On March 3, NYU sent an email to all study abroad students, giving them the freedom to choose to stay in their global site or continue their courses remotely, given the context of the rising COVID-19 epidemic. When I read the email, I immediately knew I would be returning home as soon as possible. To many, my decision seemed unnecessary as, at that point, there were less than 10 cases of Corona in all of the Czech Republic. Here are my reasons why…
Hearing from my friends and classmates, they stay rest assured that if they were to catch the virus, they will remain in good health because they are young, healthy, and have a strong immune system. While that is most likely true, we cannot predict how a virus, illness will impact our bodies. It's not impossible as we have seen young, healthy people be strongly affected with past epidemics, such as SARS, H1N1, and Ebola. When we say, we should put our health above everything, it goes without saying we simply can't hold the mentality: it won't happen to me.
Furthermore, in the event that if I were to catch Corona here, I would receive medical care here. I have no judgment on Czech healthcare and I am sure it is no secondary to many countries, but I would feel much more comfortable to be in my home country, have no language barrier, and receive medical care where I am insured most. I understand NYU requires us to have insurance while abroad, but that is, in the event of an emergency or unforeseen health issues. We know Corona cases are rising and in a more prevention perspective, I choose to be home if such were to happen to me.
At the time I am writing this, cases in Czech Republic have risen to 21. In my most optimistic view, I hope it will stop rising and these patients can recover. However, we cannot ignore that neighbouring cases have as many cases as 4,600 in Italy, 800 in Germany, 80 in Austria, and many other heavily impacted countries. Given the open border system of the European Union, I strongly fear that it is only a matter of time before there will be a surge of cases in Prague.
I believe there is a responsibility aspect that each individual within/and our NYU community must hold to protect the health of everyone. One of the main reasons I chose to study abroad was to be able to travel and when Coronavirus started to spread throughout Europe, I cancelled my travels because I am not only responsible for my individual health to not put myself at risk, but also to the community, that I do not become an aide in the spread of the virus. I understand that it is not in NYU's control but many students are continuing to travel to heavily impacted places. I am choosing to be responsible for my own and minimize my exposure to those who chose to still travel.
When people hear that I am returning home to Taiwan, they seem surprised and confused about my decision. Despite being geographically close and a special territory of China, Taiwan has implemented strong measures to combat Corona due to past experience with SARS. Due to political reasons, Taiwan is not represented in the United Nations and consequently recognized as China by the World Health Organization. Without WHO's recognition of our independence and separate situation, Taiwan's government has had to fight Corona themselves. There are temperature screenings in most public spaces, required travel history, fines for those who do not fully quarantine themselves, and a special hospital system to avoid spreading. The people have been responsible for the community by initialing self-isolation after traveling anywhere, wearing masks, keep distancing from others, and reducing unnecessary outings.
At this time, everybody has different considerations and attitudes towards this epidemic. I am sure that many people, including myself, want the most out of our study abroad experience. So I sincerely hope that the Czech Republic will not be heavily impacted and those who chose to stay remain healthy and enjoy their time here. I am extremely saddened that my only semester to study abroad has come to this short end but I am grateful to NYU that I can continue my courses and I hope to return to Prague soon.