Wherever you go, it’s all the same

By Vanessa Balintec

Coronavirus is affecting everyone. We’re all in this nightmare together, but some are unluckier than others. I’ve read accounts of people cancelling weddings, vacations, and internships – plans that were laid out months before. Some students have to graduate late, or won’t be able to attend their own graduation ceremony. I’m one of the many that had to cancel an entire study abroad semester that I was only able to partake in for a little less than half way.

It was just yesterday that I heard from my home university in Canada. The email titled “URGENT Return Home Immediately – COVID-19 Update” stayed open on my laptop for hours as I tried to reason out what to do. I searched for flights that would leave in a couple days, to give myself some time to prepare to leave. Appointments needed to be cancelled, the bike I just rented a few days ago had to get returned, my question of getting my rent deposit back had to be dealt with, I needed to see my friends one last time, and all the food in my fridge wasn’t going to cook itself. I needed some more time. But I didn’t have much left.

I was on the phone with a flight operator from Air Canada at 1 a.m., trying to confirm bookings for a few days ahead. One after another they kept cancelling. I frantically bought the next trip out of Denmark, but it would mean leaving in just 5 hours. It was only when I got to Copenhagen that I learned it would be the last flight from my country’s main flight provider back to Canada until June.

Aarhus Airport was a ghost town. For a small city airport, I was thankful it was still operating and free from too many people. Copenhagen was a different story. Although not as crowded compared to the time I arrived in January, it was still jarring to be surrounded by so many people since social distancing became normal. My flight alone had a line up for boarding wrapping around a corner. Occasionally, I heard a cough or sniffle from a few metres away that had people, myself including, tucking themselves a little bit more within themselves.

I traded one bedroom for the other. An inside look into my quarantine for the next two weeks. Actually, let’s hope it’s not as messy. Taken on Mar. 18, 2020.

By the time I arrived back home to Canada, it became clear to me: although the buildings here are smaller yet wider, and the cars bigger and longer, everything was the same. I was trading my dorm back in Aarhus, which I’ve been mostly confined to for the last few days, for my own room in Brampton, Ontario, that I wouldn’t be able to leave for two weeks. Stores and businesses are being forced to close down, schools have moved online, and like everywhere, some grocery stores are still being raided until there’s no toilet paper left. The biggest difference is I’m here, while my friends are there. My dreams of traveling Europe while learning abroad are neither here nor there – they’re left partially fulfilled, but mostly held in this limbo state for the next few months, when I’ll be able to know if it’s safe to travel back. They’re on hold, while one part of me hopes to come back, and the other tries to hold myself back from getting my hopes up too high.

This is the only outside sight I’ll be seeing for the next two weeks, from my balcony in Brampton, Ontario. At least I have a balcony. Taken on Mar. 18, 2020.

What I can positively say is that it’s nice knowing that I don’t need to spend every moment anxious on whether or not I should go back home anymore. Although I miss Denmark and want to go back, I have my family and friends here, and the comfort knowing that I’ll be close in case something goes wrong. I know how to read the street signs, and I’d be able to speak to almost any person that crosses my path (once we’re all out of quarantine, that is).

For me, wherever I went, coronavirus has followed and impacted me the same. I left my family back in Denmark, to reunite with my family back in Canada. The same situation that is going on there, is going on here. There is comfort in knowing we are all going through it, one way or another, together.