We are in this together!

We are in this together! Life is beautiful, life is full of unexpected events and adventures. I, a girl with a glittering world inside, have always been eager to experience novelty and adventure. Education has always been a matter of paramount importance for me. My mother still remembers one both funny and scary situation which happened when I was 4 years old. One day, she could not find me anywhere in the house and searched for me everywhere worrying that something bad happened to me. After day-long unsuccessful attempts to find me, a teacher from our local school brought me home saying that I went to school and asked everyone to give me books to read because I want to study… This strong passion for education led me to apply for Global Undergraduate Program in 2019 and I was selected as one of the six finalists from Uzbekistan to study in US educational institutions as result of my hard work and perseverance as a leader. Why did I start my story from this? Because what I mainly want to write about starts from exactly this journey. I flew for thousands of kilometers from Uzbekistan to the USA and arrived at Boston Logan Airport in the US in January 16th, 2020. From there, our advisor took us to Keene State College, which is situated in New Hampshire, US. This place will be saved in my memory as one of the dearest and most valuable places in the world. At first, everything seemed perfect. I loved the atmosphere, made friends with new people, started travelling and exploring amazing destinations and, most surprisingly, met my future husband there for the first time. When March came, there was an announcement that the Spring Break would begin soon. And we started planning to travel to California with friends! True American atmosphere, Hollywood, Los-Angeles, San Francisco… All of these places were in my bucket list! But… Scary things started to happen when we began travelling. I received an email from my academic advisor strongly recommending to cancel my flight and not travel to California as it is now a red zone for a new, dangerous so-called “Coronavirus”. Unfortunately, I got that email when I was sitting in the airplane which was about to depart, so I stayed. Hoping that this disease is not as serious as they are saying, I tried to avoid negative thoughts. However, when I arrived in LA, I witnessed how things turned out to be more different than I expected. Almost all public places that we wanted to visit were closed, there was a mask requirement everywhere, but we could not find a single mask at any stores or pharmacies. We were able to see some of the planned destinations, but with a big worry that we might get infected with COVID. As an international student, who is in the US for the first time, with no family members or relatives, I was worried to death. What if I get infected? What if I become seriously ill? What if I will not be able to get back home? Who will take care of me? What will my mother do? What should I do now? Even in such a tense situation, we were trying to have fun with friends, playing indoor games, cooking different meals, watching TV… Grocery stores had almost nothing to buy as they ran out of products, there was frustrating news about thousands of people dying from COVID every day. After a week, when we were planning to go back to the college campus, I received another scary email which said that we were not allowed in campus as it was about to be closed and there would be online study mode for the rest of the semester. We had to go back to our home, which is situated in Uzbekistan in my case. Unfortunately, there were no flights to Uzbekistan at that time as the airport was closed due to COVID19. As a scholarship student, I was neither working nor receiving money from my parents, so I was not able to provide myself with a housing and other necessities till I would be able to fly back home. I am more than grateful for Keene State College for letting me in the campus even though it was not allowed and for the Department of State for providing me with a stipend in such hard times. Keene State College taught me how it feels like to really “feel like home”. Besides providing me with a cozy place to live, they united me with other five international students who also were not able to go back to their countries. We would go hiking, travel around the town, go biking and have fun. I was blessed to get both emotional and financial support which made me feel special and important. We used to wear a special cloth mask which has an interesting writing: “Owls United”. Owl is the symbol of Keene State College. I am so proud to be an Owl and a part of that community. They truly helped me feel safer and stronger against COVID19. For another extra 3 months, I waited for a charter flight from US to Uzbekistan. During that time, they always were with me together. Yes, we were in this together! #writingcontest #writing #contest

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artist, musician, writer, Luddite

Troy, United States