• Joelle Otterstedt

Finding Out I Had To Leave England

In the week leading up to having to leave, I was aware of the coronavirus, but I had no idea how crazy everything would become. At first, we were upset we had to cancel the part of spring break that was in Italy. Then we contemplated not going on spring break at all. Finally, we knew it was no longer an option to go on our spring break trip. At the time, I thought that was as bad as it could get. I knew other countries were getting worse, but everything was “business as usual” in England. I never imagined I would have to leave my study abroad experience 2 ½ months early.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

7:30 a.m. – I woke up for my 9:00 a.m. class and checked the news before getting out of bed. I saw that sometime while I was asleep, Trump had made his speech about the travel ban on Europe. Luckily, when I started reading more I found that it did not apply to U.S. citizens or the UK. I thought everything would still be alright for us, but I knew things were getting worse.

9:00 a.m. – Braden and I arrived at the class we had together and our professor came over to talk to us. He asked us if this was our last class session with them. This obviously confused us. Did they know something we didn’t? What is going on? What are people not telling us? He told us that he hadn’t heard anything from the University, but heard what was happening in the U.S. and thought we might have decided to go home.

2:00 p.m. – Braden and I were trying to work on some essays in the library when one of our friends, another study abroad student, walked up to us. She said she had just gotten an email from her home university explaining that she had to return home within the next 7 days. She was obviously upset. Mad she had to leave. Sad she hadn’t gotten to see a lot of the things she had planned on. Her school had told her that if she decided to go against their recommendation of returning home, she would be on her own to figure everything out. She was also from the U.S., which made me realize it was possible for our school to do the same.

2:30 p.m. – After hearing about what happened to our friend, I went and tried to find someone at York St John University (YSJ) to talk to about what was going on. I went to the student information desk and told them about my friend’s email, and said I was concerned about what might happen to me and if we all had to leave. All they told me was that I had heard wrong information, and nobody had to leave. They said if I was still concerned, I could go talk to the head of my school. We were very concerned and YSJ seemed to not realize it.

6:00 p.m. – At this point, a few other study-abroad students had found out they had to leave too. I couldn’t stand just sitting around waiting and hoping to get some information from Pacific. I emailed one of the people at Pacific’s study abroad office and told them what I had heard from the other students. I got an email saying there was going to be a meeting and there would be official word sometime the next day, but they were leaning towards bringing us home, too. In one day, it went from everything being fine to probably being sent home.

Friday, March 13, 2020

7:00 a.m. – I barely slept the night before. Every time I woke up during the night, I would check my phone to see if there was any news from Pacific. In the morning I woke up to a text from my friend with a link to the latest news about what Pacific was doing. It explained that campus was closed the rest of the semester and spring break had been extended. At the very bottom of the page there was one sentence that said that all study abroad students should return home immediately. This one sentence on the school website was the first word we got that we were supposed to return. I only saw it because my friend at Pacific had been searching Pacific’s website to try to find news. At this point it was almost 1:00 in the morning in Oregon, and I knew I wouldn’t hear anything for hours.

9:00 a.m. – Braden and I tried to distract ourselves by going out to breakfast (for possibly the last time) at our favorite café. We told the waitress that we thought we had to leave, and she offered to give us her number and help with anything she could. People in England are honestly so nice.

11:00 a.m. – We went to the library to work on trying to get money back from our spring break trip. I was so stressed out that I didn’t actually get anything done. I had emailed the head of study abroad at Pacific and got a response saying that the official email would be coming soon, but they would be giving a firm recommendation that we return home. We didn’t know what that meant. What is a firm recommendation? Could we stay if we wanted to? How soon did they want us home? What did this mean for credits?

1:00 p.m. – A couple of our other friends from Pacific came to meet us in the library to wait for the news. At this point we assumed we’d have to leave, but it was just a question of when. At this point almost all of our study abroad friends had found out they had to return home, but we still hadn’t gotten the official word. We couldn’t stand just sitting there waiting anymore. We tried emailing different people at YSJ that we thought might be able to help. All of them came back with responses like “we will respond in 2-4 business days”, or “out of the office for the weekend”. I was desperate to get some kind of information about what was going on, so I emailed my advisor and another professor back home. I knew they both woke up early and were well connected at the school. They both responded quickly saying they would try to find us information.

2:00 p.m. – My advisor responded saying the Dean of the University told him all study abroad students were to come home immediately. We still hadn’t heard any official word about what was going on or what we were supposed to do. Just a lot of talk from different people. Instead of just sitting around, we decided to head into town, for possibly one of the last times. We decided to check an office that we thought may have a person that knows something about study abroad. It was a long shot, but we were just looking for anyone that could help us figure out what was going on. We got lucky and someone in charge of study abroad was in the office and came to talk to us. We explained everything we knew and asked if she knew anything else. It was the opposite of what we were hoping for. She was shocked that Pacific had shut down their campus and was probably calling us back. There were YSJ students there, so she called Pacific, and nobody returned her calls. There was no communication between the two schools. All we were told from her was that it was our decision to make, and they would all be out of the office until Monday.

5:00 p.m. – We had been wandering around town for a couple hours. All trying to get last minute souvenirs and visit our favorite shops for probably the last time. Then we got the official email. It said that we should return home as soon as possible. We knew that it was coming, but now with the official email it was time to go back to our flats and try to figure out how to get home.

7:00 p.m. – Braden, our friend, and I all got together to look for tickets to get home. Our original flight was on Delta, but If we were to fly with them it would have been $1,800. We were able to find another flight at about the same time for $833. Still very VERY expensive for a one-way ticket, but all of our parents had told us to do whatever we needed to do to get home. Our flight was in the morning and there were no trains running early enough to get to the airport in time, so we also had to book a hotel for the night before as well. Then we booked our train ticket. Then made a reservation for a taxi to get to the train station.

8:30 p.m. – Time to start packing. I got a fair bit of packing done, but there was still a lot to do when I went to bed.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

6:00 a.m. – Wake up and start laundry. Most of my clothes were dirty, so I thought it was best to wash them before I finished packing. It was the last time I would have to pay $7 for a load of laundry.

12:00 p.m. – Took a break from packing to go to a café for lunch. It would be our last time walking around the city. It felt surreal.

3:00 p.m. – One of my friends came over to pick up all of the stuff we weren’t taking home with us (pots, pans, hangers, etc.). She was one of the two people I got to say goodbye to before I had to leave.

5:00 p.m. – We made some quick pasta for dinner and packed up the last few things. Then we each gave our labeled keys to my roommate. We weren’t sure what to do with them, so he said he would take them to campus for us.

6:00 p.m. – We walked out of my flat and went to wait outside for the taxi: our first leg of the crazy travel home.

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