Buying a plane ticket and planning your future as an Erasmus student is one of the most intense moments in university, leading to an explosion of emotions: anticipation and happiness to be starting a new life from scratch, as well as fear of the unknown, of escaping our comfort zones. A natural process for the ones adventurous enough to profit from the opportunities of being a student in the EU, a process which a few could have predicted to be so anxiety-inducing due to the ongoing pandemic.
With my university home in Austria and family home in Romania, I decided to stay in my university apartment in Vienna after the winter holidays. March was supposed to be the start of one of the most significant experiences in my life. I would be a hypocrite to say that I didn’t spend most of my childhood travelling abroad with my parents before ultimately leaving my home country for a whole new culture. Like many other students choosing to study abroad, I strived for better life conditions, for chances and choices my own country was not able to offer. Despite already having lived away from home for three years, I was still eager to secure an internship in Italy: a new social, political, and religious universe for me that I could learn to live in and grow with.
But then, my almost-reality was shattered: the instant abolition of mobility, the immense number of losses – and we are talking about more than the attack on the economy, it is a matter of human lives. This only proved to me how unstable and insignificant our own plans can be. My whole Italian experience had to be cancelled. While I had hoped this would just be postponed, soon my university was also put on pause. With no possibility of doing any internship, but at least with my family safe and sound and close to me, I isolated in the Romanian countryside.
Looking back on a time that appeared to be interminable, suffocating, and extremely lonely, those six months undoubtedly offered me some deeply rooted lessons. A state of fear persisted even in such a small village, where time stays in place and there is minimal outside and media influence, where agitation and urbanism are a dystopia. But media presence is unavoidable, and keeping my mind away from the terror of deaths and the mishandling and incapacity of hospitals did not seem like the right thing to do. And human beings, no matter how much some try to live for the group, still concentrate on themselves. What followed for me amidst the never-ending greenery, was my confrontation with my first anxiety attacks.
Thinking about my future kept me awake at night, for the future seemed more unpredictable than ever before and I was fighting with the absurd idea that I would never be able to find my own path. I’d never be able to transform my passion into a career or moreover, that I wouldn't even have a passion, at least not a sustainable one, in a present where the digital world has the upper hand and the culture is put on hold. Analyzing how the media portrays this pandemic as a time of unity, I realized that the economical, social and psychological discrepancies have never been so apparent. The fight for survival and the urge to create a safe environment for oneself trumped everything else. Despite the claims of “unity” and “community” in the media and from authorities, it seemed like anything but that.
On a more personal note, as a student trying to navigate their life (and I know I don’t speak just for myself), those six months of isolation led me to understand that rejection from companies and positions did not determine my self-worth and true abilities. Rejection is so much more than my own incapacity, and does also depend on the company’s willingness to take a chance on you.
To conclude, the impact of these unseen forces has created a new sense of normalcy. From a Romanian context and mentality, our youth (including me) have found ourselves in a generational conflict where families impose expectations and standards that they were able to achieve in their own 20’s. They expect us to find jobs easily, get married, build families, not realizing how much things have changed since their younger days, especially given the pandemic.
We’ve seen how a paradoxical duality has been created, where we want to achieve stability and find our “other half” to complete ourselves, but at the same time, are afraid of responsibilities and committing to one thing forever. While always looking to upgrade too, this form of equilibrium is getting harder and harder to achieve.
These are just some of the thoughts I had and observations I made during a period of inactivity, an eye-opening time of global suffering and loss constructed by micro-anxieties. I realized how uncertain tomorrow really is. By August 2020, this “summer of my life” has redirected the course of my destiny completely, and is slowly rewarding me with a happiness I never thought I deserved. I hope after the birth of this new era, we will have the chance to speak in the future, at least, we’ll hope for now...
About the author:
With a passion for culture, psyche, exploring the world, and coming in contact with an infinite number of stories, I studied theatre, film and media, in sociology, along with writing at the University of Vienna. I tend to find beauty in every single element, while always attempting to fully live every experience, to archive it in the form of photography and written word. Not one day goes by for me without a journalistic discovery, an interview recorded or articles structured. If I would have to set a goal for the future, it would be to find an equilibrium between constant academic research and my engagement in international opportunities. My desired engagement is on a multidisciplinary level, in a never-ending journey while also trying to discover the fluidity of the self, complementing the world around me with the goal of having a small impact in pressing global issues.