international studies
Photo: Ksiezyc at university in Ireland.

Students Studying Abroad Forced to Come Home, Try to Adjust to New Normal

Chloe Leckrone

When countries across the world began instituting travel bans due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in mid-March, Manchester University students studying abroad were abruptly called back home.

At the time, Junior art and environmental studies double major Ania Ksiezyc was settling into Ireland. Ksiezyc left for County Kildare in late January to study at Maynooth University. She was initially drawn to Ireland because of its lush scenery.

“As an environmental studies major, this beautiful island struck me, and I yearned to see all the wonderous sites it had to offer,” Ksiezyc said.

It would seem that Manchester University and a university in Ireland would have little in common. However, Maynooth University reminded Ksiezyc of Manchester in many ways.

“They’re two schools with awesome professors, initials are MU, and they both lie on a beautiful river,” Ksiezyc said. Her favorite activities included visiting restaurants and coffee shops in both the college town of Maynooth and Dublin.

In Dublin, Ksiezyc also had her first rock-climbing experience. She joined the rock-climbing society and would meet up with club members, who taught her all the tricks at a bus stop while waiting to ride to the facility with them.

Aside from rock-climbing, Ksiezyc visited Dublin many times to explore. “I think Dublin is one of the greatest cities I have been to yet,” Ksiezyc said. “There is so much diversity, and you can always hear people performing live music in the streets.”

Kendall Brown, sophomore peace studies and Spanish double major, had just begun to immerse herself in the Spanish culture of Barcelona, Spain. “I wanted to visit Barcelona specifically to learn more about the Catalonia region and live in a larger city,” Brown said.

While in Spain, Brown traveled to many famous towns and sites, including Ruins of Empúires, the Dali Museum in Figueres, Monasterio de Sant Peres de Rodes and an old fisherman’s town called Cadaqués. She also got the opportunity to visit La Sagrada Familia, a grand, unfinished Roman Catholic minor basilica. “The outside of the building is beautiful, but going into it is like going into a different world,” Brown said.

Within only weeks, Brown and Ksiezyc’s semesters took an unexpected turn. There had been talk of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of their time studying abroad, but neither expected they would suddenly be called home. Both received word around the same time in mid-March that the rapid spread of the virus was forcing them to return to the United States, and that they had only three days to leave the countries where they were living.

Ksiezyc felt scared and disappointed about the situation. “There was a lot I didn’t get a chance to see,” Ksiezyc said. “I had all my trips to see the iconic scenery during my spring and Easter breaks, and that never happened.” She spent her final days in Ireland, as she put it,“wandering around campus and going to all my favorite shops in Maynooth.”

Because things happened so quickly, Brown did not have a lot of time to process all of what was happening, but the trip home went smoothly for her. “There were a lot of students leaving Spain or Americans on vacation, and everyone was very kind because we were all in the same boat,” Brown said.

While her time abroad was not exactly what she expected; she is trying to look on the bright side. “I am sad that my experience was shortened, but I am extremely grateful for the time I had in Spain,” Brown said.

Now that Ksiezyc and Brown are safe at home, they are working on adjusting back to life in the States, as well as to their new online methods of learning. “It’s funny: I am home, but it doesn’t feel like it,” Ksiezyc said.