We’re not all on the same boat: Living and studying in another country during a pandemic

“We’re all on the same boat; hold on tight.” I have been hearing these words a lot lately amid this COVID-19 pandemic. However, I have mixed feelings about this phrase. On one hand, it gives me comfort and hope because it encourages me to persevere. On the other hand, it makes me feel like my experiences are not of great importance. Everyone’s situation is different, and everyone has a different experience with COVID-19; consequently, we are not all on the same boat.

When last semester ended early, I remember being in Voorhees Hall when all my residents were packing and moving out of their rooms. After a couple of days, my roommate and I were two out of the four people who stayed in Voorhees (the four of us were international students), and I realized that we were not on the same boat as those who got to go home. The situation felt unreal, almost like a movie. I am from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, so going back home was not an option for me because borders were closed. As time went by, I figured that staying on campus wouldn’t be too bad, since I was initially planning to stay at Hope to work for two months, take a class and go home for the remaining month of the summer. Nevertheless, both my job and my class got canceled, and I did not get to go to Honduras at all.

The last month before classes started was one of the most stressful. My study abroad program got canceled; there were many social and political issues back home; a tense environment due to political, social and racial injustices emerged in the U.S.; new immigration laws that affected me and my fellow international classmates were being discussed; and, of course, COVID-19 was still a big problem. Despite the emotional and mental exhaustion that this time caused, I was able to realize that there are so many changes that need to happen. Even though my problems and worries are valid and important, there are others who are going through harder situations, and I am not on the same boat as them. It was then that I understood that, instead of “we are all on the same boat,” I would rather hear and say the words, “I support you,” “I am here for you” or “we are in this together.”

I have been away from home for nine months now, and I am not sure when the next time I will go to Honduras will be. It has been extremely difficult to be away from my family during the pandemic, so my parents, sister and I started video-calling every night at the beginning of quarantine, and we have kept doing it ever since! Moreover, God placed people like my housemates, friends, the staff from the Fried Center for Global Engagement and my host family in my life to make me feel at home even if I am far from home. As I finish my fourth week of the new semester, I realize the importance of having a community and a support system that will walk with you through adversity and you with them. I realize the importance of listening, respecting and acknowledging everyone’s experiences, because the same situation (like a pandemic) can cause a different impact on different people. 

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