Two days ago I was sitting in class studying the synthesis of neurotransmitters. Today, I’m sitting on a flight to Jacksonville, Fl around my midterms thinking about how ungrateful I must be to be so heartbroken. Let me explain.
I’m a first year medical student at St. George’s University, and I’ve been evacuated to the United States. Don’t panic, we don’t have any confirmed cases of COVID-19. But in an effort to not overwhelm the Grenadian health care system, we have been encouraged to go home.
But it all happened in the blink of an eye. In the span of 48 hours, we were told not to come to class if we felt sick, then not to come at all if we feel uncomfortable in large groups, then to go back home (stateside). We felt a sense of urgency as we received new emails from our administration every few hours or so, each more urgent than the one prior. The last one with an offer to fly us free of charge to major airports in the US. We were told to continue studying and attend classes, but to also move out and be ready to be on a flight in less than 12 hours.
I was supposed to be on the first flight out of Grenada. We were told if we didn’t receive an email confirmation, then we wouldn’t be leaving the next day. But because of how quickly the chaos was evolving, I decided to stay up as long as I could in case we received any notice. Good thing I did too because I got my 1pm flight confirmation around 2am and was told to be ready to go by 10am.
The night before, my roommates and I said our goodbyes as we listened to some calming music and packed our entire apartment up in 4 hours. We asked for a taxi to help move our things into storage but we had so many pieces, our taxi left us as we went to grab more from the room. The entire island was overwhelmed with the suddenness.
I arrived to the airport on time, but trying to fly out over 4000 students in under 48 hours is a near impossible task at our tiny island airport. So we waited 6 hours after we should have departed before finally leaving. Each hour, students getting more and more anxious as we missed our connecting flights.
We were offered accommodation, which unfortunately ran out before most of us landed. Our luggage was put on separate planes or just went missing all together.
In the midst of all this chaos and tears, we understand this is the least of worries for many people around the world. We’re fighting a pandemic. We get it. And although words can’t describe how proud and grateful we are of our health care professionals for stepping up, students everywhere feel so defeated.
We’re heartbroken to be separated from colleagues who have helped us make it this far, extremely financially burdened, physically exhausted, worried we’ll graduate late or not get residencies and just down right scared. Many of our friends and professors were unable to return home due to financial reasons and are terrified of what that might mean for them and the Grenadian community.
While I know this is a lot to process for everyone who is impacted by this pandemic, I wish to emphasize how grateful students are that our university was able to get some students to major airport hubs and relieve some of the sudden financial burden. Many friends are still stranded on the island without any scheduled flight wondering where we went wrong in our emergency preparedness as a society.
Unfortunately all we can do now is take it one day at a time. It’s incredibly important to support each other, remain calm and remember our humanity in this time.
Hannah Terefe is a medical student at St. George’s University. She can be followed at marathon_to_MD