I still remember the days when studying abroad was just a distant dream. I soon realized that leaving Brazil to pursue a quality education would require sacrifices. For me, the hardest of them has been staying away from my family. You see, before I came to the U.S. I lived in a small community with friendships I thought would last forever. My world was my hometown and my support system was made of two people: my mom and sister. God knows how much I miss them, especially when things get tough.
You know that feeling when you want something so bad but you can’t have it whenever you want it? It’s like living on a diet and craving for chocolate. That’s how living far from my family feels like. It’s not like I can just jump on a bus and spend the weekend. About 7,000km separate my hometown from Tufts. After the pandemic spiked, things got even harder. Most of my friends at Tufts switched to remote learning while I stayed on campus. I started missing things I used to take for granted, like touch. Have you heard of touch starvation? Yep. It’s real. I know many of you may believe we have everything we need on our phones and no one feels alone in this tech world. But, that’s not necessarily true. According to the Texas Medical Center, people who are touch starving experience a drop in levels of cortisol, a hormone known to be a balance for stress. Touch starvation increases stress, depression and anxiety, triggering a cascade of negative physiological effects.
Fortunately, I have access to a great internet connection and WhatsApp. Although I can’t hug them, I can talk to them and see their beautiful faces. But, the Tufts’ response to the COVID-19 crisis has also helped keep me steady. This year, students are living in cohorts of one to ten people. These are the people I’m allowed to have a closer interaction with because we live on the same dorm floor. That has given me the opportunity to have some level of human contact on campus in the fall. My cohort and I have lunch, dinner, and do homework together. Moreover, several departments have organized community-building events like gaming nights. I have lost count of how many times I have played Among Us with other students on campus. I also try my best to go for social distancing walks in the beautiful Academic Quad — seeing the leaves changing colors make these walks even more pleasant.
Additionally, the quick testing process and the smooth take-out dining experience at Tufts have helped me understand the importance of social distancing measures. Testing takes only a few minutes and I hardly see big queues in the Commons Marketplace, my favorite take-out spot on campus. I see everyone on campus wearing masks and it makes me feel safe. But, it also reminds me of the importance of resisting the temptation of going out with friends who are not in my cohort and of avoiding large social gatherings. I will soon be going back to Brazil and when that time comes, I want to be free from COVID-19 so I can enjoy the best time with my family.