There’s no denying that this has been an incredibly strange summer. For me it began with frantic plane rides, a hotel quarantine and a country-wide lockdown. Everything I thought I valued and considered important was put into question. As the world battles the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this summer has turned into an extended period of self-reflection. I understand how incredibly privileged I am to have typed that last sentence. Essential workers and healthcare workers are working tirelessly day in and day out to keep us safe and minimize the damage of this horrible virus. Yet I have the ability to wear a mask and spend time with my family and close friends.
COVID-19 has been extremely equalizing in that no one is physically immune to the virus, regardless of their standing in society, net worth or otherwise. However, we’ve seen the disproportionate impact on low-income communities and the reaction of countries attempting to keep their citizens safe, in some cases separating families for an indefinite amount of time. It has divided the world in ways I couldn’t have imagined and put a glaring spotlight on some extremely important issues where action is long overdue. There is so much to talk about in light of this, but for now I want to focus on one incredibly impactful moment for me this summer.
Before this pandemic I never really had to consider the logistics of being an international student at Hopkins. My parents, bless their hearts, are incapable of leaving me alone and are in and out of the U.S. constantly. I also travel home as often as I feasibly can. The beginning of July, however, changed all of that forever.
I woke up to the new rule barring nonimmigrant students from being within the U.S. if their universities chose to conduct any part of the semester online. That week of uncertainty and confusion has been branded with a hot iron into my mind; I remember every single detail. The effects of COVID-19 have undoubtedly taken a toll on everyone’s mental health, and I’m definitely not an exception to that. Dealing with this new policy on top of everything else was no picnic.
However, about two hours after the announcement, before it really even hit the major news stations, I picked up my phone to see an abundance of support, love and kindness from not only my family but also numerous friends, faculty and staff at Hopkins. Within hours petitions had begun to circle. Messages flooded my Instagram and email inboxes, ranging from hysterical conversations that included marriage proposals and hypothetical adoptions to more serious discussions about independent studies and part-time jobs.
The community I’m so grateful to have assimilated into never for a second let me believe that it didn’t have my back.
And not long after, Hopkins announced its lawsuit. I remember that morning clear as day too. I woke up to my phone buzzing uncontrollably in the middle of the night (gotta love time differences) and my friends FaceTiming me to let me know that the University was fighting for us. I never doubted that it would, but I don’t know that I could have imagined such fervor. Not only had I never been prouder to be a Blue Jay, but I also finally understood what Hopkins actually stands for and how lucky I am to be a student here.
I get a front row seat to witness leadership in the face of hardship, pioneering change in the most uncertain of times, and a strong, unshakeable sense of community. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has said to me this summer, “Oh, Hopkins created the COVID map — how cool that you get to see it lead the way.” It’s pretty impossible to mask a smile then, even under an actual mask.
Furthermore, I watched many other friends in similar situations go through some horrible confusion waiting for a response from their university, as well as their community. As much as I was concerned about my fall plans, I was so overwhelmed by love and support that I didn’t even really have a minute to process how it was going to affect me and what I was going to do. I’ve always been sure that I made the right choice applying here, but if there was ever a shred of doubt in my mind, that week totally eradicated it.
Don’t get me wrong, there were many frustrating moments filled with tears and lots and lots of anxiety, but that’s not what I remember. The good outshone the bad by many, many suns.
I didn’t even have a chance to see Trump administration’s policy be rescinded on the news; my friends beat me to it. I’ve never seen so many heart emojis in my life, and coming from me that’s saying something. What I’m really trying to say with this ramble is thank you. This has been a love letter to the entire Hopkins community and to the University itself. Even with the continuing craziness, I can’t wait to be back on campus in Baltimore — back home.