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From Paris to Texas in a Corona Minute

My sad, mad dash home in the time of COVID-19.

by Neely Kasanoff

Photo: Instagram @hey_its_neelz

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nobody at NYU Paris was really concerned. But the school knew that parents were, so they gave students the option to go home.

I opened the email and scoffed, knowing that there was no way I would leave Paris by choice.

Our RAs went around the dorm asking if anyone was going to leave, and most of us said the only way we’d leave France is if they dragged us out by the feet.

Starting my freshman year of college in Paris gave me a totally different experience than that of my friends going off to universities in America. I studied French in high school and absolutely love Paris, so I saw this as a priceless chance to immerse myself in French culture while enjoying the smallness of my cohort of peers.

When the news broke that President Trump would be making an announcement regarding the U.S.’s relationship to Europe during the novel pandemic, our dorm threw a watch party to see what he had to say.

It was at 2 a.m. our time, and as soon as the words “travel ban on Europe starting in 48 hours” came out of his mouth, laptops were opened and every single person got on the phone with their families to book a flight home.

One girl paid $3,000 for her flight. Nobody processed any of what was going on; everyone immediately flew into a frenzy of packing.

I went downstairs to the storage room to grab my suitcases and on the way down passed 8 different girls crying, mostly from the stress of having to get out. My roommates had booked flights for as soon as an hour, so instead of being in charge of cleaning my room, I became in charge of cleaning 5 rooms for the people leaving before I was.

When I say that I have never experienced this level of chaos in my life, I mean it.

One of my four roommates had been planning on leaving that weekend anyways, so she was already packed. We had spent the whole week making fun of her for choosing to leave, but she got to spend a whole night laughing at our frantic attempt to pack. My coats alone took up half of one of my suitcases, so I knew there was absolutely no way I could bring all of my things home.

My roommates were having the same issue (we were planning on figuring out how to pack in May, not March), so we started a donation stack. This stack turned into a pile, and other students who would be staying in France paraded through our apartment over the next couple of hours shopping around. Nobody had space to bring books home, so then I went around the dorm and collected 57 books to donate, putting them in one of my friend’s now empty room.

The next morning, rumors began to surface about France closing its borders.

We saw the army tanks being moved to city centers and the borders, grocery stores beginning to fill up, and the insanity of the airport. I have never seen lines that long.

We didn’t want to leave, but it was becoming evident that we needed to get home while we could. While American citizens were supposed to be allowed back into the country regardless of the time constraint, the specifics were unclear and not everyone in our apartment was an American citizen. The escalating situation in France made our families even more nervous.

The potential of overstaying our visas and apartment lease if the ban was extended was also a major concern for us. It was unfortunately clear that this was the time to leave France.

A lot of people have commented on the TikTok I posted that I should have been more focused on packing than making a TikTok, but I saw this as an opportunity to show everyone back home in a fun and goofy way to what extent the pandemic was affecting our studies.

Most of our friends in America were on spring break at the time, but we were still in class (which was already being held online), so on top of the packing and traveling home, we were still responsible for schoolwork. Somehow, we managed it all.

I am so sad that my time in Paris was cut short, but will be forever thankful for the time I got to spend there.

All the girls of our apartment are now at home, safe with their families, and so far not infected with COVID-19!

We want to thank everyone for following us alongside this crazy journey and for the well wishes, and send our love to everyone during this time of crisis.


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