COVID-19 and the Faraway Student

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After COVID-19 led to several travel bans, ACA students were in trouble.

Anya Smith, a sophomore pre-nursing major, was studying abroad in Spain when the news broke out. 

On March 12 that all participating students – some in Taiwan, France, and Austria – had to go back home, and those that arrived after government restrictions had to endure screening and 14 days of self-quarantine. Smith was no exception.

Smith is from a small California mountain town, and she loves baking and the outdoors. She wasn’t interested in ACA at first, but after attending a meeting with a friend, she decided to go. Having completed six months of being abroad, Smith had three months left. Then coronavirus broke out in China, hit Italy and finally reached Spain.

“I wasn’t super concerned even then, just because I was like, ‘Well, we’re in Spain. It’s probably not going to affect us,’” Smith said. “And then cases started being reported in Spain, and they were in locations an hour or two away from the school, and so I was a little more worried then.”

Then the last week before spring break, at the beginning of March, Italy closed its borders. 

Smith said, “I was scared, not of getting the coronavirus, but scared that I might not be able to leave the country if Spain closed its borders. And I figured, during that last week of school while we were there, ‘Ok, I’m going to go on spring break, and then after spring break, I’ll see how the cases are and how bad it is, and then I’ll decide if I need to go home.’”

But she was not able to take her spring break trip. News of the United State’s state of emergency reached Spain Thursday at 3:30 a.m. Smith found out at 5:30 a.m.

“One of my friends came bursting into my room when I was asleep and she said, ‘Anya, Anya, you have to wake up!’” Smith said. “And she shook me awake, and she was really emotional. And I thought, ‘Oh no, something bad happened.’ And she said, ‘We have to leave, Trump is closing the borders, we have to get out of here.’”

Smith’s friend already had a plane ticket and left within the next five hours. 

“I remember feeling this shock come over me, and I didn’t even believe what she was saying was true. I had just woken up, and it was super startling; I was really shaken up. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it that it was actually real.”

Students were supposed to take finals that day because ACA uses the quarter system, but everyone was buying plane tickets and packing. 

 “It was so abrupt, saying goodbye to people that fast, under those circumstances;” Smith said, “it’s just not the same. You don’t get to have your last, ‘Oh, this our last time going out to eat or last time traveling together.’ It’s all snatched away from you.”

During this time, the packed airports were in disarray. Student’s flights were delayed or canceled because of the travel restrictions.                                                                                 

“A lot of people had problems actually getting home and being able to have their tickets stay in effect,” Smith said. “Thankfully, mine all stayed through.”

Smith’s ACA school was in Segunto, Spain; from there she drove to Valencia, took a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, and then flew to San Francisco.

“Going through customs and coming back into the United States, the line was super long because there were so many people coming in,” Smith said. “I didn’t actually have to go through screening for the virus when I got in the states. But I know a week or two after I landed, they put screening in place so you had to get checked… I missed that, thankfully!”

Smith left Friday on March 13 and ended the trip with only five hours of sleep over a two-day period.

“But I got home,” Smith said. “That was the important part.” 

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