Coming Home in a Pandemic

Note: The Spring 2020 semester was interrupted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Participants returned home in the middle of the semester and continued their studies remotely. Spring 2020 participants continued writing blog posts after returning home, both reflecting back on time in their host country and describing their experience with remote learning.

After a lot of crying, phone calls, emails, and flights I found myself at home in the middle of a global pandemic wondering how I was going to manage learning from home and not in Russia where I wanted to be. Coming home was scary for many reasons. First of all,  my home was New York City – the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. I’ve traveled through to JFK in normal times and I have never been a fan of the craziness, so the idea of flying into JFK and going home scared me. The other thing that scared me was about how I was going to adjust to online distance learning. I’ve never been someone who handled online learning successfully so I was scared about how everything was going to turn out.

It was difficult for me at first: I had internet issues because my wifi at home had never had so many people using it at the same time before. My computer completely shut down and I had to share computers with my parents and my sister for a week. To be completely honest there were a few assignments I completely didn’t do at first because the stress of being in an incredibly small apartment in New York, and the feeling that everything in my life was going wrong got to me. I fell behind which was the worst thing that could have happened and I’m not sure I’ve completely caught up. Halfway through my return home I got a horrible stomach bug and could barely sit up let alone do assignments or go to classes. Learning from home here in the U.S. proved to be extremely difficult for me.

I lost loved ones and friends to coronavirus and online classes soon got mixed in with Zoom funeral services and shiva calls. I got burned out by living online which is so ironic because I always thought I couldn’t live without it. Despite all my struggles I powered through and put in extra time to catch myself up as best as I could and stay on pace. Looking back, as stressful as distance learning was, online classes helped provide an escape from the crisis unraveling in the city around me. In some ways it made me feel like I was back in Russia where I was having the experience of a lifetime. While distance learning provided to be a long struggle, I was still learning the language I sought out to learn which was worth all of the stress and technical difficulties.

By: Shayna Cohen

Program: Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program, Moscow, Russia

Term: Spring 2020

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