Expect the unexpected – a phrase I’ve heard a countless amount of times throughout my life but never has it applied to a situation so fittingly until now.
When on Erasmus, there are various things you can expect to happen. Socialising, exploring and learning for example. Being in a lockdown, however – is not one of them.
The COVID-19 strain of Coronavirus began in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and swept across the world at an alarming rate. As I write this, March 18th 2020, there are 218,556 cases of the disease in more than 150 countries worldwide and no clear end in sight. Spain (where I am currently doing my semester abroad), has the 4th highest number of coronavirus cases worldwide and is 2nd most affected country in Europe after Italy with over 14,500 cases.
With limited options on how to combat such a rapid virus, a decision was made by the Spanish Government to place the country on a 15-day lockdown. All shops, facilities and establishments were to close across Spain to limit the number of people out on the streets. Schools and universities were also forced to close, meaning that many of the establishments have had to resort to online classes to continue delivering education. The lockdown also meant that it was prohibited people to be out of their homes unless they were heading to work, buying food or going to the pharmacy.
With many airline companies cancelling flights to avoid further spreading of the virus, many of the international students here in Spain hurried to book a flight back home to avoid being stranded. I, however, decided to stay and continue my semester here with the support of both my home university and my university here in Barcelona. Thankfully I also managed to stock up on food and essentials before the shops closed.
Today makes it officially 4 days of being on lockdown and what an eventful few days it has been. Streets that are normally full to the brim with tourists are now ghost towns filled with silence, stores usually bustling with customers now all have their shutters closed and supermarkets that are typically well-stocked now have bare shelves and empty aisles. From my balcony, I can normally hear the bustle of the Santa Caterina Mercat – but for the past couple of days, my street has been filled with silence.
I am lucky, however, that I came here with and share a flat with a friend from back home, Georgina. Having someone to go through this experience with makes things a little easier and makes each day in lockdown pass a little faster.
As a student coming from another country to study here, this is far from the experience I had anticipated yet I am still thankful for what I have experienced so far. I’ve made some friendships that I’m sure will last a lifetime, experienced living away from home for the first time and have made some memories which I am sure to cherish forever. Hopefully, this Coronavirus Pandemic will de-escalate soon and I can back to doing just that.