To say that the past few weeks have seen us through enough tumultuous events to last an entire World History midterm would be an understatement.
Ever since the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States, the rapidly evolving illness has been the hot discussion topic of the day… everyday. It has almost entirely monopolised CNN’s Breaking News alerts, inspired a new wave of Instagram memes, and even became the preferred first date choice of small talk.
Although some of its consequences have been predictable (i.e. the economic distress, unwarranted racism and xenophobia), there is one profound effect that nobody really could’ve foreseen: a high school reunion.
“I knew the virus was bad, but I don’t think it really hit me until I was given three days to pack up all my things and fly back across the world.”
Ohio State University student, Jeniffer Park, shares of the quickness in which everything unraveled. “Since the school has a lot of international students, it was much harder for all of us to move out. I managed to get back to South Korea quite fast, since my whole family and I are citizens, but I sympathise with those who had to deal with borders being closed and other travel restrictions.”
Singapore has not only decided to seal off its borders to non-healthcare workers, non-Singaporean citizens and/or Permanent Residents, but has recently implemented a “circuit breaker” program lasting until early May. This came as a response to the sudden spike in imported cases two weeks to the end of March.
“I know a lot of talk has been made about people like my friends whose applications to fly back to Singapore have been denied,” Rice University freshman Perry Lin reflects, “and I’m lucky to have family in the same state as where I attend college. I know a lot of them can’t say the same.”
The sudden displacement of university students all around the world is an unprecedented phenomenon. Campus closures and subsequent travel restrictions have led many scrambling to find adequate housing for the next few weeks, if not months. Keep in mind that these are students, many of whom are eighteen or nineteen, who are halfway across the world from their families and do not have the means to shack up in an Airbnb for the rest of the foreseeable semester.
NYU Abu Dhabi freshman and former Chief Media Editor of The Eye, Chloe Venn, tells of the unique way her university is dealing with this global issue of forced relocation. NYUAD is simply not forcing anyone to relocate at all.
Chloe reveals, “I know a lot of people I go to school with are from small towns and villages and it just isn’t feasible for them to travel all the way back, especially since everything regarding classes and daily life is so up in the air.”
NYUAD has made the decision to keep its dining halls and dorms functioning, making it the only one out of NYU’s fifteen campuses to do so. This possibility could be credited to the fact that NYUAD’s small, tight-knit community and secluded campus allows the development of a protected population amidst the rest of the UAE.
Going away for college has always been one of the most recognisable rites of passage for a teenager-turning-young-adult. It is, for most people, the first real sense of independence in eighteen years.
“There was this weird feeling of failure when I came back to Singapore. Even though I had no choice but to, I still felt like my entire life had moved backwards.” An anonymous graduate confesses on the topic of heading home. “And it was especially weird because everyone I went to high school with came back too.”
Mi Le Jang, also a former Chief Media Editor of The Eye, graduated from SAS along with the Class of 2019. However, instead of immediately going to college, she decided to take a gap year here in Singapore.
To her, college closures all over the world didn’t mean a complete upheaval of life as she knows it. Instead, it was a welcome reunion.
“Living in such an international setting, it can be hard to keep in contact with friends, especially if timezones don’t match up. So I was excited when I realised I would be in the same country as all my best friends again.”
When asked to elaborate further, she notes, “Obviously, the events that have brought us all together are unfortunate. But I think that it’s a unique thing to bond with everyone over something like this. It really feels like we are going through it together.”
It’s a note-worthy occurance.
Everyone, regardless of life experience or upbringing, understands one concrete fact: there is no chance of fighting this virus if we aren’t fighting it together. This pandemic has not only brought last year’s graduating class together, but the entire world as well.
While COVID-19 has undoubtedly caused disruptions in all of our lives, it’s important to concentrate on what we can control: staying inside and staying cautious.
That is the only way we can look forward to resuming our regular lives again. And the Class of 2019 is finally able to hold a proper, more than 10 members, reunion.