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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Time cut short in Aarhus, Denmark

What an unexpected turn of events, truly.

I woke up on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 and the first thing I saw on the news was the following: “Cases of Coronavirus double in Denmark, after a sudden overnight spike”. Everyone started talking about the virus: on the news, in the hallways of my dorm, on social media, and everywhere I turned: Coronavirus. Just a week ago, we were discussing the situation in China and how unfortunate it wasnever in a million years did we think it would reach us.

It was otherwise just another regular day for meI had class, rode my bike to campus as I did throughout my stay in Denmark, spoke with all my friends and classmates before class, and enjoyed the dessert that we would eat during our breaks.  Still, the recent surge of coronavirus cases permeated all conversations. It was an unusually sunny day for Denmark; after weeks of cloudy and rainy days, it was such a breath of fresh air to see a beautiful day outside. And in interesting juxtaposition, in fact, as the beauty and joy that your body experienced contrasted very clearly with the cloud of chaos that seemed to overwhelm the world. Class time that day was particularly enjoyable, and the professor let us out just a few minutes early so that we could enjoy the weather outside since it was the beginning of Spring. Little did I know that that day was going to be my last one on campus.

Every two hours, we would get notified that the positive cases of COVID-19 kept increasing in Denmark at higher rates. All the events I had signed up for throughout the week and in the next month started getting cancelled, one by one. Things we had planned formeetings with friends, social events, academic gatherings, dinners togetherall slowly falling apart. That evening, there was a dinner organized for international students that still took place despite some hesitation, and I remember how we all sat around the table bonding together and sharing our experiences, while testifying of the weird times we are living in. A friend of mine from New Zealand was telling us how toilet paper ran out in her country, and we were all laughing together about how ridiculous that sounded. At that very same time, the Prime Minister of Denmark held an emergency meeting to discuss new measures that will take place, and some of the Danes in the group were listening live and translating for all of us. “All public libraries, public events, schools, and universities are closed for the next two weeks” the PM said. A silence fell in the room, as we all stared at each other as if we were experiencing something shocking, unprecedented, and almost exciting to be a part of. Everyone started asking questions: “so we’re not going to school?”, “we have to stay home?!”. It seemed unheard of.

It was made clear that we were to stay home for the next two weeks. Because of that, I decided to go to the grocery store to buy some necessary food that I would be consuming the next two weeks. To my utter shock, I was greeted with immensely long lines that I had never seen in my life. Shelves were emptying out faster than my eyes could keep up with. Little did I know it would be my last time in a store in Denmark.

The environment in the dorm was different when I woke up on Thursday. Suddenly it seemed like there was nothing to do, and we would be stuck inside for the next two weeksstill, there was a feeling of solidarity and unity like never before. We all felt we were in this together, and suddenly the quick “hi’s” and “byes” turned into deeper, longer conversations. We really started being there for each other for whatever each one needed, and felt a sort of unity. There was an exciting aspect amidst the uncertaintyat least we would all be in this together and help each other enjoy it as much as possible. We started planning all the games we would play, how we would cook together, share our experiences and talk about our countries and cultures, watch movies togetherand just spend quality time with each other in the days to come.

And then, just like thatin the middle of all our plansI received an email. An email that would turn everything upside down: “Due to COVID-19, the study abroad program has been suspended and we urge you to come back to the United States as soon as possible”. I stared at my phone and could not believe my eyes. It was as if all the hopes and plans of life in Denmark, friendships, conversations, hikes, dinners with friendsjust everythingcame crashing down. I really could not believe that I was reading that I had to leave it all so suddenly. Just yesterday I found out we would not have classes on campus, and we were preparing for this “big adjustment” and change of lifestyle, and now it seems as though that seemed so miniscule.

It was hard to not break down and cry.

Everything then happened so fast, it was all a blur. I had 48 hours to pack everything and leave. When I woke up on Friday, I really thought that everything which was going on was a nightmare that I had woken up from. But noI was to spend what had suddenly become my last moments in Denmark packing, and informing my roommates with whom by now I had bonded with, that I would be leaving early that Sunday morning.  It was painful to not be able to say goodbye to so many people that I journeyed with for what felt like so many months. Thankfully, with all the food I had stored in the fridge and freezer I was able to make a big dinner for all my dorm mates as a ‘farewell’ on Saturday evening, and we had such a wonderful time together. It felt like I was living in a parallel universe; on the one hand having such a good time with my friends in the dorm, laughing together, playing together, cooking for them and eating a big dinner together, but on the other hand mentally trying to grasp that I am leaving tomorrow morning. After dinner, I emptied out all the shelves, bookcases, gave all the food I had to my friends, and left. Just like that.

It was hard to find peace in a situation like this, but my peace came from the fact that I have trusted my life in God’s hands, having the faith and assurance that He knows what He is doingeven when we do not understand. Through the shock, through the tears, through the uncertainty of it all, God was there for me and the more I delayed in turning and praying to Him amidst the storm, the worse I was making it for myself. I prayed for peace, and somehow it was given to me within the very short time I had to process everything. Because of that, even though I left Denmark with a heavy heart, I left with a grateful one and one without bitterness. I realized something quite fundamental: In this life, we have the opportunity to either be ungrateful for what we do not have … or to be grateful for what we do have. My time in Denmark was wonderful, and the fact that it was unexpectedly cut short does not take away from the fact that it was a blessing. How unfortunate when we fail to appreciate a gift as a gift until it is taken away. At this time, and throughout our time, let us redeem the time and count our blessingsnot our troubles.