Magdalena Knapp, Editor in Chief
It’s 9 a.m. on a Friday morning. I should be in the United States. I should be sitting in Senior Thesis right now, looking at Dr. Boysen while he is writing down the plan for today’s class. Instead, I am back at home in Italy. I am looking at Dr. Boysen through his webcam, while he shares his screen with the class in order to teach us something about SPSS. This is a new situation for me. A situation that no one would have expected could happen only three weeks ago. Three weeks ago everything was different; my cap and gown for graduation came with the mail and my roommate and I tried them on and took funny pictures with them. We were excited and thrilled that the moment we were working for since 3.75 years was finally coming closer. Little did we know that we wouldn’t get to wear our caps and gowns on May 9, 2020.
May 9, 2020 was my graduation date, the day where I finally would get to walk across the stage and experience the moment I had seen so many times in American movies. I wanted to know what it was like, the feeling of walking across a big stage, while your friends and family are there to support you. For the past 3 years I had told my parents how excited I was for them to come here, to show them my campus, to introduce them to my friends and teachers, and to let them be part of this special moment of mine that I have been working on for so hard. It would have been a reward. My reward. And a reward for hundreds of students in my class.
Things changed during the week of spring break. The spread of the coronavirus to America caused schools to close and to hold classes online. Zoom meetings and phone calls with my teachers were now my number one priority during the day. I thought this was temporary, a few weeks max. I was wrong.
On Friday, March 20, McKendree University students received the email that was going to set in stone what so many feared: Graduation is cancelled. Everybody that has the chance should leave the school and go home to avoid the spread of the virus. Within two days my roommates and I packed our stuff and moved out of our dorms. We felt numb, and we couldn’t understand what was happening. To some people this might not be comprehensible, but we felt depressed. We felt that something had been taken from us by a thief that was out of our control. Of course we understood it was the safest thing to do, but it still hurt so much. I didn’t get to say goodbye to most of my friends because they all left in a rush, as if something was chasing after them.
I booked a flight to go home. The following days I was in a rush to get everything set: pack my stuff up, send emails to professors, turn in books I had in my room, cancel my bank account, cancel my phone contract, and go to the nurses to get my personal supply of face masks and hand sanitizer for the journey home.
I said goodbye to the few people that were still on campus, hugged them, not knowing when I will see them again, and took one last picture in front of my dorm room. I always thought that the day when I would get to close my room door one last time would be a happy day, a day filled with laughter and excitement for what has to come. But instead I was just incredibly sad. I stayed at my friend’s house for a few days and then she took me to the airport one last time. Needless to say that hugging her goodbye broke my heart, because that was the moment when everything inside of me realized that it was over.
The journey home was long, filled with nervous people, rushed police officers, empty airplanes, crowded airplanes, the caustic smell of sanitizer everywhere, and many eyes. It was filled with eyes because that was the only thing I could see in people’s faces; the rest was covered by a face mask. Mine was too. Equipped with my face mask, latex gloves, and hand sanitizer, I stepped in to the first airplane that took me from St. Louis to New York. The plane was empty. I changed my gloves, put on a new face mask and stepped onto the next plane that took me from New York to Rome, Italy. The plane was crowded. People were yelling, and their attempts not to touch each other made it almost impossible to walk through them without getting yelled at. Due to the virus everyone entering Italy had to fill out a document with the reasons we want to enter the country. “Return to home” was my reason. But when I stepped off of the train onto the ground of what was my hometown, it didn’t feel like home. The streets that were usually full of people were empty. Stores, restaurants, and bars were closed. The few people that were walking around didn’t talk; they didn’t take notice of each other, nor did they offer me help with my luggage. It felt as if everyone and everything was poison.
I am in my room now, under quarantine for two weeks. I didn’t hug my parents or my sister when I got home. A high five with my foot had to be enough. I have a lot of time to think now, to think about what happened and process it. I am worried about my friends in America, worried about my friends and family here, about all the people in the hospitals and the people that are sick without knowing it yet. The numbers of deaths rise every day.
I believe though that we’ll make it through this. Everything happens for a reason. I want to believe that. I have to believe that, because otherwise why would something cruel like this happen to the world?
One day I will come back to America and make new memories, see all my friends that have become family again, and I will bring my family with me. They can see where I lived, get to meet my friends, and will understand why I loved this place so much. One day. I promise.