The Coronavirus Abroad Logs – Moscow

Hannah Johnson ’21
Eggplant Editor

Chief Editor’s Note: This isn’t one of Hannah’s typical articles. It isn’t made to be satirical, which may lead to questions over why it was included in the Eggplant. However, in an email she sent when she submitted the article to me she said the following: “All I’ve worked on since I evacuated Russia was a non-satirical log of developments and actions since the virus became problematic. I understand if you don’t end up using it because it’s not very funny, but considering the seriousness of it all… I just felt like being frank, sharing perspective.” In light of all the current events, and because of her position as an editor with the Eggplant, I feel it should be included and encourage anyone that clicked on this article for a quick laugh to still read it regardless. -Matt

3/12/20 – 10:41 AM

I woke up this morning to a slew of emails from various Holy Cross folk, as well as from my dear mother. Holy Cross is on lockdown, everyone is moving off campus for the time being… in the event that this is for the remainder of the spring semester, people are doing their best to say goodbye to their senior friends in the suddenly short timespan… I feel for everyone dealing with this on-campus.

I didn’t imagine everyone suddenly leaving Holy Cross, but I foresaw the Study Abroad department giving us abroad the option of going home early, which they now have, to also continue our studies from home. For it to actually happen, though, is… a lot. 

Needless to say, I’ll probably be flying home in the next few days. Trump has begun issuing travel bans, and believe me when I say that I do not want to be caught in Russia if the situation worsens drastically, or if World War III finally erupts. 

There’s much to do… I’ll be speaking to my academic advisor today about my options for home study–whether I can continue my current courses from a distance, or if I’ll be taking whatever Holy Cross will be offering.

3/12/20 – 6:55 PM

My advisor will be speaking with Holy Cross as to what kind of long-distance studying I might be able to do. It will also depend on my Russian teachers here.

The Chinese have been gone for a while now, which was very noticeable, as there were usually many Chinese folk in Moscow… Some such students have been studying from home as best they can. Ironically, now the majority of students in the Russian as a Foreign Language department here are Italians–at this point, I’m sure entry into or exit from Italy is nigh impossible, and from what I’ve heard, it’s better for them to be here anyway.

And disease-wise, Russia does feel like one of the safest places to be. As I often say, Russia doesn’t mess around with security, and coronavirus cases here are still very low. But of course, I’m not leaving because I believe I’ll fall ill–but rather, to be with family, and to go home before I’m forbidden from leaving (or more likely, entering (the USA.))

3/13/20 – 12:21 AM

And just like that, studying abroad is no longer an option. With the State Department’s newest advisory, putting any international travel at a Level 3, the Study Abroad department is bringing all abroad students home. To think, this morning I was burdened with making the decision… All I had to do was wait a little longer, and now–regardless of my progress, regardless of my classes, regardless of what I’ve done and what I’ve yet to do or accomplish–I’m going home.

I’m just playing the waiting game trying to rebook my existing return flight. I’d sooner just hop into a first class seat and sail back to America on a new flight but… I suppose it’s more sensible to first at least try and change the date of my existing flight.

3/13/20 – 11:05 AM

Not wanting to wait too long, as this travel company is incredibly busy dealing with flight problems at the moment, my advisor has found a new flight for me, for Sunday the 15th, flying from Moscow to New York and New York to North Carolina, where I live at the moment. I’m tying up loose ends, getting documents and things in order. Thankfully I should be able to tutor one more English lesson, and so I’ll be able to say goodbye to the kids I work with. It’s a shame that I’ve had no time to get gifts for them or souvenirs for my loved ones back home, but I’ll improvise.

3/13/20 – 8:34 PM

The flight has been booked, transportation arranged, documents are in order, I’ve just written to everyone I want to write to… Everything is in order to return home shortly!

I had afternoon tea with my hostess/babushka and her English language tutor. They’re very curious about how this is all going down in America, and I gladly filled them in on the current struggles of Holy Cross students, and more generally, American students.

My one class for today was cancelled, so I took some time to walk around the heart of Moscow a bit, take some pictures, and create one last post for my Russia-themed Instagram. Then, I was asked to return to my host school one last time, to have one final talk about all these happenings and to say goodbye to my academic advisor. It was bittersweet to go so soon, and with much progress yet to be made, for me, in Russian language.

Meanwhile, this evening, Russian news about coronavirus and America plays on our TV, and I’ve been in touch with Holy Cross about my upcoming long distance studying. It sounds hectic on campus–all the students are moving out (partying it up before they get evicted?) and all the teachers are undergoing training to move to entirely virtual classrooms. I heard a little bit about what kinds of classes I might be taking, one of which is a little experimental. But Holy Cross is very supportive, and I am not worried at all–everything will be figured out!

3/14/20 – 3:43 PM

Only a little more packing to do… I sent some things to my home address, since I didn’t have time to buy gifts and souvenirs while I was here in person… I’ll have to try and sleep as much as I can this evening, but I have a feeling I will be somewhat restless… I already am. My cultural advisor will come to our apartment at 3:30 AM for some celebratory late night breakfast before we leave for the airport by 4:30–from there, it’s history.

I’ve been in touch with friends, and I’ve heard about the situation in different areas of North Carolina–I got to see pictures of empty grocery shelves and hear about the panicking some people are doing (unnecessarily.)

3/25/20 – 7:03 PM

I made it home smoothly, and everything is fine with me and my family. I’ve commenced online courses–not quite as smoothly, but as well as one could hope for in such a situation. It just leaves the question, which I’m sure many of us are wondering about–when will the quarantine end? Until it does, stay home, stay healthy, and safe travels, if you find yourself out and about.

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