A few weeks ago, Lily was attending Griffith College classes in Ireland. Now, she's in self-quarantine at home in the US, and she's in good spirits. Find out more about her thoughts and feelings on the situation, and how studying abroad has helped her learn to embrace unexpected changes.
We are going through a transformative period. Things feel scary and the future is uncertain. Two weeks ago I was waking up at 7 am to get ready for my 9 am classes at Griffith College. Today, I am entering my 10th day of quarantine. Life has changed in the blink of the eye. I want to use this platform that I have been given as a CAPA Vlogger & Blogger to give space to the feelings we all are experiencing right now. It is okay to feel frustrated, angry and uncertain. However, don’t let these negative emotions control you.
Me in Ireland a few short weeks ago.
It is also important to remember the things we can be grateful for. Here are three things I am grateful for. I am grateful for the fact that I will still be able to get credit for all my classes. I am grateful that Griffith College is asking all professors to film their lectures to accommodate students like myself, who have returned home - thank goodness because I did not want to wake up at 5 am EST to attend 9 am classes in Ireland. I am also grateful that I have a home to quarantine in and food to eat. As individuals, we can do our part to shift the way we feel about this situation and work to be a part of the solution, be it through self-quarantining, supporting local businesses, or donating when possible. All our feelings are valid. We can’t control what has already happened, but we can change the trajectory of the future.
My new workspace for remote learning.
COVID-19 is also asking us to examine the American system. Coming back to the US and to the reality of a country that does not have universal healthcare (like Ireland does) makes me reflect, as a political science student, on the brokenness of our system. COVID-19 is highlighting the issues that have always existed, but we have ignored, year after year. COVID-19 is highlighting the needs of our most vulnerable populations in ways that I hope we won’t ignore once this passes. It is asking us to think about what it means when hourly workers are forced to work without paid sick leave and how our medical system is only accessible to those who can pay. It is asking us to hold our government accountable for the wellbeing of all its people rather than the wealthiest.
And frankly, COVID-19 is also highlighting how deeply rooted racism is in our country. As an Asian American, it is deeply heartbreaking and scary to see the increase in xenophobia and violence against the Asian/Asian American community. The sinophobic rhetoric results in hate crimes being committed against innocent Americans. Scapegoating an entire community of innocent people is not the solution to a public health crisis. Fear-mongering is also not a solution. Instead, let us focus our energy on ways we can be better and kinder people. I hope that we begin standing up with the Asian American community by calling out these racist incidents and condemning this violence. This is the time to be an ally for the most marginalized in our communities and to remember each other’s humanity. Let's celebrate the examples of kindness being shown for each other as a result of COVID-19 – examples of people leaving out food and supplies for delivery people and communities starting drives for medical supplies – this is the energy we need more of.
As humans, we do have an instinct to help each other. As a study abroad student, I have on many occasions asked local Dubliners for help in navigating things like public transportation or finding the right building. And I have encountered many kind souls who willingly gave me their time to direct me to the right location. We have all had these experiences, be it trying to find the right classroom or asking for help at work, we as people depend on each other and we need each other. This pandemic serves as a reminder of this innate need for connection. Studying abroad taught me a similar lesson. When you are in a different country totally alone, you seek new connections and friendships. You learn to be comfortable with discomfort and to be understanding of differences. We do not need to erase differences since that is what makes all of us human, but rather, we need to check ourselves when we find ourselves casting moral and value judgement on these differences. An interesting thing my Irish professor pointed out was the way Americans present their values. The term un-American is used to describe anyone who dares criticize the US. My professor pointed out that this type of language does not exist in Ireland, there is no “un-Irish”. Having the opportunity to live in and study in a different country teaches us to examine the way we are socialized and to challenge what we think are the norms of society.
The good thing is, you do not need to leave America – although I highly encourage people to travel and study abroad – to learn these lessons. These mental shifts can happen now. Studying abroad taught me that the world is a lot smaller than we think and that human connections can and will transcend borders.
Lily Tang is an official CAPA vlogger for spring 2020, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Political Science major at University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
Lily's journey continues throughout the semester so stay tuned.