Before ever going to South Korea I made a lot of plans. I knew I wanted to get a lot of tattoos and my eyebrows microbladed. I have been following artists on Instagram for years and I finally had the opportunity to be in the same country as them. Being in quarantine I had nothing to do but check my email and watch the news for any updates on the situation. On Feb. 25, 2020, I received an email from UMass Boston saying they were closely monitoring the situation in South Korea and that the CDC had issued a travel warning for South Korea: Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions. I saw on the American news that many colleges and universities were canceling study abroad programs. I was afraid that my trip would be canceled too. I traveled with the intention to study in South Korea and that is what I was going to do. I was ready to do anything, even be put in quarantine.
Feb. 29, 2020 marked one whole week that I was in quarantine; only one more week and I would be free to explore the city and experience Korean culture. I was really excited to try Korean food and experience K-beauty. At the time coronavirus was getting pretty bad, with South Korea reporting almost 3,000 cases, and the numbers steadily rising. I checked my email as usual and I saw that UMass Boston was suspending all programs in South Korea. The CDC had declared a new warning level for South Korea: Level 3, Avoid Non Essential Travel. In the email, UMass Boston said it would work with students on a “case to case basis.” It also said I could change my study abroad program to UNAM CEPE, a university in Mexico. I could not even think about studying at another university when I was already in Korea and everything was paid for.
I was completely heartbroken and destroyed. A lot of emotions and thoughts ran through my mind all at once. I did not know what to focus on or how to reply. I was too overwhelmed. Then I just felt nothing for a while, until I finally started crying. At that moment I just thought about the stressful process getting there. Dealing with a school that did not communicate well, and struggling with wire transfers. It just felt like nothing I did mattered at that point. I felt like I struggled up until that point for nothing. All the work I put into getting there, just gone. I thought about the decisions I had made up until that point and thought, “I should have applied to a university in Japan. Japan is still safe to travel. You have always wanted to go to Japan but you only applied to KU because it was affordable. Look at how affordable it is now. You’re probably not gonna get financial aid.” I was in a terribly negative space. I thought about the study abroad scholarship I would lose because I had to leave. I just felt very financially insecure along with everything else going on in my mind.
The email was sent out on Friday, which was Saturday in my time zone. I knew that if I emailed them, I would not hear from them until Tuesday. There was also a 13-hour time difference which made communicating even more difficult. I had Saturday through Tuesday to be alone with my feelings and thoughts. As those days went by it just got worse. I felt so neglected and like I did not matter. Everyone for themselves, I guess. I was anxiously waiting to hear from UMass Boston. It took five days. I felt like I was in the dark. I did not know what was going on or what would happen, but also, I was in a negative headspace. It did not help that I was in a foreign country and in social isolation. I was just told some of the worst news in my life. How am I supposed to deal with this alone but also had to wait five days for a response? I did not feel supported at all in my time of need. I felt awful so I went on Twitter to find people who were dealing with a similar situation. It honestly felt nice to know I was not alone and someone else in the world was dealing with a similar situation, but I also felt empathic. After emailing with UMass Boston it looked like I had no choice but to leave. I decided that I could not afford to lose financial aid and my scholarship so I switched my study abroad experience to Mexico. I bought a flight to Mexico to fly out the day after I finished quarantine. I wished and hoped that all was well after that, but here I am now sitting at home in the U.S.