Studying Abroad During A Pandemic

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Studying Abroad During A Pandemic

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The end of January was coming closer and closer. Soon, I would be exchanging harsh Wisconsin winters for the rainy winters of London, England. The year prior, I had been there on a two-week study abroad trip learning about art. This time I’d be spending four months living in the International Student House and going to university there. By the time we left on the plane, there were barely whispers of a possible outbreak of a virus across the globe. We didn’t hear much more about it until the end of March. It was everywhere on the news, and we began to receive emails from our university in the States that we might get pulled from our program. We hoped that wouldn’t be the case. The city of London was seemingly normal up until we left. One major change happened with the tube. It was decided that in order to attempt to slow the spread of the pandemic across the city, certain tube lines would close down. This, in fact, had the opposite effect as it caused more and more people to cram themselves into rail cars in order to get to work or to school on time. We eventually received an email from our home university stating we would have a weekend to gather out things and then fly out early the next week. In fact, that weekend I was supposed to fly to Krakow, Poland on a short trip. I stayed back because I had a sinking feeling that something like this would happen. Crazy enough, if I would have gone, I would have been stuck in Poland--my flight back to London was canceled because due to the pandemic. We left a city scrambling to collect toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and masks and returned home to find a similar state of affairs in Wisconsin. We had heard about how horrendous the lines at customs were in the United States airports that were still open, with some having to stand and wait six to eight hours to make it through. When we arrived, it was impossible to adequately socially distance while we waited to get our temperatures checked and then be interviewed by the TSA about where we were coming from. By the time we had arrived, the process of going through customs had become much smoother--we only waited for about an hour. After returning home, we had to self-quarantine for two weeks. We had to finish our university term online, much like the students back overseas who went online after the Easter holiday. It was an odd thing to finish up my semester abroad in London from my home in Southwest Wisconsin. After ruminating about it for weeks, I thought to myself that I was incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to live and study in London for two months and even though our trip got cut short, I still had an amazing experience and got to meet some really wonderful people during my time there.
A photograph a friend took on one of our last days in London.

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This item was submitted on October 11, 2020 by Rachel Lueder using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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