When I first heard of COVID-19, like thousands or even millions of people out there, I thought it wouldn’t affect me and whatever I was doing in life. I was attending school as a second-degree international student at Gallaudet University–the only liberal arts university in the world focusing on students who are deaf or hard of hearing — in Washington, DC. I had a rewarding part-time job with the International Student Services, I was doing better than expected in all my classes, and I had exciting plans to travel to New York City for the first time during Spring Break, which was coming up soon. Life was going alright for me, apparently.
During the weeks leading up to Spring Break the news regarding the virus became more and more grim. I noticed that a lot of plans were getting changed or cancelled among friends, including my group who was planning to visit New York City. I could sense increasing tension amongst almost everyone on campus each new day, and both my boss and my parents were starting to warn that I might have to come home to Canada earlier than expected.
Then, in the middle of the week before Spring Break, there was a campus-wide announcement: our school would be suspending in-person classes and moving them online, and everyone living in the residence buildings (including me) would have to move out, fast. Right after that announcement, I realized that the whole situation was getting serious. I also realized that even though I was really enjoying my time at Gallaudet and in the US in general, it would be best for me to come home, so I arranged a flight for the following Monday.
I chose to spend the little time I had to enjoy my favorite places in D.C. However, with every hour, I had the sinking feeling and realization that the borders between Canada and the US could close and my flights home cancelled. This would leave me stuck alone in a completely different country. On Saturday, after coming back from a lovely afternoon in the Georgetown area, my parents called to tell me that they changed my flight, I needed to pack everything and move out, now. Their concern about the border closures was growing.
Within 6 hours, I had to pack up everything, leave behind the things I couldn’t bring home with me in a storage locker, and catch a cab to a hotel close to the airport. The next morning, with less than 4 hours of sleep, I began a long and stressful journey home (admittedly, I did really enjoy my first time ever in a first class seat on the flight). While I was really stressed out, I was also relieved that I was able to get home safely and see my family. I didn’t even mind having to self-quarantine for the next 14 days.
I am continuing my classes online at home without any major issues so far. Sure, it feels different than an in-person academic environment, but since I have developed decent studying habits, I think I will be fine in the end (hopefully).
Leaving Gallaudet was difficult for me. I am the only person in my family (and to an extent, the only person my age in my hometown) with major hearing loss. I mostly communicate in a completely different language and was sad to leave behind all the new, amazing friends I had made in DC and the opportunities I had at Gallaudet. That said, I know this isn’t the end of everything and I will be back.
Throughout this chaos, I have found a silver lining. Ever since I came back home, I have rekindled my passion for art, and this time, I am inspired by my experiences at Gallaudet. The following is the first artwork I’ve recently made in a long time and was inspired by the ASL sign for “Sun”. It was also inspired by how in dark or uncertain times like what is happening at this moment, there’s always a way to bring some sunshine back, whether it’s by finding it within yourself or finding it in the people, things or whatever that you are truly grateful for.
So yes, even though I had to uproot my life in DC and come home sooner than expected, and even I am not sure when everything will be okay again, I still will manage to find some sunshine in the cloudiest moments.