By Anna Pusok
I decided that I’m leaving for the winter break back in August. At the time, I had been on campus for 8 months straight, which means I spent the spring semester and the summer here.
When the pandemic regulations came in March, I decided to stay on campus instead of going back to Hungary for many reasons. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to come back for the fall semester if I left. I didn’t even know what was going to happen with the fall semester. I didn’t want to do classes at night because of the different time zones, and to be honest, I felt safe on campus. I was provided a safe place within the U.S., within the “bubble,” where I was away from all the craziness that was happening in the world.
I finished my freshman year online, and in the summer, I started to work with Dr. Kate Cammack, who I am really grateful for. I had meetings with her and some of my labmates weekly, so I had interactions with others fairly often, but the campus started to become really boring. I did all the hikes and all the outdoor activities that I wanted to, I watched all the TV shows that I was behind on, and I just got really bored. I started to become tired from the place. Over the break, I realized that what I love about Sewanee is its people, and without the people, it’s pretty much an ordinary place. By the time students started to come back in August, I was just done with the campus, and I know there is no chance I will do one more break here.
As the semester went on, I became more and more confident about the fact that we might be able to make it to the end of the semester. I thought I might get a somewhat normal and fun sophomore year experience. And I did have a good semester; I spent a lot of time with my friends, I took five awesome classes with awesome professors and I took part in many clubs and other activities that kept me away from being bored. The world seemed to be a bit better as well. Back in October, I thought life was on a good way to being normal again.
As November arrived, many things happened, and my confidence of going back to normal life dropped. First, my airline started to change all its flights, and kept cancelling my options to leave, and I was nervous. I felt like I was losing the opportunity to say goodbye, like it happened back in March. It took me a lot of phone calls and rescheduling just to be able to push my flight to the latest day possible, but still at the beginning of the break.
In the meantime, I received an email, which stated that if I want to stay on campus, I would end up paying as much money for housing and food that would cover my flight ticket, so I knew I made a good decision by leaving the country.
Then, it was my first time experiencing a U.S. election, which was honestly crazy and stressful. All my friends became more and more nervous as the date came closer, and I was nervous as well, as I knew the results would affect me directly. I was scared of the president’s reaction to the virus, I was scared of his immigration policy, and I was scared of what would happen if the U.S. decided to close the country again.
Finally, with November, the COVID-19 cases started to rise again. The situation with the virus is getting worse, and I’m scared that I might not be able to come back for the spring semester. After all this time of being sure that I get to go home to enjoy the break, and come back to have a normal sophomore year, I realized this was mostly an idealized picture, and unfortunately, life just doesn’t work the way I want it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited to leave for the break and to do many things I couldn’t on campus in the past 10 months. I’m excited to see my friends and family. I’m excited to eat good food and sleep in a comfortable bed. And to be honest, I’m excited to rest. In the past ten months, I became really tired of being at the same places, doing the same things, and seeing the same people over and over again. I often feel like I even have the same conversations with people again and again. At the same time, I realized that I would really miss the people, if I wouldn’t be on campus next semester. I would miss getting dinner at Blue Chair, or coffee at Stirling’s with my friends. I’d miss hanging out with my sorority. I’d miss seeing all the people that go in and out of Fulford while I sit at the front desk. I’d miss my in-person classes, and getting to know new people. I’d miss so many things.
I know I will have an awesome break back home, I’m just scared that the cost for it would be my in-person second semester with all the things that come with it. I know other students did the semester online and they were fine, so I should be fine too. I also know I might sound too dramatic and maybe I am, but the difference between most students who decided to do the semester online and me is that they had a choice. They chose to spend the semester at home. As an international student, I experienced that before. I guess the hardest part about saying goodbye now is that it feels like I’m saying goodbye forever.
I really hope I get to have the choice in January, and I also hope to see y’all on campus in the next semester.