As this seemingly endless quarantine continues, I can’t help but reflect on how the pandemic has affected my life. As an international student from India, a wave of uncertainty struck when I received that first email about an extended spring break. My concern deepened days later when the University of Miami decided to transition to remote learning for the rest of the semester.
Just after that initial email was sent out, my phone buzzed with texts and memes. It seemed like all of my friends were happy about getting an extra week of spring break and not having classes. But how could we know it would end up like this?
After the university cancelled in-person classes, I found myself stuck between two worlds: Should I go back home to India or stay in the United States? The majority of my UM friends who are also from India booked the first flight they could get on. In my case, I didn’t think it made sense to leave. I wanted to continue working at my research lab and studying for the MCAT. I’d worked too hard to risk not being able to come back until August due to possible travel restrictions.
As the days passed, the situation worsened — my on-campus job at the wellness center ended because the building closed and all research work began to be done remotely because of the laboratory’s proximity to hospital facilities. I was more confused than ever — India was beginning to impose travel restrictions, and although airline prices dropped, it was still too expensive to go back home. Plus, the nearly 10-hour time difference would make attending classes and taking exams much more challenging.
Going to India was not an option anymore, but staying in Miami without a steady income was not a choice either. I had to leave, but didn’t know where to go.
The one option I had was to stay in Georgia with some relatives. But taking a flight there was too risky because those relatives are both in their 70s. I did not want to take even the smallest chance of contracting the virus and then giving it to them. As the outbreak worsened, students living on-campus were asked to leave if they had no valid reason to stay. Confused and anxious, I tried to find other ways to get to Georgia.
I discovered that one of my closest friends had his car in Miami and was planning to drive home to Delaware. Luckily, he was more than willing to give me a ride on his way north. Today, I’m safe in Georgia. But I miss my family and my friends.
Although I wish I could go back to India, I’m standing by the commitment I made to my family and to myself to stay here and fight for everything I’ve worked hard for. I’m grateful that I have family willing to take care of me and able to cover my expenses. I’m grateful that I’m not stranded alone in my apartment without a paycheck. I’m grateful that I’m doing well in my online classes. And finally, I’m grateful that, while this has been challenging, I continue to have good mental and physical health. I hope everyone in the UM community does the same.
words_devarsh desai illustration_jess morgan