Written by Maria Laura
from Costa Rica
MSc Clinical and Developmental Neuropsychology
My life in Bournemouth and BU
Hi! My name is MariaLaura. I’m an MSc Clinical and Developmental Neuropsychology student at BU. I am from San José, Costa Rica and moved to Bournemouth in September 2019.
I quit my job as an Elementary School counselor, packed my bags, said goodbye to my family and my home for 29 years, hopped on several planes for many hours and arrived in the UK. I met people as soon as I arrived and made friends easily. Everyone in my course is smart and kind and we’ve had a great time learning together. The course is challenging and interesting and I’ve learned things beyond my expectations. I then met more people and slowly build my safe community.
Moving to the UK was a big culture shock, a different language, different weather, different food, different customs and traditions, but I was loving my experience. I came to love my life in Bournemouth; it wasn’t always easy being so far away from home and being alone, but I was happy with my course, with my hobbies and routines, and I was especially happy with the people I’d chosen as my friends who had become my family away from home. January 2020 came and with it, the excitement for new experiences and opportunities. University work was getting harder and more demanding and the friendship bonds I’d built were getting stronger.
The shape of my life in Bournemouth was becoming more and more solid and I felt at peace building it and powering through the struggles.
Coronavirus was heard in the news and people were starting to be cautious, but no one really knew what was coming. The world was starting to get sick at a very fast pace. Easter break was approaching and my parents were going to visit me. My dad was planning the itinerary which included a lot of places in England as well as many others in Spain, I was so excited to see them and show them around my new home. My parents called me one day and told me they were cancelling the trip, the Costa Rican government was taking protective measures to contain the virus and avoid a crashing of the health care system so they were advised to social distance in the very beginning of March.
The numbers around the world were getting higher faster and with them the measures in my country. My family as well as everyone else in Costa Rica was asked to go into quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus, schools were cancelled and people were working from home. Those same measures were being taken by many other countries around the world trying to avoid situations like those in Italy and Spain.
While this was all happening, Bournemouth Uni, as well as most other businesses in Bournemouth and the UK were up and running. I listened carefully to the news every day and read every one of Jim Andrews’ newsletters (our Chief Operating Officer) to be on top of the university news. I remember exactly how that one specific week happened, the week where it all changed. I was supposed to have lectures the week of Monday 16th. I was waiting to hear the news because I was very surprised businesses were running as usual and I feared even leaving my room, knowing that in my country people couldn’t even leave their homes since the beginning of the month. Every day the news was different. One night, the newsletter advised students to go home, Bournemouth University was going to be online for at least a few more months. I talked to my supervisor and programme leader the following day as well as with the Costa Rican embassy and they all advised me to go home if I could, so I did. That Thursday night I bought a ticket to Costa Rica. I packed my bags, packed my life in the UK, that life I was building and was really starting to enjoy, my new home where I was happy.
The following day I was flying home to San José. As every second passed, I could feel the world getting more and more sick. The flight was empty, nobody was allowed to enter Costa Rica unless they were citizens coming back home. Airlines were cancelling their flights for months, borders were being closed. I came home where measures were strict at the airport and I was given a sanitation order confirming my commitment to my country to isolate myself for 14 days. I was lucky my uncle had a spare apartment and I was able to. My sister had left some food and clothes for me in the place that became my home for almost a month.
My covid scare
A week later, the Health Ministry called me explaining a person on my flight had tested positive for COVID-19 and that I had to take extra precautions since I was now a person of close contact with the virus after having spent about 12 hours inside a plane with this person. They advised me to stay isolated for a longer period of time which I did. They called me every day after that to monitor my health conditions.
While all this was happening I had lectures, assignments, tests, and dissertation work. It was very hard. I felt like I was riding a rollercoaster of emotions. I felt safe being back home but sad about leaving, happy about beautiful weather but sad about not being able to leave the apartment. I felt nervous, anxious, scared, stressed, so many things all at once and focusing on university work I have to admit was strange considering everything that was happening and that I’d lived.
My supervisor and my programme leader were incredibly supportive. They were considerate of my experience and allowed me extensions. They also offered to talk and all kinds of support. I am grateful to have them both close and to be my academic guides, because without that support and consideration, I wouldn’t have been able to hold it together. That time and patience allowed me to organise myself.
It still isn’t easy, it’s been a crazy ride. But I am finally out of the apartment and back home with my family. I am safe from the virus (after having a couple of scares), and ready to focus and keep working on uni work. I’m trying not to make any concrete plans since nobody really knows what will happen, but I’m at peace with going with the flow and taking things day by day for now.