like being mugged, going out late at night, drinking culture in another country. There is so much that goes into a study abroad experience and only so much you can prepare for.
Unfortunately, after spending the last year planning out my study abroad trip and getting two months into my study abroad experience it was cut short. No one could have seen or prepared those of us studying abroad for a global pandemic. While study abroad has always been referred to as a life-changing experience with new adventures and new fears being faced, students who were abroad this Spring 2020 will forever have their study abroad experience marked by the coronavirus. At the first major headlines of the coronavirus breaking out in China, there was always a bit of belief that the virus would not be able to be contained. Unfortunately, I was right. Country after country began to confirm cases and study abroad experience after experience was canceled. No one in my generation has ever been through a pandemic. Nowadays news, rumors and other false information spread very quickly with how linked social media is, which can aid mass hysteria. This became a moment in my life where my friends, family, co-workers and professors were unsure of what was going to happen and how to help. The stress of knowing at any moment we could get the email like so many other students studying abroad that calls us home to the U.S. was anxiety-inducing. Travel restrictions were also quickly being put in place and could leave us trapped abroad.
While that email did eventually come as Trump put travel restrictions on most of Europe and soon would include the U.K. and Ireland, it was bittersweet to leave after so much preparation and adjustment to living in Dublin. Though the airports were packed because of travel restrictions sending people in a hurry back to their home country, I had the opportunity to connect with other study abroad students from the U.S. who were studying abroad in Ireland, Germany, Spain and France. Despite all of us being a bit bummed out that our experience was cut short, I could see how eager they were to just be with their families and to see familiar faces. In the face of adversity and restrictions out of our control, it was amazing to see how other passengers traveling were comforting those who were anxious about missing their next flight or not being able to return home.