How do you quarantine at home when home is 4,375 miles away? When COVID-19 started to evolve into a global pandemic, I had no idea how much it would affect me as an international student. These are extremely challenging times which have affected every single one of us in different ways. For me, COVID-19 has taught me about the importance of family, empathy and respect.
I was on my way to celebrate my birthday when I received the email from Seton Hill stating that classes would be online for what was expected to be a short period of time. I remember feeling both worried and annoyed about the news, but I thought that things would soon be back to normal. Well, I was terribly wrong.
The last time I went to Brazil and saw my family was exactly a year ago. We said goodbye at the airport, knowing that I would not be able to reunite with them until this year. Even though I have become used to saying goodbye, it was the first time that I had made the decision to not go home for Christmas break and I was more emotional than usual. Back then, summer seemed so far away and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to spend such a long time away from home.
Then, I received the email that classes would be moved completely online until further notice. Around that time, I also received the email that all my flights home had been cancelled. It didn’t matter how many times I checked the air companies’ websites, there were no flights. Even though I have a home in the United States, my real home will always be Brazil and when things started to get serious, all that I could think about was going back to my family.
The truth is that I come from a very loving and united family that even miles away, everyone makes sure to stay close together. Although it was my decision to come to the United States, there isn’t a single day that I don’t miss my family, my friends, my favorite foods, my bedroom and everything else that I am used to. Therefore, I like to fill my time with school, so I don’t feel so homesick.
Unfortunately, quarantine made it completely impossible for me not to feel homesick. Even though people say that you must learn how to live with yourself, every day my parents were sending pictures of the entire family together at home, while I found myself alone most of the time. It didn’t matter how much I wanted and still want to go home, because my parents kept reminding me that the best for me is to stay here.
For a while now, Brazilians have been forbidden to enter the United States. I know that if I had gone home when I had a chance, I would have had to give up on my dreams and would not be able to finish my studies in the United States. Even if I know that I have been lucky, I have friends who were supposed to be starting school this fall but are trapped in Brazil with their scholarships in jeopardy and their futures uncertain.
This is all because the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, hasn’t taken the pandemic seriously and has even joined protesters who believe it all to be a hoax. He has made several controversial claims about COVID-19 and considers it to be nothing to be worried about. Meanwhile, Brazil is the 3rd country with most cases, 3,340,197, and a current death toll of 107,852.
Every day I think about my parents. My mother, who was recently diagnosed with two different diseases which compromise her immune system, and my father, who has asthma, have to expose themselves every day by going to work and dealing with people who do not believe in COVID-19.
My mother has lost two friends to the COVID-19 and several of the people I know from Brazil have lost someone or currently have someone dealing with the virus as well. We don’t fully know how this virus can affect someone, and we can’t just assume that everyone is safe and nothing will happen to us.
I haven’t seen my family in over a year and right now, I have no idea when I will be able to see them again because there are people who are not taking this pandemic seriously. This is the time to think not about ourselves, but about others and how we may impact their lives. We can’t assume that other people are following all the procedures, so we have to be extra careful and follow all the guidelines.
Therefore, as school starts, remember to stay safe, wash your hands and please wear a mask. I believe that we can get through this and that soon I will be able to see my family again without putting my future, myself and others at risk.
Published by: Mikaela Fitzpatrick