Mind the gap
I am home. As I sit on my couch, sweatpants on and makeup off, I scroll through my phone. I longingly look through my camera roll while my British Art and Architecture professor lectures about 19th century art in the background. It’s not a surprise that learning about famous British paintings does not hold the same weight when you are stuck in your house located in rural Ohio.
I am home, but I am supposed to be in London, riding a double decker bus or walking through Hyde Park. I am one of 80 UD students who started the semester in Europe and will now finish coursework from our laptops at home. Some students were studying with fellow Flyers while others, like me, went through a third-party provider, American Institute for Foreign Study. Regardless, our time abroad has ended.
I once complained about having to cancel my spring break trip to Milan. My friends and I sat around a small table in our dormitory in Kensington, a royal borough of London, irritated that a stingy budget airline was not going to give us our money back. We knew we were making the right choice even as we laughed at the people who were going to Italy anyway, and we joked that “rona” would never stop us.
That was less than a month ago. Oh, the irony.
The week following our makeshift spring break trip to Switzerland and Germany was filled with rumors, worries and concerns. COVID-19 was in the U.S., so now it really mattered. Every morning I braced myself as I checked the news. It was only a matter of time until my study abroad experience would be cut short by nearly two months.
My final days in London consisted of last-minute sightseeing, countless tube rides and painful goodbyes to friends who had become family. I watched as London transformed from a city that seemed to be above the pandemic to one that was quickly catching on to the severity and harsh new reality the rest of the world was already grappling with. While I did not want to come home, the city I fell in love with no longer existed.
The journey home, although tedious and tiring, went fairly well. I braced myself for the horrors I had seen on Twitter just days before of people packed in like cattle, all trying to enter the same 11 approved airports. Luckily, I was spared the drama.
I wore an N95 mask (courtesy of my friend’s boyfriend), did my best to hold in my cough brought on by seasonal allergies, and had my bag of medications ready to go just in case they needed proof that I was, indeed, not inflicted with COVID-19.
Now, I am in self-quarantine like everyone else, but with a few extra bonuses. I take my temperature twice-a-day — just in case. My parents, who are cautious people in general, insist that I try to stay 6 feet away at all times. I eat at a separate table, sit on my own couch, and do not touch anything in the kitchen — also just in case.
As I am adjusting to my new normal, I know that everyone is coming to terms with what they have lost. I do not need to be the person who preaches about disappointment, anger, confusion and boredom. We are all living it.
I find solace in knowing that I am now physically much closer to UD, even though its love, support, optimism and camaraderie were felt all the way across the Atlantic.
Back in London in our dorm, I had forced my new friends to watch ESPN’s College GameDay highlights and got chills every time I watched that incredible intro. I had started researching pubs in London that would show March Madness, ready to celebrate a new chapter in a historic basketball season. I was grateful when those in the UD office of education abroad kept me in the loop and checked on me periodically. I also provided comfort to UD friends as they told me they would not be returning to campus.
From afar, I watch as UD lives through a historic semester. It’s true, I missed a lot, but I know that the Flyer spirit exists as it always has and always will. We’re just minding the gap.
Lauren Durham is a student writer for UD Magazine. A version of this essay will appear in the April 1 edition of Flyer News.