By: Joshua Perez
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2020: a new decade full of excitement and high expectations! Yet, little did I know that this year would go down as one of the most “eventful” years in recent history. Graduating fresh out of high school and travelling to the opposite side of the world for college, I, an 18-year-old Filipino, was ready to experience and explore a completely new environment away from my home and family. It took me some time to get settled in Boston, where I attended Northeastern University and pursued a pre-med track. From where I lived to where I got my food, everything in my life completely changed and my new life began unfolding. Apart from the tiresome classes, I joined extracurricular clubs and made several friends along the way. College life began to normalize eventually, and I wasn’t so overwhelmed as I was when I first arrived. It became apparent to me that this would be my life for years to come and everything was in my hands now.
My first semester went by quite fast, and as soon as I knew it, it was already December. It had been a long time since I had experienced the chill of the winter weather, but this time I was forced to go out in the cold in order to get to my classes. But that’s besides the point. After such a busy semester, I was ready to go back home. I was ready to see my family again and leave the bitter coldness of the Boston weather. I had never been away from my family for this long before and seeing them after several months was truly a blessing. Though I was only able to see them for a few weeks, I was glad to spend every day with them and just be in their company. Leaving the Philippines for a second time hurt even more since I knew I wouldn’t see my family again for an even longer time.
In the late weeks for January, I had just heard about the coronavirus on social media. This was the first time I had ever heard of the virus and didn’t think too much of it. It didn’t really affect my life and college life continued on until the early weeks of March. That’s when the spread of the coronavirus started to become a real issue.
Just right after our spring break, news about students being told to stay home and not return to campus emerged from universities like Harvard and M.I.T. Other students on campus were forced to move out of the dorms. This revelation was extremely shocking and at first I thought it was a joke. But eventually, Northeastern obligated their students to move out, and one by one they all started leaving. My friends, who I just started to get to know more and hang out with, all left within a week and everything that I had looked forward to later in the year was cancelled. This wasn’t how I expected my first year of college to be and I certainly didn’t think it would be this short.
Leaving was a more complicated issue for me though. I wasn’t so sure if leaving the country was a good idea since there was a possibility classes might resume. Another problem arose when the Philippines announced the lockdown of their capital and restrictions on both domestic and international flights, which would not allow me to get home. I had to make a quick decision between staying in Boston and not risking the reopening of classes, or going back home and seeing my family again. In the end, I made the decision to go back home and was fortunate to make it there safely without any problems. I never thought that I’d be back in the Philippines and see my family just a few months after seeing them in the winter. It was definitely amazing to see them again but it also felt weird just being back home and not in Boston. I didn’t feel like I was actually back in the Philippines and that all of this was just a dream. It took me some time to get settled again and clearly appreciate the fact that I made it back here. I realized that I was really with my family again who I thought I wouldn’t see for several months. I realized that I was lucky to make it back home and not contract the virus.
As of now, Northeastern has announced that it is planning to re-open in the fall with flexibility for students to take classes either online or on campus, but I’m not convinced that it’ll be safe for anyone to return there without a vaccine or cure for the virus. However, as a pre-med student, there is a possibility that I might have to return to Boston since medical schools may prefer that I take prerequisites on campus. This is still to be decided since anything can happen in the year, and it’s ultimately up to my parents to decide whether it’s safe for me to go back.
So freshman year did turn out to be a “wild” or “crazy” one, but not the one I imagined. None of us expected any of this to happen and the world will never be the same again. The pandemic really changed the outcome of my first year in college entirely and perhaps the rest of 2020.
Other Student Narratives from the Team at Relay:
- Reflecting on the Spring 2020 Semester – My Reaction to the Campus Closure
- How COVID-19 Affected My Junior Year in College
- Transferring and Dealing with COVID-19
- Thoughts on Heading into Junior Year of High School
- Treasuring the Moments, Losing Senior Year & Looking Forward