Today marks my 11th day in self isolation, and let me tell you how boring not leaving the house has been. Its a good thing I’ve had my coursework to keep me company! Contrary to my initial thoughts about my program cancellation, all of my classes at ETH have gone online and I can continue my learning. With this, new challenges are created. All of my classes have times which lectures resume via online Zoom meeting call, and the time difference from here to Switzerland makes attending some of the video calls pretty hard. I am attending the classes that occur after 7 a.m., and the other classes (for the most part) are recording the calls so I can go back and watch/listen at a more appropriate time. Communicating with project members, professors, and program coordinators over in Switzerland has also been weird; I forget that when I message them at 5 p.m. they’re getting the message at 11 p.m., so I try to send all of my messages early in the mornings. Its been a bit difficult adjusting to the new class formats, but I’m finally getting the hang of it. I can think of it in a bigger picture as a learning experience. If I have a job where I have to communicate with people internationally, I have to get used to checking the time differences. All of this online work is also preparing me for spending more of my professional time behind a computer screen, which is likely something I have to experience as society’s reliance on the internet grows.
I am also noticing some of the subtle differences in life back home versus life in Switzerland. I have never tasted American tap water like I taste it now, because in comparison to Swiss tap water, its a bit funkier. Eating vegetarian is much harder, especially living with a family who eats meat. While I don’t miss the constantly rainy weather and spending so much money on groceries, life in Zurich was pretty great for this southern boy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has truly shocked the world. Whenever I get sad about being back home, I try to remember that everyone around the world is experiencing the same thing. Its like there’s togetherness in our separation. Whether it takes months or years to subside, this will indeed be a story to tell the grandchildren. On the bright side of things, perhaps this crisis will nudge our local and national leaders to become more prepared in case a similar situation presents itself in the future. The government has already passed the $2T Cares Act for economic recovery after just weeks of the virus’s presence in the States, so it will be interesting to see what other measures our governments will take in order to protect the systems of our society.
I am forever thankful for the weeks I had in Zurich. Thinking of the amazingly smelly Gruyere, hiking the Alpine ridges, making all sorts of friends at every turn, clean waters, and the view from my flat.