COVID-19 has left me marooned and homesick in a foreign country

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN


Photo of the van den Broek family provided by Valerie van den Broek.

Valerie van den Broek, Arts & Entertainment Editor

During this time, I find myself making my mother’s veggie soup, trying to feel at home while stuck inside my empty room. 

These recent weeks have left me seriously contemplating whether my decision to travel across the world to go to school was worth the trouble, or if I should just pack up and go home.

In 2016 I traveled from my home, a small village in the Netherlands, to America, leaving my friends and family behind to receive an education in a foreign language. 

A few days ago I brought my roommate to Los Angeles International Airport.

The normally bustling airport was abandoned, occupied only by a few fliers donned in masks and gloves.

It’s hard to listen to warnings against travelling when you just want to be with your family and friends back home, a safe haven and a familiar place.

My weekly calls with my parents have gone from conversing about my studies and eating healthy to them begging me to come home.

Every day I get a message from my mom saying to stay 6 feet apart from others, to disinfect everything from doorknobs to gas nozzles and to eat lots of fruit and veggies.

My parents tell me stories about how empty the grocery stores are, how high school students don’t have to do their final exams this year and how all events are canceled until June.

Europe is going on lockdown and it is uncertain when or if the Netherlands will close its borders.

Everyday I feel the weight of this decision on me: Go back home now and be stuck, or don’t go and be stranded in a country without my family. 

My parents and I are very close, and I almost always rely on them for advice, but even they are at a loss for what to do since we have never seen a pandemic on this scale.

For many people the decision is obvious, because after the Netherlands closes its borders there is no way to tell how long it would last. 

However, Santa Barbara isn’t an easy city to leave. I’ve come to love this city over the years. I am about to graduate from City College, and I had plans for continuing to work in the U.S. I’ve also made some amazing friends in my time here. 

My parents booked tickets to visit me here in America for my graduation in May. It would be the first time I’d seen them in over a year. 

They have now canceled their flight, and I don’t know the next time I’ll be able to see them again.

We have daily contact and show each other pictures and videos to have a sense of what is going on where we live.

But nothing compares to having my parents with me in real life, and having to miss out on that for another year is hard. 

At a time where I would be looking for an internship and planning what to do when my parents would visit me, I am now glued to my laptop writing and checking the news every hour as many of us do now.

Now that almost all my roommates have moved back to their home countries and California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a stay-at-home order, I find myself roaming around in an empty house.

It is painfully lonely. 

I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I want to be home where my family is, but I also want to pursue my education and future career.

As a journalism student, writing about the coronavirus is like writing history. It gives us as students a voice that compares to all great journalists, and that is something that I don’t want to give up so fast.

For now, I am planning to pursue my career and passion for writing as I stay at my home away from home.

So the best thing to do now is to stay put and remain to have contact via Facetime and text message.

Lots of us are isolating ourselves to prevent getting sick. I wish that at such times I could go home and hug my parents, telling them that it will be fine, but for now, it will just be a virtual hug, and me continuing making my mom’s veggie soup.