It was the beginning of the week in March. The Moroccan sun that had never really gone away was heating up the city again.
Our study abroad program was one of the last standing. We watched as first the Asian, then Schengen-zone programs fell.
The coronavirus had yet to make an appearance in Africa. It was like the continent was holding in a collective breath. You could feel it coming, no matter how hard you tried to convince yourself otherwise.
Then it did. Egypt saw the first recorded case. Eventually, it crept its way to Morocco, hours away from our city.
A parade of cars began making their way through the streets. Attached were speakers instructing residents to stay inside and to only go out if necessary.
On Sunday, what we dreaded most happened.
I walked into our living room to find my roommate in tears. A simple ‘no’ had slipped out of me. She looked up at me with glassy eyes and just nodded. I rushed back into my room and opened my email with newfound urgency. Our program was canceled and we needed to leave the country within three days.
My roommates and I huddled around our dining room table. Laptops and phones out, we were drowning under tabs of travel sites. We weren’t the only ones trying to leave. There were barely any open flights and the scraps still managed to cost more than the original roundtrip I purchased back in November.
Nine hundred dollars later, I have a flight secured. The apartment is silent as we all try to accept our new reality.
A few hours later, a wave of phone notifications breaks the silence.
The Moroccan government had announced they are closing the borders. No commercial way in or out.
I was trapped across the Atlantic, unable to move.
The days following the ban have since blurred together in my mind. They hold the widest range of emotions I have ever experienced in such a short time.
There were no answers and no solutions. We felt abandoned by our country after being brushed off by the US Consulate and Embassy. Teased with possible evacuation flights by our program. A feeling of dismissal from our universities. All while COVID cases were rapidly increasing within the country.
We spent the days and nights calling and emailing any resource we could get our hands-on. Desperation filled the apartment, but we never let it settle. It became our mission to enjoy the unknown amount of time we had left together to the fullest. Shenanigans were a constant and laughter was a regular guest.
A week later we received notice of leftover space on a British evacuation flight. At 4 AM that same night we boarded a bus to the Marrakech airport. Relief washed over us.
We said our goodbyes in London, as the sadness to see this chapter in our lives come to a close so abruptly took root.