UWCM in times of Corona


by Cesar Almeida, United World College Maastricht
22nd March, 2020


Our bubble burst. We felt sorry, pitiful for our dear and unknown co-years in Changshu. UWCers just like us who were detained from returning to their last sprint of UWC. No hugs, no goodbyes, but a fair share of tears shed. Then Li Po Chun, then Adriatic, then Mahindra, and one by one our countries, contaminated, our schools, closed. Overwhelming uncertainty surrounded our group chats and our conversations in the Mensa. Which UWC closed today? Are they going back home? What is the government doing? What are we doing?
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Corona arrived before empathy, and overnight, this dreadful situation that we had all heard of as an outside circumstance hurled to us and popped our bubble. We were not immune anymore, not untouchable. Our imaginary dome ripped and we stood here, inside, defenseless and afraid.
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On Friday we received a reassuring message and a supportive attitude towards our decision; We could leave or stay, but school would keep running. An uncertain Saturday led to a decisive Sunday when they told us school was closing. From then on rumors spread like a wildfire; Are we opening again? Are the residences closing next?
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Uncertainty.
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One by one our roommates left. Firsties leaving in hopes of coming back for the famous month of June where everything is sun and good vibes. Second years were drawn back by IOCs. The everpresent struggle to balance studying, sleeping and socializing transformed into the struggle to balance studying, living the last memories with the remainers and saying goodbye, perhaps indefinitely, to our friends. Monday and Tuesday were a continuation of the weekend. Online classes started on Wednesday. Irregular studying schedules, a false sense of joblessness and the urge to make every second count have been our first week of Corona break.
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As if it was not enough, university results have been pouring on our emails and won’t stop anytime soon. Still, we are in the dark. What about our exams? How are universities responding to this?
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In the meanwhile, our families, sheltered behind closed borders or vulnerable amid the mishandled situation in our countries. We know they support us, they know we are in good hands in this place. Still, their arms seem far away to hug. And if near, two weeks of quarantine and the angst of carrying this invisible microbe distances us from our younger siblings, our delicate parents and our caring grandparents.
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Day after day we must make decisions that could change our UWC experience. We wake up to the screams of goodbye-tunnels. We take breaks from our study to help our floormates move boxes and suitcases. Constantly asking: are you staying? Not knowing if we want to know the answer.
Maybe our UWC spirit has weakened, but it has certainly not died. Under the sun we stand, doleful but not hopeless. Mixed feelings but clear desires, of harmony, of reality, of stability. Will we have it soon? Another question in the list.

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