Getting home during Covid-19

By now, we are all likely to be in the same boat regardless of where we are currently calling home. Everyone is presumably stuck inside and doing classwork through computers with our pj’s on, no makeup, and very little motivation to do any of it. But please keep doing exactly that, stay home for all of our sakes.

Computer laying on bed.

Since I last wrote, many things have changed. For starters, I am home in the states, a place I wasn’t planning on seeing for two years and now I am back trying to find normalcy in the most none normal of times in my generations life time. Having been a very independent person since birth, mixed with my studies abroad and living on my own, coming home and being forced to stay in with hiking trails and the like shut down hasn’t been the easiest.

I, of course, am beyond lucky to have a healthy family near by even if I can’t visit them and a roof over my head with a mom whom I love dearly, it can just be a little overwhelming at times, haha, but the majority of the world is in the same shoes so I can’t complain. Plus, it is a relief to be home rather than stuck elsewhere.Girl and her mother.

Getting home was stressful to say the least. It took around a month of wanting and trying for me to get home, which I have to thank Linfield for all of the credit. I had a gut feeling really early on that school wouldn’t be opening up in a few days or weeks after the outbreak in Italy happened. There was simply no logical way that it would be possible, even though my university and classmates were sure the “problem would resolves quickly”.

So while I headed to France to quarantine with one of my roommates, I knew I wanted to come home and not be stuck in Europe if borders started shutting down, which as we all know, they did. But, I wasn’t going to come home just to return to Italy for a week of exams in a few months and then have to find somewhere to live for a month and then move to an internship somewhere in Europe as well, all while a pandemic was hitting the world… not an ideal situation to say the least.

While waiting for word in France if classes would be moved to online, I tried to see if I could take my exams back home with a proctor at Linfield, however the responses I received were very straight to the point that I would not be allowed to do that, even though the US had sent our travel restrictions and told its citizen to not travel to/in Italy. So on top of quarantining boredom, my optimistic happy self continued to disappear with every email interaction.

For my reality, I didn’t have a place to live. I was quarantining with my roommate in her holiday home on the coast of France, but they were in the middle of selling it so we couldn’t stay there for long and I knew she hadn’t lived at home for a few years and was really not wanting to return. So as the days got closer to the end of our two week period, my stress level was just continuing to rise with the rain levels outside.

The internship that I was planning to do in the summer said I could go there early to work and live, but after having a bad experience with living at my internship in Portugal the thought of being stuck at a winery in the middle of the country without being able to leave for months did not sound like a good idea for my mental health, but was really the only option I had until I messaged Linfield and was completely open and honest with my concerns and feelings regarding the matter. My mind fixated on the idea that the internship would be the same situation it was in Portugal and, while it is more likely that it wouldn’t be, I wanted to come home.

I got an email a few days later from my European University saying that Linfield requested I come home and that they had to oblige since the schools are now partners. THANK YOU LINFIELD. Waking up to that email felt like I was able to breath for the first time in a while, I was beyond relieved. So when our two weeks were up in France (11 hour car ride from Italy) we drove some more to my roommates family home where they welcomed me with open arms. The sun started coming out more and while we were still mostly isolating and self distancing ourselves, we were able to enjoy some walks to nearby vineyards and she gave me the tour of her city, tours, and traditional French food. I had eaten vegetarian for the past month but that quickly disappeared as I was introduced to all the meats of the region.

French food

My large suitcase hadn’t fit in the car with us while we left Italy, so my other roommate who had decided to stay in Italy longer, had it in her car. But when school was switched to online she left Italy to quarantine in the south eastern part of France, and I was in the north west of France, so after literally hours on the phone we found a way to ship my suitcase (it was way more difficult than you would imagine) and after spending a week in Tours, I left for Paris where another friend of mine lives and a flight home.

Belongings from a suitcase in a small room.

My original flight kicked me off of the flight because I had recently been in Italy and while I got another ticket, I was worried the same thing would happen again and again. My stress level never went away. But, the nice thing about getting kicked off the first flight was that I had more time to spend in Paris. I wore a scarf around my face riding the buses and trains or when surrounded by a lot of people to help train myself not to touch my face. I got a lot of stares but I couldn’t have cared less. But I was in Paris, there were no restrictions at that point and by golly I was going to visit the Eiffel Tower.

Student with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Now at this point I had a lot of pent up emotions of all sorts imaginable which may have had something to do with it, but as I walked around Paris and got the first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, I couldn’t contain any of it any longer. There in front of me stood a structure that somehow solidified all of my little girl dreams and desires while standing as a symbol for having reached them as well; I balled the happiest tears of my life. In all of the chaos and sadness happening in the world, that may have been one of my happiest moments.

But the day hadn’t started happy, I didn’t think I would be able to enjoy it at all and even questioned making an attempt. I woke up in the middle of the night at my hotel to the strongest cigarette smoke coming through the vents and around 25 messages asking if I would be able to come home and if I had seen Trump’s announcement.

no??? hello more stress

It was 3 am and I was confused. But then I started reading the headlines and what people were sending me. At that point there was no word if US citizens were exempt from the travel restrictions, and I was scrambling trying to find more information. After a stressed/teary/tired phone call with my mom we decided that since my plane was arriving in the states on Friday (the day it was starting to be enacted) that I should be fine since I would have already landed. So still stressed, I took some melatonin and tried to get some sleep.

My new flight itinerary had me fly into Ireland and stay there for a night before I could get on a plane that would take me to the states. And while it didn’t allow me time to enjoy Ireland I got a room in a nice hotel for the night, had some nice wine, and woke up to an Irish rainbow outside my window and I was one step closer to home and one stress level down from the day before.

Girls in a glass elevator.

After a full security pat down search from a red headed Irish man, only to decide it was my earrings that set off the alarm, and a look through all my carry on luggage that had been placed together like a puzzle, I was through security and enjoyed an early lunch with a beer at 11 a.m. and I don’t even like beer in the slightest but it was Ireland and frankly, I deserved it haha. Then 30 minutes before I was supposed to start boarding, there was an announcement for all US directed flight passengers to do additional screening on the other side of the airport. YAY… In short, I made it because our plane had electrical issues and was delayed. Still stressed.

Border check point at the airport in Dublin, Ireland.

I landed in Chicago, and while the airport was insane I was there at the right time. The pictures there a few days after me were INSANE and oh my gosh was I happy to have flown when I did. I was originally told I didn’t need to go out of security and that I would just need to get my next boarding pass at the gate but that ended up not being true because in order to get to the other terminal, I had to take a shuttle which required the boarding pass. So… I had to go all the way out just to turn around and come right back in again with not very much time in-between. I’m obviously home, I made it, but I sincerely feel for everyone who flew into the states or anywhere for that matter after I did.

So now I am home, behind in my school work unable to concentrate typing this instead, hoping everyone is safe, healthy, and not visiting with friends. My roommate, whom I stayed with in France, picked up her grandma from the hospital (not Covid-19 related) and have both been now confirmed to have Covid-19 and are not doing well, lets keep others in mind.