Snapchat memories are always a treat. Just stumbled upon an exuberant picture of myself from exactly one year ago, back when it was all fun and games. Who knew that one year forward, some Chinese man will eat a bat and universities will shut down globally.

As a Computer Science undergrad student in Germany, thanks to the immense workload, I think I was unknowingly already practicing social distancing. While the sudden change did not affect me so much emotionally, I can see how several students are finding the situation very hard to cope with.

I admit, it’s a bit chaotic right now. I also didn’t realize the severity of the situation until I saw the empty grocery store shelves. Judge me but as a student who can’t cook often, not being able to find instant noodles easily was quite terrifying. When I finally found them at a local Turkish store, I realized that the prices had suddenly increased. Of course, the change wasn’t a drastic one but it was a clear depiction of human nature in times of crisis.

The next time it hit me was when I started hearing about students willing to risk their whole semesters and head back to their home countries. Sone per suhaaga was when my Software Engineering team mate informed me about leaving one day before the deadline and I was left alone to complete the tasks. Hate to admit but seeing pictures of how dead bodies of corona patients are treated also made a wave of sheer anxiety crawl up my spine.

Although I absolutely hate my university’s academic structure, I am glad that unlike some US universities, they’re considerate enough to not kick us out all of a sudden. If they did, or if they do in the future, finding accommodation in this city would be a hell of a task.

The Brighter Side

Amidst all this chaos, I would still like to stay calm and look at the brighter side. The semester was crazy and it’s not that bad to have things slightly slowed down. To begin with, I no longer have to wake up from my bed for my 8:15 am classes. Getting to attend online classes from my bed, without having to change early morning. What a joy!

Still feeling sleepy? Leave the lecture for recording and watch it later. Feeling that the lecture is useless? Hit the Red Cross. If you’re someone like me who always zones out during lectures, this is your chance to actually, carefully listen to the professors.

If your university shifted courses online, that’s well and good but if you’re someone who has become completely free all of a sudden, now is your time! You can finally start the interesting online course you wanted to take or finish the fiction novel that has been lying on your bed side since months now. Try to be productive. Use this crucial time wisely!

Wait, you aren’t up for that? It’s completely OKAY. As far as you’re not sulking in a corner, do whatever makes you happy. Have some me time, Skype your childhood friends or if you're as crazy as me, a solo Cheap Thrills/Kajra Re session would help too. Watch a movie or catch up on your favorite DC show but most of all, keep calm and try to spread positivity.

Act Now!

What surprises me is that there are still some educated people who don’t see how serious this is. When schools closed down and universities shifted courses online, my German host mom said “I think they’re overreacting. 20,000+ people die with normal flu every year and no one cares”. Another German told me “I don’t believe in this bullsh*t. It’s just flu” Yes, dear it's flu but this highly contagious flu usually comes with serious respiratory issues as well. No wonder Germany has more than 19,000 cases already and with this mindset...may God help us!

While Germany is already severely infected, I am hopeful that Pakistanis can still manage to control the situation. Try to understand that unlike most European countries, Pakistan is not in a situation to effectively handle this crisis. Most people don’t have access to basic health care facilities and currently, hospitals aren’t able to test each patient. It is quite likely that the number of people affected has already exceeded way beyond what we know. Use your brains, for God’s sake! 

Yes coronavirus is not always deadly, but why take the risk of its spread when you can play your part and help control the situation? All you are asked is to stay home and let others (food delivery riders/drivers/maids) stay at home too. As you might have read, if we manage to flatten the curve, a few months from now, it might actually feel that all of this was an overreaction. But better safe than sorry. Better to overreact and fight this global crisis smartly than to not react at all. 

If you still think it’s completely okay to go on a vacation mode, have birthday parties, and dine out with friends, huh, please google about what social distancing means and why it’s necessary or in the worst case, just repeat school.

Nevertheless, amidst all of this, let’s not forget to check up on friends and family. A little kindness and encouragement will go a long way.

Unlike my mother who’s freaking out about me being alone here (obviously), I am not. If I am infected, I’ll just send 'Channa Mereya' to all my friends and believe that this might be my only ticket to heaven. Not scared to die BUT definitely scared to get other people infected because of me.

For the Future

As they say, this too shall pass! Once this is all over, let’s be grateful for all the times you can roam around a grocery store without feeling anxious or when you can enjoy the view from a crowded bus' window or when you can window shop at your favorite mall or simply when you can hug your friends before class.

As for me, my resolution is that when someone tries to include me in a plan, I will try not to find excuses and meet people while I still can!

I hope all of this gives us time for self-reflection and brings communities closer (not physically, please), until then, let’s send well wishes to the inventors of Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft teams.

To all friends and other international students struggling because of the whole situation, this too shall pass!