To Stay or Not to Stay, That Is the Question...

In the last few days, the Czech Republic has been experiencing major changes day by day. Every day, the government is tightening measures to win the stuggle against the coronavirus. There are closed restaurants, most shops, but mainly schools and universities. Our grantees have faced a major challenge this week. To go or not to go home to the USA.

In this post we are sharing some of the touching confessions of our grantees who have been faced with the big question of whether to stay or to go in recent days. Read about Alanna, Anya and Jubilee's decisions in this post.

This text was written by Alanna Powers (current English Teaching Assistant)

Family, friends, students, and everyone in between: 

The past 24 hours, have been, without a doubt, the hardest of my life. If you’ve been keeping up with the news, the Czech Republic is closing its borders on Sunday, allowing only citizens and those with long-term residency (that’s me) the option to stay. No one will have the option to leave come Sunday night for an unspecified amount of time. This basically left me with an ultimatum: leave my Fulbright grant three and a half months early without saying goodbye, or stay, not knowing when I can leave again. 

This felt like an impossible choice. There are so many unknowns on each side of the ocean. That being said, after a lot of talks with family and close friends I have decided to stay in the Czech Republic in hopes that things will return to normal and I will be able to resume life as planned in a month or so. The Czech government has been very proactive with the situation; placing restrictions on almost every activity. Currently the only things that are open are grocery stores and pharmacies. This gives me hope that the situation will be under control quickly and efficiently.

Of course, I am still a little scared. A decision could be made at any moment that would force me to leave quickly and with little guidance. The fact that as of tomorrow there isn’t a clear way to get back home is unsettling. However going home to quarantine with no plan and little current opportunity to move forward due to the worsening situation would be even more difficult for me.

I have an amazing support network in this wonderful little town of Dvůr and throughout the Czech Republic. A wonderful, caring mentor whose family has become like a second family to me, a professor who has offered up any kind of support I should need, and multiple other friends and colleagues who have said they will be there for me throughout this time of uncertainty.

The truth is no one can predict the future. Maybe my decision is too hopeful and naive. Maybe life will return to normal in a month or so and I’ll be so thankful that I’ve stayed. Maybe it won’t. However I feel in my heart and in my head that I’ve made the choice that is right for me.

To my students: Well, if you’ve read this whole thing then you’ve definitely practiced your English for the day! I am working with your teachers to set up some online conversation lessons as well as to help them mark any work you may be sent. You’ve brought more light and joy to my life than you know and I so hope we will see each other again soon.

To my friends and family: thank you so much for your support, especially to all of you who’ve checked in on me. I’ll continue to keep you updated as much as possible.

This isn’t going to be a “fun” time for anyone, anywhere in the world. However it is something that we will get through, together as humans who are connected through love and compassion for one another.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity that Fulbright has given me, it’s really been once in a lifetime. Of course the rest of the grant will be much different than it has been, but it will be its own type of adventure, and it’s one that I’m ready for.

this text was written by Jubilee Marshall (current English Teaching Assistant)

To my friends, family, and students,

I am safely back in the United States, but feels wrong to say that I have made it home — not because I’m not happy to be back with my parents and dog in Washington D.C., but because it was so unbelievably difficult to leave my home in Polička. 

Although I know it was the right decision, given the closure of the Czech borders and the order I received from the U.S. State Department to return to America, I am devastated that I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to everyone in person. 

To my colleagues, 
thank you for making me feel so welcome in our school. I felt so safe and cared for knowing that there were people looking out for me, and that there would always be friendly faces in the staffroom. 

To my students, please know that I am so impressed by you. 
I was so lucky to have been blessed with such bright, curious, and hardworking students, and I know that you all will do great things in the future. I hope that I can be involved in your online lessons in the next few months, but I also want you to know that I am always happy to chat with you at any time. 

Please send me a message here, or on Instagram (@jubesmarsh), if you ever want to talk. 
Maybe I’ll even try out some Czech 🙂 
Thanks to everyone who made Polička feel like my home. 
I know I will be back soon. 

Love, Jubilee

This text was written by Anya Fairchild (current English Teaching Assistant)

Originally this blog post was supposed to be about my spring break travels to London and Vienna, but though I was in those magnificent cities just a week ago, my trip feels further from reality than anything else. Yesterday, the U.S. government advised all Fulbright grantees in the Czech Republic to travel back to the United States as quickly as possible. Yesterday we were also notified that after Sunday night, the Czech borders would close and it would become extremely difficult to get back home. Over half of my fellow grantees are attempting to get out of the country right now, even as many of their flights have been cancelled or overbooked. Meanwhile, I have decided to stay in the Czech Republic in the hopes that within the next few months things will return to some semblance of normalcy. 

Though I’m still in the same country, I came back from spring break to what felt like a completely different one. The day I arrived, I was told that I would need to stay in home quarantine and so I have had to remain alone in my flat for nearly a week now. For the first couple days of my quarantine, this meant missing classes, but since then all Czech primary and secondary schools have been closed. At this point there are many other regulations in place. No gatherings of thirty or more people may be held and all businesses are closed besides essentials like grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. 

So what to do now? I’ve been reading, cleaning, studying Czech, working out, and keeping track of what feels like a million serious updates a minute. By next week, I should be able to interact with other people in a distanced sort of way, and I already have plans to meet up with some small groups of students. As the schools transition to an online format, I hope to be of assistance with some sort of online teaching as well. My hope is that I’ll be able to still return to the U.S. in July as planned and that there are still some amazing experiences to be had here. 

For those who are curious, though, my spring break trip really was wonderful and well worth my current quarantined state. One of my best friends flew over to Europe from the US in order to travel with me, and we took full advantage of it. We saw all the major sights of London (Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower of London, the Globe, etc) and received an incredible tour from our mutual friend in Oxford (gorgeous colleges, the pub where C.S. Lewis and Tolkien used to meet, Harry Potter filming locations, etc). We then took a relaxing day in rural Czech Republic before spending our last few days in Vienna, seeing beautiful architecture, tasting famous dishes, and biking to the Danube River. Throughout the week, we saw a Broadway show, went to a comedy club, drank tons of tea, tried many fun foods and drinks, spent way too much money, and had an absolute blast. I am so incredibly thankful that my break wasn’t just one week later and that my friend and I were able to travel back smoothly and safely. 

To everyone out there, keep your spirits up, do your part, stay healthy, and spread joy not germs <3 Wishing you all the best!

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