International student and Saint Mary's senior Katie Wang '21, shares her experience in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This blog first appeared in the student newspaper The Belles in October 2020.
I was in a public high school in Southport before coming to Saint Mary’s School, and I was not accepted by other students as I was the only international student in the school. So, my junior year at Saint Mary’s has been really special to me. As a new student from a different country, I felt the warmness when my roommate sent me a video with many people saying happy birthday to me on the first day of the school's Welcome Week. I felt that I was included in this community, and Saint Mary’s was like a second home to me. However, when I thought everything was going to settle down, the coronavirus started.
At first, all the international students on campus were concerned about our families far away, but we never thought the virus would start raging in the whole world so rapidly. We spent the whole spring break on campus. At the beginning, we were still thinking that everything would get better. However, the situation got much worse than we expected. Just within a week, we had to make the decision to leave or stay. It was really a struggle for us, because we were not sure when the pandemic would be over, and we might never be allowed to come back to the school if our visas got cancelled. Should we take the chance to go home or not? If we were not leaving, where could we go? With more and more cases diagnosed in the U.S., and more and more airports closing down, the school encouraged us to leave when we were still able to and provided us masks. However, the price for airline tickets were extremely high, and my flight got cancelled again and again. I couldn’t fall asleep at night, and I never thought that one day going home would be that difficult. But I was very lucky to get on the last flight before Taiwan airport was shut down. I travelled home safe and sound after the 55-hour trip and the 14 days of quarantine. I was also grateful that my family and friends are all healthy during this pandemic.
Now, I can’t believe that I have been at home for more than half a year. The pandemic gave me the chance to celebrate my birthday and the Mid-Autumn Festival at home. It is always good to spend time with family, but I also miss school terribly. I miss being with friends. I am always looking at the photos in my phone – rave, fall ball, swimming, Halloween, Christmas, and etc. All these memories are so precious to me and sometimes make me want to cry. I also miss having classes in the classroom instead of facing toward a computer screen. I had many technological and Internet issues at the beginning, but I have worked it out. Staying up late until 11:30 p.m. is also a little bit challenging to me, because I always like to go to bed early. Sometimes I was so tired that my brain just couldn’t think. In addition, the long hours of screen times make my eyes dry and sore. I sometimes submit the homework late, because I mess up the deadline due to the time difference.
Despite this, I still feel closely connected to Saint Mary's when we have regular online meetings. Here, I am so thankful to my advisor Ms. Phillips, to Ms. Ball, and Ms. Wyscarver, the technology staff, all the GAP prefects, and all the teachers who have supported us through the AR session. I don’t know when the travel ban between the U.S. and China will be lifted, but I am hoping that the pandemic will be over soon. Last but not least, I am looking forward to going back to Saint Mary’s.