Edmonds Beacon - Your Hometown News Source

Cheryl Aarnio: "All our lives have been completely changed because of the coronavirus'

Series: Coronavirus | Story 86

Last updated 4/2/2020 at 8:30am

Cheryl Aarnio

Woodway resident Cheryl Aarnio in Lyon, France, where the coronavirus affected the Washington State University student's studies.

Editor's note: Cheryl Aarnio is a journalism student at Washington State University who interned at the Edmonds Beacon last summer. Here, the 19-year-old Woodway resident shares her experiences abroad and how the coronavirus has affected her studies.

Shortly after arriving in France in January, I learned that someone who had been at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had tested positive for coronavirus.

I don't recall if I knew what coronavirus was at the time, let alone how dangerous it could be, but I knew that I didn't want to have it. Luckily, I learned that he had been there two days after I had been.

And in my mind, that was that.

I didn't really keep up with the news when I was in France. I had gone there to study abroad for four months, and even though I'm a journalism major, I didn't want to hear about American politics.

However, as the weeks progressed and being within such close proximity to Italy, I did keep up with the news on coronavirus.

It's hard to believe that Feb. 29 was the day that my study abroad program provider told us all not to go to Italy or we could be dismissed from the program. That was the first day of winter break.

It was only one month ago, but it feels longer. At the time, I didn't even consider that I might get sent home. I just wondered how strong the border was between France and Italy, and what the odds were that the governments could keep coronavirus on one side of that border.

I wasn't sure of the answer, although I probably should have known.

My concern was whether I should book my spring break to Paris or whether that would be a fool's errand. I wasn't worried about the possibility that airlines would cancel most of their flights out of the country.

I was afraid that Paris, being the tourism hub that it is, would be quarantined, although I wasn't concerned about the city I was in, Lyon. I probably should have been.

As March progressed, I decided not to book Paris just yet, and I was right. My university highly recommended that I come home. Then my study abroad program was canceled. Originally, I booked a flight for March 23, but as I kept hearing what was going on, I changed my flight to March 17.

Things were changing quickly. Airlines were canceling flights, and people the world over were trying to get home. Even now, Americans who traveled are stranded, and I can only imagine what they might be thinking

I was about as stressed as I've ever been in my life, and I didn't know what was going on. I wanted to leave France. As I knew little about pandemics, I didn't know what measures governments would think were appropriate.

President Trump misspoke, stating that no travel would be allowed from Europe, and he had to be corrected because certain people were exempt from that, including people like me who are U.S. citizens.

That only increased my stress level.

In addition, I had gone to France to become better in French. In no way was I fluent at the time I left, so whenever French President Emmanuel Macron made a speech, I had to wonder if I had interpreted what he said correctly until an hour or two later, when the news would finally come out in English.

I left France on March 17. That same day, France started its lockdown, in which people who left their houses had to have a form stating why. They could only leave for essential travel.

I left Lyon at 6:30 a.m. that day and had no knowledge of that change before I left. I was only worried that my plane from Paris might be canceled. It wasn't.

On March 15 and 16, Lyon hardly looked any different. The sun was shining, and people weren't staying inside. A little girl was rollerskating. People were laughing. I saw a group of three young men who were still greeting each other in the French fashion, by kissing each other's cheeks.

There were still signs that coronavirus had taken hold of France. Starting March 15 at midnight, nonessential businesses were closed. Walking down the streets was a somber affair for me that morning. Most of the doors were shuttered. The many pharmacies in Lyon all seemed to have signs that said the same thing – there were no masks or hand sanitizer left.

The grocery store was still open. I passed one that was only letting in a certain number of people at a time, and there was a line out the door of people, all a few feet from each other, waiting to get in.

Cheryl Aarnio

Woodway resident Cheryl Aarnio took this picture in Lyon, France, where the coronavirus affected the Washington State University student's studies.

The butcher's shop near where I lived had a line out the door, the first line I had ever seen at the place.

When I was on the tram, some people covered their mouths with their scarves. An older man used his elbow, instead of his hand, to push the button that opened the tram door. There were several people wearing masks. A teenager wore gloves while riding a public scooter.

I can only guess that what I saw was the last day it looked somewhat normal in France.

Now all that has been on my mind lately has been the coronavirus. Here I am, taking my classes from home. All our lives have been completely changed because of the coronavirus.

I've been looking into other epidemics and pandemics throughout the years, and as I watch coronavirus take over the world, it's absurd to think that I didn't even learn about pandemics, let alone epidemics, in school.


Reader Comments


Our Family of Publications Includes:

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019

Rendered 05/18/2020 10:55