CC Students Navigating the World During a Global Pandemic: reflection on Journalism Institute capstone project by Anna Marcus '21

Nearly a year ago, I signed up for the adventure of a lifetime - studying abroad in Granada, Spain. I left the U.S. for Granada on Jan. 20, 2020, just as the world was learning about the Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China.

I studied with IES Granada, an approved third-party affiliate of Colorado College. The program was designed for experiential learning; all of my classes were taught outdoors at least once, and most included field trips to historical monuments in Granada and nearby cities like Córdoba, Málaga, Cadíz, and Sevilla. My Spanish professor took my class to 'Tapas' every other week. My art class took a field trip to 'La Alhambra,' and my architecture class even traveled to Morocco. The language barrier was challenging but rewarding; on my first day of class, I tried to order coffee from Café Lisboa in Spanish and the waiter responded to me in English. I persevered and practiced until finally waiters began to communicate with me in Spanish and to understand my (heavy, I suppose) American accent. The program was fairly immersive: my classes were taught in Spanish, I lived in a dormitory with University of Granada students who spoke no English, and information about field trips was shared in Spanish.

When COVID-19 first emerged, it was hard to grasp what was happening or what the outbreak even meant for the rest of the world. But, in March, the situation changed dramatically. Every student in my program anxiously watched and listened to the news each day. Local news would report that Italy recorded its largest numbers of cases and then Spain would follow with similar reports the next day. The Coronavirus was officially declared a pandemic on March 11. And, sure enough, on March 13, I received an alert from the U.S. State Department that Spain had been classified as a "Global Health Advisory - Level 3." This development would mark the end of my time in Spain. The following morning, my program ended abruptly and all students were encouraged to leave Spain within 24 hours. I booked an emergency overseas flight home to Los Angeles just as countries closed their borders and airlines grounded entire fleets.

Flying back to the U.S. was surreal. The long health history forms that included very specific questions, the overall anxiety, and the social-distancing failures at airports full of masked travelers was certainly different than any past experience I'd had flying home. Upon arrival in Los Angeles, I faced long lines and confusion. I waited hours to have my passport checked and my temperature taken. With planes full of nervous Americans coming in one after the other, lines needed to be redirected and people needed to move out of the airport as quickly as possible. This chaos was like nothing I'd ever seen before.

I arrived at my home and reflected on my experience. "Others must have experienced similar situations as they tried to return to the United States," I thought. Thus, with the help of the Journalism Institute and the Advancement Department, I got to work on a project - a four-part miniseries called "CC Students Navigating the World During a Global Pandemic." Over the past month, I interviewed four members of the CC community - Harrison Raine '19, Matt White '21, Maysie Poland '21, and Fanbi Meng '21. Each person I spoke with spent time in a different part of the world. Yet, I found that their experiences paralleled my own. Learning about their experiences with COVID-19 made me appreciate the ways in which our lives overlap and are interconnected. Although I have been confined to my home, during every interview, I met a new person. After I left Spain, I continued to study with IES remotely. I am wrapping up my semester this week - my last final is on May 15.

Through this process, I realized that while we are separated physically, we still have the opportunity to connect with strangers and reconnect with loved ones. Finding a sense of sameness through completely separate experiences can provide comfort and meaning in a strange time. I think it's a good thing that crises inadvertently connect us and force us to reflect on our experiences. Thank you for taking the time to watch these interviews. If you missed any, you can access them through the links below.

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