March 12, 2020
2 AM President Trump announces he’s suspending all travel to the US from Europe for 30 days.
2:15 AM I call my parents and we decide that I’ll take the risk and stay in Spain.
7:30 AM I wake up and get ready for what I think will be a regular day in Coruña. I get dressed, eat breakfast with my host mom, and ride the bus to school.
10:00 AM As soon as I get out of class, my parents call me and say that I need to leave Coruña as soon as possible. In the last hour, the CDC has changed Spain’s warning level from a 2 to a 3, which means it’s now too dangerous for me to stay.
My mom tells me that she’s already booked me a flight out of Coruña, leaving at 5pm!
I rush home and realize that I have two hours to pack a year’s worth of belongings into a suitcase that can’t be more than 50 pounds (!!!) I throw my stuff together and eat one last lunch with my host family. Then, my host parents drive me to the airport and we say goodbye.
It was surreal how fast everything changed. While I’d known in the back of my mind that this was coming, I thought I’d have more time. The Spanish media hadn’t fixated on the Coronavirus like the American media had. We’d seen what had happened in China and watched as the global count crept up every day. But even as cases surged in Italy, somehow, life in Coruña went on like normal.
When I got back to the US, all I could think about was how many people I didn’t get to say goodbye to– how many “lasts” I didn’t get the chance to appreciate. The last tinto de verano at Central Park. The last winding, deadly bus ride to the top of UDC’s hilly campus. The last choir rehearsal. The last time Maeve and I were protectively referred to as “las americanas.” The last half hour mid-class break to tomar café. The last time Elena, Lucía, and I danced to “Five Little Monkeys.” The last spirited dinner with my host family.
I’ve gotten so many lessons out of this whirlwind of an experience, the most obvious one being how quickly things can change– the importance of appreciating every moment and not taking time for granted, because nothing is guaranteed. But I’ve also realized how quickly things can change you for the better. As I digest this unprecedented global reality, quarantined at home in NY, I’m so grateful to have had the chance to create a life for myself in Coruña. Going to Coruña was the best decision I’ve ever made, and it gave me more than I could ever express in a blog post.
Thank you for everything, Coruña. Te quiero. I will be back!
My AMAZING host family: