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The Granddaughter of a UWI Pelican shares her Covid-19 experience

The Granddaughter of a UWI Pelican shares her Covid-19 experience

15 year old Francoise Hall, a student at the Pensionnat du Saint-Nom-de-Marie, in Montreal Canada had been studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain since January 9th 2020.

“On March 12th, there were about 5,000 coronavirus cases in the north of Spain and three weeks left in my studies abroad. This was the day where everything started to fall apart. First, I showed up to swim practice at Club Nautico Sevilla to learn trainings had been suspended. Then, we learned our Spanish School, Colegio Santa Maria, would be closing starting on Monday. That night, after listening to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the news, hearing of Trump’s border closings, as well as Pedro Sanchez’s press conference, my parents and the Pensionnat du Saint-Nom-de-Marie began strategizing how to get all the exchange students home as soon as possible. I knew it was the beginning of the end, but I never thought everything would happen so quickly. Early the next morning, I learned we would be leaving on Sunday. From the minute my mom called me I knew something was wrong because it was 1:00 am for her and it felt like a rug had been pulled from under me. Selfishly, I couldn’t shake the sadness of leaving behind my second family or the feeling something had been stolen from me. There were so many more things I wanted to see and learn. I only became grateful later because I saw the situation was quickly escalating in Spain and had we waited longer, we might not have been able to leave.

We left at 1:30 am and traveled through three countries over 22 hours to get back to Montreal. When I woke up in my own bed for the first time in months, I couldn’t even believe what had happened. I had to convince myself that I had actually been away by looking through pictures and reading my journals, but it was real. I had been living an amazing dream for about two months and I’d just been pulled harshly back into reality. I definitely did not imagine my return like this. I had planned on surprising my teammates at the pool (I had even told the wrong date for my return so I could surprise them on deck), seeing all my classmates the next day and hugging all my friends. Instead, I was in self isolation. Because of the fatigue, the jet-lag and overall emotional choc, the first few days of my return were hard. Luckily, my school was very quick to organize our online classes over the weekend. Having school helped me feel better and get back into a more normal routine. The Pensionnat du Saint-Nom-de-Marie has us following our usual schedule thanks to different platforms like Zoom, Studio, Google Classroom and Showbie. We either have a videoconference to attend or a specific assignment to do during every class we usually would be attending at school. At first, it seemed like a burden, but I quickly realised that it was a blessing. I needed to have things to do that would stimulate my brain, as well as a structured day.

Not only did I get lucky with my school, but also with my swim team. CAMO Natation quickly elaborated different training programs for us, which helps keep my schedule normal. (School during the day and “swimming” during the evening.) I don’t think being busy makes the pandemic less scary, but it does make social distancing a little bit more bearable. Though it may be through a screen, seeing and interacting with fellow classmates and teammates has helped me normalise the situation and helps being stuck inside with your family. I’m scared and so is the world. It’s hard to tell when this nightmare will be over and it’s painful to see the world around me collapsing and suffering. Being at home isn’t much fun but considering what a lot of other people are going through I feel quite grateful. Not everyone has the privilege of being safe and occupied at home. It’s very frightening to watch on television and I couldn’t even imagine what it must be like for my friends and classmates whose parents are waking up everyday to work on the frontlines of this pandemic. It’s even more frightening to know a lot of people are sick and dying.

I can’t help but imagine how things will change when everything will be over. When we will return to school and restart our social activities the world will be healing. Covid-19 will have revealed strengths and weaknesses in our society, people will have gotten sick and others will have lost loved ones. Will the world we walk back into be just as we left it? How will we find a new normal? Will society change for better or for worse? A global pandemic always felt like something you would find in a dystopian novel or a bad video game and it never felt like it could be real. It makes me think of a quote by Oscar Wilde. He once said: “They’ve promised that dreams can come true. But forgot to mention that nightmares are dreams too”

Contributed by Dr C. Lloyd Stanford – UWIAA Contact Ottawa. Canada


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