By Sophia Tran

“You know what I got out of that internship? Terror. Absolute fear of spending the rest of my life looking like the people at the company.” I sat shocked at this admission as I listened to my friend share their working experience with me. 

  In the past year I have started to take notice of the relationships in the workplace. As an intern myself, I am incredibly appreciative of the opportunity to develop my professional experience while still in school. As I listened to my peers share their own experiences as interns, I realized that there seems to be a strong disconnect of corporate engagement and culture between interns and working professionals. Many seemed to be disillusioned by their experiences and often it brings a sense of despair and fear of the reality after leaving school. 

The result? Many are rejecting incredible job offers at these companies and are either choosing to continue pursuing graduate degrees or taking job positions that have fewer financial benefits but bring more sense of purpose and joy. In the U.S the number of graduate students have tripled since the 1970s and according to some estimates, 27% of employers now require master’s degrees for roles in which historically undergraduate degrees sufficed (HBR). 

The problem is that it might not be at no fault of each generation but of the situational circumstances that each era experiences in their own lifetime. Likewise, it seemed that many of the older working professionals  (baby boomers and Gen X) that I speak with are struggling to adapt and understand the millennial generation who are slowly growing in numbers in their company. 

I believe that companies have the principles and values that the millennial workforce are looking for yet fall short of recognizing and presenting the importance of the purpose in their work as well as the company’s care to continue to cultivate their employee’s success in a way that would energize and engage them.  Similarly, the millennial generation is incredibly sharp with the potential to persevere and add value to these companies, yet again fall short of displaying it. What can we do? How can we learn to find the excitement and joy in our working experiences while putting our best foot forward in these companies, showing them our fullest potential without feeling that our shortcomings are due to the lack of a graduate degree?

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – Stephen Covey

What we can do as the millennial generation  is to take that step forward and learn to understand ourselves better as a person in order to better communicate between generations in a way for others to see our potential and overall enhance our experience with others. In my next posts over the following weeks, I’ll be going through Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads On Managing Yourself, which compiles articles focused on providing you the resources to tap into yourself to develop the habits of success and navigate your own personal life and avoiding decisions that undermine your goals in life. Learning how to self-manage yourself is an incredible tool to use (especially in this pandemic) to advance your growth and learn about the business environment. The book will cover how you can create positive influences on others, overcoming tough obstacles, leading a balanced life and much more.

 Sometimes one of the most difficult things about life is finding our purpose and the things that make us happy in our career, sometimes it just takes a little nudge to get us started on the right path. Everyone wants to lead a happy and fulfilling life, yet many do not reach that point in their career or cannot seem to maintain that balance. How will YOU fill out in your “Happiness is when…”? 

by Mia Foster

Washington Youth for Masks is a nonprofit fundraiser that has aimed to raise $25,000 to purchase 50,000 masks for four hospitals in Washington. While many individual people and groups are raising money to provide healthcare professionals with personal protective equipment (PPE), this initiative is particularly special; it is entirely organized and executed by youth in Washington. 

     Since the initial article was written, funds have jumped from around $8,600 to over $17,500 thanks to the hard work of the board members and roughly 210 representatives. The first delivery of masks was made on April 23rd to University of Washington (UW) Medicine. The delivery included 24 boxes, equating to around 20,000 masks.

Pictures from the first delivery of masks

    In response to the donation, the CEO of UW Medicine, Paul Ramsey, wrote a personalized letter thanking Washington Youth for Masks, the group’s organizer Angelina Chin, and everyone involved in the donation. 

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Letter from CEO of UW Medicine, Paul Ramsey

     Along with the letter, Washington Youth for Masks received a heartwarming message of gratitude directly from a few healthcare heroes on the front lines. 

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A Thank You from Healthcare Workers

     This organization is directly aiding in the fight against COVID-19, and youth are the driving force behind it. For all those who have donated or volunteered so far, your engagement matters and has a tangible impact. Thank you.

For more information, refer to my initial article, “Washington Youth for Masks: Youth Uniting for Protective Equipment” or refer to one of the links below! Every donation counts: $5=10 masks!

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/washington-youth-for-masks-covid19-support-fund 

Website: https://wayouthformasks.wixsite.com/website 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WAYouthForMasks/

 

By Mia Foster

    You unplug your phone and pour yourself coffee. It’s a slow morning, without too much to do. While you decompress, the devices you used continue to aimlessly draw power; your phone may be unplugged and the coffee may be brewed, but they use electricity nonetheless. According to climate journalist Tatiana Schlossberg, about three quarters of our devices use electricity even when they are “off,” causing about a quarter of the average American’s electricity consumption to be used by idle devices (Schlossberg 56-58). The wasted electricity caused by this phenomenon, often referred to as “vampire power,” is costly in terms of electricity bills and environmental impact.

     So how do we reduce the amount of electricity idle devices use? Luckily, this is a rather simple fix. One option is to put multiple devices on a power strip, which allows you to fully turn off many appliances at once. This has the same effect as unplugging, as it completely stops the use of electricity (Schlossberg 62). Another small lifestyle habit is to simply unplug devices when you are done using them instead of turning them off. I started a habit of unplugging my phone charger along with my phone in the morning. You can unplug your coffee maker when your pot is brewed and unplug lamps when you turn them off. These simple changes can add up to a large amount of electricity, allowing us to protect our wallets and the environment at the same time.

Works Cited

Schlossberg, Tatiana. “Vampire Power.” INCONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION: the Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have, by Tatiana Schlossberg, GRAND CENTRAL PUB, 2020, pp. 56–62.

By Mia Foster

   It is easy to feel lost and powerless during this shut-down, as we derived purpose from the daily routines we structured, the work we did, and the social lives we tended to. Without these identifying factors to cling to, a majority of us, myself included, have had difficulty reshaping our identities and finding the motivation to work on something new. However, we must adapt to this new format of our lives. As the world we knew came to a stop, so did many of our dreams, aspirations, and projects–but it doesn’t have to stay that way. American professor Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky said it best; “some of us may wonder whether it is feasible or even possible to continue striving toward our goals during times of crisis…but commitment to goals during such times may help us cope better with problems” (Lyubomirsky 207-208). If you are feeling purposeless, lost, or sluggish, you are not alone. Feel what you feel–your feelings and emotions are valid. Once you are ready to take action and begin to feel better, creating goals that truly interest you can reignite a fire and provide a sense of purpose. We are going to take the leap from thought to action and start our own Passion Projects!

What is a Passion Project?

     Simply put, a Passion Project is a project that you do because you want to. This want is not the desire for the instant gratification of a piece of chocolate or the purchase of a luxury item; it is, as Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D. explained, a goal “we pursue out of deep personal conviction and/or a strong interest” (Ben-Shahar 72). A Passion Project is enjoyable during the process of completion, and the project, most importantly, is meaningful to you. Getting started on work that energizes you and matters to you personally can be a daunting but extremely rewarding process. The hardest part is leaping from thought to action, but it is entirely doable with guidance, support, and the bravery that you’ve been saving for “someday.”

Thought to Action

     I have recently had an experience I’m sure many of you can relate to. It was nighttime and I couldn’t settle on something I wanted to do, so I resorted to scrolling through Twitter. I read the Tweets of politicians I felt were blatantly lying about the state of coronavirus in the United States, and their supporters simply lapped up the lies without a second thought. My rage consumed me– in a government where the truth was not valued, how could I manage to make a difference through logic and reason? I felt unrepresented and powerless, like nothing I did would allow me to share my ideas and be listened to by politicians with differing viewpoints. I felt that the partisan divide in our country barred me from having legitimate discussions with half of the population. I wondered why I felt so powerless, and then it hit me: I had all these passionate beliefs inside of me and did nothing with them but leave them to fester. I never did anything about the things that upset me, but I expected my ideas to be considered nonetheless. If you need a kick in the butt to get started, like I did, author Mike Dooley phrased it perfectly: “Intent, or thought without action, is not enough” (Dooley 80). It’s time to act!

     Passion Projects are a way to pursue something that brings you joy while restoring a sense of purpose. As Coronavirus cases slowly skyrocketed in my home state of Washington, I began fundraising for Washington Youth for Masks, a nonprofit focused on purchasing masks for hospitals in Washington, a few weeks back. I fell in love with the project because I found its mission compelling and mainly because it provided the purpose I had been lacking. There was work to be done, and I refused to be complacent as I watched others in my community fight the virus on the front lines. Fundraising might not be your cup of tea, which is ok; this is something that excited me. Your Passion Project will be tailored to you and your interests. A direct benefit of having a long-term goal is that its “pursuit provides us a sense of purpose and a feeling of control over our lives” (Lyubomirsky 206). To regain footing in the new lifestyle of a world in lockdown, a personalized goal is necessary.

How to Craft a Passion Project

     Your Passion Project is yours–you have total autonomy. I am providing suggestions I believe are helpful for success and fulfillment, but ultimately, you have the power, and I’m excited to see what you do with it!

     Here are some tips for creating a project you find inspiring and fulfilling:

  • Think about issues or areas of interest that truly excite you. Do you like writing? Gardening? Music? Math? When watching politicians, what issues do you really care about? What policies do you support? What do you wish was different about your community? What do you enjoy that you want to share with others?
  • Choose your project based on what you want.
  • “Your priority should be to discern which goals will make you happy in the long term and to follow them” (Lyubomirsky 206). 
  • Find a project you will enjoy working on- “when goals facilitate the enjoyment of our present experience, they indirectly lead to an increase in our levels of well-being each step of the way, as opposed to a temporary spike that comes with the attainment of a goal” (Ben-Shahar 70-71). 
  • Take your interests and the thoughts that ping around in your head at night and brainstorm ways to put them into action. Avoid self-judgement here- we seem to have taken the “why not try?” approach with our hair during quarantine. Let’s apply this ambition to new, courageous projects! We’ve all got time, nothing to lose, and so much to gain. There’s no better time to go for it!

Making Abstract Concepts Concrete

     At this point in the process, you have thought of something or multiple things that you care about that energize you. Hopefully you have some ideas forming about how to act on these interests. If you don’t, it’s ok! Back up a little, continue brainstorming, and be gentle with yourself. If you do, it’s time to pull the concepts out of your imagination and put them in a tangible form; tell someone you trust, type it out, make a list. I personally enjoy using whiteboards for organizing my thoughts. By being able to physically see them, I can focus on the logistics of bringing my ideas to fruition instead of focusing my energy on trying to remember my ideas. Most importantly, by taking your thoughts and putting them into some format outside of your head, they feel real. A Passion Project involves goals, not daydreams. Your ideas deserve to be actualized!

     Once you’ve finished moving your thoughts out of your head and into the physical world, you can begin to plan the physical actions you will take to bring your project to life. Focus on the small steps so it isn’t overwhelming! All you need is a few small ideas to get you started. Trust that you will continue to find new ways to further your intentions as you go. I find that writing this part out is beneficial as well, but do whatever works for you! Here is an example of how I am currently pursuing a Passion Project:

My interest: Politics and Government

My desire: To be able to make a positive impact on the lives of Americans through government

How: Get involved in local government

Getting started: Email a state senator and see if internships are available

Future: Who knows? It is ok to not have the entire project planned perfectly. By giving myself the freedom to continue planning and inventing as I go, I can enter the internship with an open mind and make the most of the opportunities I find. 

     Of course, this is easier said than done. It took a tremendous amount of courage to step out of my comfort zone, which is talking about what I care about but never doing anything. Taking the step of sending that email was the hardest part. I had to believe in the validity of my goals and my ability to achieve them. This type of step is much easier with someone beside you!

Involving Loved Ones

     We are social beings. The support of those we love is important to us–so ask for it! Tell those close to you about your plans so they can provide encouragement and hold you accountable for following through. They can celebrate with you when you hit ‘send’ on the email and remind you why the project matters when you are feeling down. Don’t skip this step, it is so important!

Taking the First Step

     This is truly the hardest part of the process. Remember why you want to do this. Write it where you can see it. There’s nothing to soften this–take the plunge! By doing this, you become the driver of the car instead of the passenger. You no longer wait to see where life takes you, but choose the destination yourself and drive. You have so many wonderful things to accomplish. Your future self is looking back at you and smiling, grateful for the day you took the leap and took action. Let’s go!

Conclusion

     Before doing any work on your Passion Project, make it a habit to remind yourself why the work matters to you. When you care deeply, you will find an unbreakable dedication. The people who make a difference and experience fulfilling success are just as human as you and me. There is nothing holding you back from making a positive impact on the world! Remind yourself this: the work you do matters, and you matter. It is much easier to follow through on a plan when you approach it with love instead of fear. Do it because you love it, and always remember that love. 

By Mia Foster

A rubber band on a glass to mark whose glass it is.

     The concept of a wine-marker is quite logical; as all glasses look the same, a person puts an attachment on their glass so they know which one is theirs when they put it down. I have taken to applying this principle to water glasses. In my family and many other families, all our water glasses look the same. This leads to an excessive number of glasses in the dishwasher since no one remembers which belonged to them, so they grab a new glass from the cabinet instead of continuing to use the same one. Some may also grab a random used glass, not knowing who drank from it previously, and use that. In a global pandemic, that is incredibly unsafe. By simply making your glass identifiable, you can reduce the number of dishes you have to wash and the spread of germs within your family. I guess you could say it’s killing two birds with one stone (my mom would say petting two bunnies with one hand because the other saying makes her sad). 

Marking your glass is extremely simple- grab a rubber band and place it around your glass. It is of no cost to you! I will use my glass for a week or so before washing it- you can choose how long you go, but since it’s just water, you can reuse it for at least a few days. This is a very simple way to reduce your dishwasher use, saving water, electricity, and time!

By Amy Boyle

Spring break is a time when students put a pause on academics and remind themselves to live. To college student Jennalynn Cisna, it meant a week-long trip touring Europe, but what she saw instead was a crisis beginning to unfold. 

“We left for Austria March 6… came back, and everything had gone to hell,” she explains. 

For her, there would be no return to normalcy after arriving home. Instead, two weeks of self-quarantine and a lack of closure, confronted with the reality of a crisis and no time for goodbyes, only preparation for the unexpected.

In Dec. 2019, the first case of coronavirus was identified in Wuhan, China. In the months that would follow: school closings, trip cancellations, social distancing and economic devastation at a global level. What began as a few sporadic cases in East Asia rapidly escalated into a pandemic sweeping nations across the world and costing the lives of over 100,000 people. And as death tolls increase, so too does its impact on the living as people struggle to make sense of the physical, emotional and economic damage it has wrought.

Until recently, “immunocompromised” was a term unfamiliar to most, it has now become a word people use to describe the likes of their grandparents, coworkers, friends, acquaintances, those more susceptible to contracting the virus. High school senior, Jenny Rodriguez is among those feeling particularly worried about this public health risk as someone with a compromising chronic condition. 

“I’ve been quite anxious…” she explains, “I have asthma and wouldn’t handle it well.”

But for Rodriguez, the challenges of this outbreak extend beyond threats to her health. They threaten hopes she holds for her future as well. Hers is an experience many students identify with–the challenges of completing schoolwork during an unprecedented online transition as well as grieving the absence of friends and missing hallmark high school experiences. The uncertainty of having a graduation ceremony has been especially difficult she goes on to reveal, as “the first in my immediate family to graduate, walking the stage is a big thing for me.”

For many, grief has become the new normal–losing loved ones, losing employment, even losing motivation to get up. “My room is a mess, and I feel the same way about my life right now” said Pike junior Malachi Morris. High school senior, Emma Wilson shares, “it’s hard for me to even get out of bed, I am dealing with loads of negative emotions…I often feel like there is nothing to look forward to”.

For others asked to describe their COVID experience: “Surreal. Upsetting. Frustrating. Disappointing. Stifling. Depressing. Worrying. Exhausting. Lonely. Reflective.” were a few among the varying responses offered. But, regardless of the generation, social class, politics or ethnicity, one common thread was undeniably evident–feelings of loss and pain, yet an equally powerful commitment to resilience. 

Exhausting is the word that captures how this experience has been for many medical workers, health professionals and others working endlessly to meet the needs of those around them. School social worker Tammy Coe is a chief example of an individual determined to help however she can, laboring tirelessly to ensure that the students and parents she serves have access to the resources they need during this stressful season. She is emblematic of how some have taken these circumstances and transformed them into opportunities of selflessness.

Being thrust into a global crisis has ushered in unprecedented loss and adjustment, feelings of powerlessness, stagnation and lack of motivation have become trademarks of the corona experience as people confront what this pandemic has meant for them. And acknowledging these circumstances and accepting the pain they inflict is essential.

“COVID 19 is REAL” Tammy Coe assures, “and we are all going through this at different levels… what I do know is that we will get through this.” And during this time when “people are experiencing a great deal of isolation and loneliness… listening is the most important skill anyone can have” Coe continues, “people just need someone to listen… being more mindful and encouraging of others” is how people can affect some positive change during this otherwise out-of-control season.

A season that has brought undeniable suffering, but also a spirit of resilience, revitalized hope, and the urgency to love one another earnestly. “This sudden and drastic shift has caused me to re-evaluate my life…a chance to start anew, to change my life for the better”, Jennalynn Cisna affirms. 

By Mia Foster

 As we are constantly inundated with news about imminent climate change, Greenhouse Gas emissions, and waste, it is often easy to feel hopeless in aiding the fight against climate change. While it can feel like we are the victims of the corruption of corporations and government inaction on the climate crisis, we each have the opportunity everyday to reclaim the story and put forward our own efforts towards leading more sustainable lives and lessening our impact on the environment. 

     The purpose of this thread is not to convince you of the reality of climate change. If you do not believe in it, I suggest doing an independent study. Make sure to consume information on the issue from many different sources so you may form your own opinion after getting a comprehensive overview of the science and arguments made by all. Reading the opinions of those you don’t agree with can never harm you! There will be a list of links at the bottom to begin your reading.

     Sustainability Saturdays is a weekly publication that will include small tips on how to make your everyday life more sustainable along with the occasional recommendation of books or studies to read. Who knows, I might even do a weekly challenge every once in a while! By making small changes in your lifestyle, your impact on the environment can significantly decrease over time. To chip away at climate change, we must collectively change our way of living; but collectivism must start with the individual. Join me as I learn new ways to make my life more sustainable! 

Climate Change Information Station:

Climate Change: How Do We Know?

The UN on Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

EPA: Climate Action Benefits Report

By the Numbers: How the U.S. Economy Can Benefit from Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Sustainability Sector Provides 4.5 Million Jobs in US

By Colleen Boken:

If you have ever traveled on the train between Boston and New York, chances are you have stopped briefly in the small city of New London, Connecticut. Located on the glistening shores of Long Island Sound, New London is home to the US Coast Guard Academy, Connecticut College, Mitchell College, and a whole host of small-town businesses. It is a town rich in nautical history, and is the kind of place that would seem right at home in a Stephen King novel.

I have been serving here as an Americorps member with the New England Science and Sailing Foundation, serving in the schools and getting an understanding of the integral structure that makes up the city of the sea. Therefore, when the coronavirus came, it forced us all to reexamine what it was about living in a small town that made it so much more different from other places around. 

It is important to note that I love everything that makes up a great, small town.  Walking down Bank Street, the main commercial hub, the variety of businesses making it their own is undoubtedly what makes it a town like no other. The two-story buildings that line the river and the railway tracks are usually bustling, with all sorts of emporiums plying their wares. There is a gay bar, a cute little coffee shop with memories of times once past, a few barbershops, a museum in the oldest operating customs house, and even a number of tattoo parlors.  On a usual Saturday, from nighttime to daytime, these places are bustling. Students, locals, people who came in on the train, and the occasional submariner from the nearby base turn bank street into a party alley.

It was right before Saint Patrick’s Day when the coronavirus pandemic became serious enough to the point that the governor of the state had no choice but to order all businesses closed.  It was a day that the town had been anxiously preparing for, with parades and all sorts of events planned, only for it to suddenly come to naught. I live downtown, not far from Bank Street, and with a view that tells a story of its own

I took time to walk down Bank Street that night, and what I found summed up many of the feelings that are being reflected in towns across the nation. Bars and restaurants that should have been bustling with people eating corned beef and listening to Irish pub music were instead graced with only the sound of the sea breeze and the occasional “toot toot” of the train. No lights were on, and a few places were doing take-out, but not many. In many ways, it felt like the town had become a ghost of itself, and it was quite easy to wonder if it was the end of the small town as we knew it.

Yet there is something to small towns that many people do not realize. When things like this happen, towns like New London do not just disappear. Instead, the people that make up a place like this find ways to remain positive. They bring forth a reminder of the good we can do if we just remember that we as a whole are a community–a community that needs to stand tall together.

I have had the great fortune of becoming friends with the local event planner extraordinaire. She is one amazing lady, and she embodies so much of what makes a small town wonderful. She recently began posting signs around New London: little reminders to thank the first responders who were helping everyone get through these unpredictable times. 

In addition, a firefighter who was back in New London decided to share some happy music with the good people on the street he was on by playing his bagpipes loud enough so that everyone could hear: a welcome surprise it was, and a needed one at a time when the sound of happy music was a welcomed addition.  

I have spent many years in small towns: growing up in one, going to college in another, and now serving for a year here. The small town is more than just a small gathering of people. Rather, it is a solid community that is built so strong that even when something like the coronavirus threatens the fabric of the town as a whole, it fights back even stronger. It may not be the biggest town in the world, but what is critical about the whole endeavor is that like many small towns, New London is built in such a way so as to thrive in the good times and show its strength when the going gets rough. 

On a personal note, I did not know what this town would be like. I had never even been to Connecticut before I took this position. What I have found is a place that does not care who you are, but instead on what you can do. It is a town full of pride and filled with hope. As you go on with your day today, think about your community–and how every place, big or small, has a chance to thrive even on its darkest days. 

Because when this whole thing is over, and when everything returns to some sort of normal, the communities we built will show us just what we can become. 

By Rebecca Goldfarb

Growing up, I felt so trapped socially. I went to school with the same 150 people since kindergarten and was always looked at as “quiet, shy, and boring” by high school classmates, no matter how much I tried to lose that image. Day after day, I felt like I was constantly living in a bubble. Being socially contained like this for 13 years urged my drive to get out of Orange, Ohio. While I was in high school, I went on two school trips to Europe. I made so many meaningful friendships on these trips with people from all over the place. These experiences were life changing and from those moments, I knew I wanted to study abroad for a whole semester in college, as the best experiences are the international ones. 

In college, I was finally able to shave my whole high school image off and create a new identity. Going to college in Boston certainly helped, and I was also able to build a solid foundation of so many different friend groups, that I left high school completely behind. I worked so hard for the past two and half years to become an extrovert, to build this social circle, and to finally live life and enjoy being young. 

Junior year was the year of the unexpected. Both semesters turned into something completely different than I thought it was going to be, especially my semester abroad. It has been a few weeks since getting sent back from the United Kingdom due to the coronavirus. Even now, it is still so complicated to process the idea of having been abroad during a pandemic; the time where no one is allowed to travel. Yet, I still did managed to travel all over Europe during the time COVID-19 was slowly emerging. 

I still was able to get a solid two months abroad while traveling all over Europe, even with this crisis on the rise. These were the few months I set aside to do significant traveling and a once-every-one hundred year pandemic just had to come about during the three months I had selected to embark on this adventure. That being said, there are both upsides and downsides for having been abroad during this pandemic, mostly downsides obviously, but let me explain the true overall impact coronavirus left on my study abroad experience. 

Being abroad during this crisis allowed me to understand the situation in multiple international perspectives, especially in the way various European businesses and governments were reacting to the crisis. Had I just been in the United States, I would have only stuck to the knowledge of what my home state and the state that I went to college in was doing. Being abroad during an international pandemic allowed me to really integrate myself in seeing how these countries dealt with an international crisis. Having been abroad in London, I now follow updates in the U.K. and all over Europe to see what they’re doing to handle all of this, even when I’m no longer there. I probably would not have done that otherwise. 

Overall, my knowledge and interest in international politics has increased immensely due to the fact that I was abroad during this pandemic. I got to be experiencing the action, and compare the way the citizens of both the United Kingdom and the United States took precautions. Even when my program got cancelled, I still had to embark on an international flight home. Traveling internationally itself during this pandemic allowed me to brave it out, which enhanced the intensity of my journey home, as I embraced myself for the six hour customs line at the United States border. 

I still had other international trips within Europe planned for the remainder of my abroad semester that I knew I couldn’t go on. The European airline companies canceled these booked flights due to COVID-19. This was not only a relief, as it guaranteed I could get my money back, but it also provided me more with an international perspective of this crisis. It is unbelievable that I traveled to Italy on the last possible weekend I could have done it, right before coronavirus exploded there. It all sucks right now, but years from now when we look back at this pandemic, I can talk about how I was studying abroad during this crisis, I took risks in international travel and got to be in multiple different countries and see their perspectives on the issue. I can share this cool and unique story to others about the pandemic that many people wonder about. If I had to find any benefit of being abroad during coronavirus, this is what I can pinpoint. 

I was in Italy from February 20-23, the last calm weekend in the country before the virus took over. 

Granted, I still got two months in England and got to travel to five other countries, for which I am extremely grateful. I still feel as though I got the full study abroad experience despite being sent home a month early. I am also grateful that I was able to get home in time before travel restrictions were made, that I could be home with my family during quarantine, and that they’re healthy. 

I’m so thankful for what I did get to do while I was abroad. I absolutely loved living in South Kensington. From seeing 7 shows on the West End to watching the BAFTAs red carpet across the street from where I have class, it already feels like I have been living here for months already. While traveling, I was able to meet so many new people from all over the world in the most unexpected circumstances. From being stuck in the Budapest airport for two extra days to a random person coming up to my friends and I at a pub, asking us to guess a riddle about expired yogurt, these random situations turned into the most memorable ones. I went from being scared of staying in a hostel, to absolutely loving it. I loved meeting people my age and learning about why they were travelling and where they were coming from. I’m so thankful that I was able to travel to these places and get these experiences before the CV situation got bad in Europe.

That being said, I hate the fact that I had to get sent home from abroad and that this crisis had to happen right now. I went from living my best life to living no life at all. I came about many frustrations during my quarantine because I looked back at how amazing these experiences were and I was craving more. I wanted more experiences like these in my upcoming trips. I wanted to travel to the other places I was supposed to go to, so I could meet more new people from all over the world and see more new places. The more I started thinking about what I could have done if there was no pandemic, the more I wanted the original full amount of abroad time I was anticipating. I think what bothers me the most is the feeling that the universe just wants me stuck and isolated in Ohio forever.

Being sent home and into social isolation, I feel as though I am back at square one. Back to feeling stuck and trapped like I was in high school. Except this time, if I try to get out and be social and live life and have fun, I risk getting myself and my family sick, which is the most messed up part about this whole situation. This isn’t just my early 20’s, this is OUR early 20’s. We’re supposed to be traveling, going out for drinks, going to concerts and clubs, and making crucial social connections and friends that are supposed to last a lifetime. We’re supposed to be getting critical, career defining internships. We’re being deprived of precious college moments, some of the best moments of our lives so far. We’re only in college for so long, so who knows when we will have the opportunity to have experiences like these again? 

Tea and Scones at Wimbledon Tennis Stadium 

Everyone in the world is being screwed over in some sort of way or from some type of experience, from unemployment to a high school prom. It sucks for everyone. However, the pandemic has shown us the various ways things can be made up for. Soon, we’ll be out of quarantine and we will be able to get back the experiences that coronavirus ripped away from us. I will get out of Ohio and I will get the chance to see the rest of the world. And that’s what’s getting me through, to know that I can get back and finish what I started. I now have a greater motivation to make this a reality. Who knows how motivated I would have been to go back to Europe immediately if I was able to get a full semester. The idea of my travels getting cancelled increases my itch to get back into the world as soon as possible (and also my hostel vouchers expire in a year, so I have to go back anyways). 

This pandemic has also taught me to take advantage of any opportunities that interest you while you can, because you never know when another obstacle will sneak up on you and stop you from being able to do something. Be grateful for every moment you get to experience. 

Soon enough, the world will be operational again. If we want to make this a reality, it is crucial that we continue to stay at home and do our part to get life back running, so we can go back to living our early 20’s sooner than we think. A couple months on pause won’t seem like a big deal in the long run.

By Carmiya Baskin

It’s springtime in Florence, Italy. Rays of sunlight peek out from behind the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the Arno River sways peacefully in the light breeze, and the typically bustling Piazza Signoria is void of human activity. This year, the atmosphere is charged not with the serenity that comes before the inevitable flocking of summer crowds but with the anxiety about a highly contagious virus that is rapidly traversing borders.

In the safety of her apartment, Danielle Cohen, a UCSB alum who moved to Florence in January to begin her new job, reveals how her life has changed since the virus took hold. She has just finished recording an episode of “Quarantine in the Kitchen,” a series she invented in which she documents what she is cooking that day and posts it on her Instagram story to keep both herself and her followers entertained — and sane.

“I feel more safe in my apartment here than back home in the States,” Cohen says, gesturing to her surroundings that fill the screen on Zoom. As of three weeks ago, private hospitals in Italy have begun offering free medical care to people who have contracted COVID-19. Cohen notes that returning to California would pose a greater risk as, throughout the whole nation, testing kits and proper treatment are scarce and safety measures are not being enforced. 

While rules for quarantining have been announced in the U.S., there are no centralized regulations. As Cohen states, “it’s all happening state by state, city by city, beach by beach.” She feels that the U.S. should initiate a full lockdown immediately and learn from Italy’s initial mistakes; at first, people in Italy were not taking the quarantine seriously, much like many folks in the U.S. aren’t now.


Further, Cohen claims that social distancing does not work. “It’s frustrating to watch the U.S. follow in Italy’s footsteps because we didn’t know what was going on a few weeks ago. Now, America has a country to look to for guidance — which Italy didn’t have — and it’s not encouraging a countrywide shutdown.” Although she admits she is lonely in her apartment at times, she feels that staying inside and away from people is the best way to protect herself and those around her.

“Italy’s numbers are finally going down and it’s because we’ve been on lockdown for a month,” Cohen declares. According to the World Health Organization, coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is an infectious disease that causes respiratory illness with symptoms such as a cough and a fever. Coronavirus spreads mainly through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze or when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

“Italian people care about their communities and appreciate the safety measures that are in place,” Cohen says. Venturing outside one’s home in Italy is strictly prohibited and accompanied by a hefty fine of €3,000 if one gets caught. When asked what tactics she uses to cope with mental health issues (as fresh air is no longer an option), she describes her daily routine which involves dancing along to online Zumba videos, piecing together puzzles featuring Italian art, and video chatting with friends and family from home.

She has two white boards on the fridge in which she writes her daily to-do list on one and her overall goals on another. She adds, “allowing yourself to have bad days is important. It’s asking too much of yourself to assume that everyday is going to be productive. The first week was really hard — I went from working a full-time job and having housemates to not having any of that.”

Despite the hardships, Cohen notes that there are positive aspects to this pandemic that is quickly making its way around the world. “We’re letting our world heal and we’re letting ourselves grow.” As everyone is staying inside, the air pollution has decreased, the amount of fish in the Venice canals has increased, and wildlife has begun to thrive again. While it’s unrealistic to remain in quarantine forever, Cohen reminds people that they must be more aware of their footprint. This is especially important as the Environmental Protection Agency has suspended the enforcement of environmental rules due to the coronavirus outbreak.

She encourages people to take this time to learn a new hobby, rekindle old skills, and connect with loved ones. She says, “I’ve never been alone or inside for this long in my life… it’s kind of freeing. Going home would’ve been the easy way out but this [situation] is a new challenge for me and I’m learning a lot about myself.”

Cohen sums it up by saying, “I hope the rest of the world starts listening so this quarantine can end soon.”

Citations

Cohen, Danielle. Personal interview. 2 April 2020.

Kraft, Ariana. “EPA Suspends Enforcement of Environmental Laws in Response to COVID-19.” WNCT, 30 Mar. 2020.

Parodi, Emilio. “Special Report: ‘All Is Well’. In Italy, Triage and Lies for Virus Patients.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 16 Mar. 2020.

“Here Are Italy’s New Quarantine Rules on Jogging, Walking and Taking Kids Outside.” Thelocal.it, 1 Apr. 2020.

“Q&A On Coronaviruses (COVID-19).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization.