On the 11th of March the sun was shining in Aarhus and I’d spent the afternoon with my friend Taran, wandering around the deer park and being true Brits abroad eating fish and chips at Aarhus Street Food. It was a bitter-sweet afternoon, coming shortly after my friends and I had decided to cancel our upcoming travel plans to Vienna and Budapest, in the midst of what would soon become a global pandemic.
At that time, there were around 200 coronavirus cases in Denmark and I, among many of my peers, had no idea of the extent to which COVID-19 would spread around the globe.
That evening Mette Frederiksen, Denmark’s prime minister, announced that all Danish universities and schools, cafes, bars and restaurants would be closing with immediate effect.
It was the first sign of panic I’d experienced in an otherwise relaxed country, basking in the early signs of Spring.
With the news that our usual social spots would be closed indefinitely, and the knowledge that if we contracted the virus we’d have to spend 14 days alone in our bedrooms, relying on our dorm-mates for food, by the 12th of March most of my friends had announced that they would be returning home until further notice.
Being in Europe made getting home for me, at the time, very easy – and I cannot be more grateful for that. But that didn’t stop me feeling disheartened and disorientated when, on Friday the 13th of March, I’d packed what I could into a little blue suitcase and boarded a Ryanair flight to Manchester. I couldn’t help feeling like my year abroad had come to a grinding halt.
On Saturday the 14th of March, Denmark closed its borders for 30 days.
Coming home felt suddenly like a blessing in disguise, although notably strange – in 48 hours I’d gone from Danish lockdown to Leeds train station, where the sense of panic seemed further away than my life across the sea.
It was clear then, that although both countries shared a similar amount of reported COVID-19 cases, the UK were not moving nearly as quickly in their response to the pandemic.
However, I still believed I’d hear from Exeter pretty promptly after the Danish lockdown was announced internationally – as I sat in my little disorientated little bubble, wondering what to do next.
Although I understand that the University were also supporting students in higher risk areas, I still thought there’d at least have been some more general information given out to exchange students alongside the usual influx of Registrar Mail and updates from the Vice Chancellor.
The Global Opportunities team have been in touch with me since, regarding my whereabouts, however, there’s been a lack of updates concerning how to move forward from this point.
For example, I’m still unaware as to whether my grades will be impacted by the No-Detriment policy that’s been introduced to other students, or if I’ll receive the final instalment of my Erasmus+ grant, whilst I continue to pay for accommodation in Denmark.
On the other side of things, the international team at Aarhus University were in contact with me within a couple of days of me leaving the country – asking after my whereabouts and what I plan to do next. As the university is closed throughout the lockdown, classes are currently taking place online, and my assignments, which were all scheduled to be take-home exams for online submission, will go ahead as planned.
However, the lockdown in Denmark has recently been extended for a further 30 days, leaving me now in a position of uncertainty as to when I’ll get back to collect the rest of my belongings, and for my friends who have decided to stay in the country, uncertainty as to when they’ll be able to return home.
If anything, though, this whole experience has made me closer to the friends I met on exchange – and I’m looking forward to being able to see their faces in person again soon!
Whilst this isn’t the year abroad experience I’d imagined it would be, all I’m doing now is keeping an eye on the news, staying inside and hoping that my questions, alongside everybody else’s, will be answered soon.
Until then you can find me furiously eating rye bread and forcing my family to say tak.
– Molly Rymer
Featured Image: Original Photo