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Peterborough music student’s European study abroad interrupted by COVID-19

  • Beck Lorimer. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/8/2020 4:09:06 PM

A month ago, Beck Lorimer of Peterborough was in Spain, in the midst of his semester abroad at the Valencia campus of the Berklee College of Music. The topic of the coronavirus was on everyone’s lips, but he had no idea that in a week, he’d be scrambling to leave the country.

On March 10, students got an email, giving them the option to finish their semester online, if they wished to return to the United States.

Twenty-four hours later, it was no longer an option. The campus shut down, and travel bans started to be put in place.

“I was originally going to stay, when I got that original email. It didn’t even occur to me then that the borders would close. It wasn’t on my radar at all. Then it became a possibility,” Lorimer said.

Flights quickly became scarce, and tickets could only be bought at premium prices – Lorimer said his flight home cost about $2,000 for the cheapest available ticket.

But he was able to secure a plane home, which he said as word began to come down about travel bans, he wasn’t initially sure would be possible.

Initially, Lorimer said, he wasn’t sure he would be allowed to return home unless he left immediately – more immediate even than his March 14 flight, but was assured that he would be allowed to return home. But the entire experience was nerve-wracking for him, especially as coronavirus fears appeared to ramp up in Spain just as he was leaving the country.

Prior to his exit, he said, life appeared to be fairly normal. Lorimer occupied student housing about a mile of campus, and while he said the coronavirus came up in conversation at least once a day, the school was still running, the stores were still stocked, and businesses were operating.

But the same day the campus notified students it was shutting down for the semester, supermarkets began to clear out, and large events, such as the traditional Fallas Festival, were canceled.

Things were accelerating fast, Lorimer said, and every time he had to transfer planes, he began to fear he might be told he couldn’t get on his connecting flight. When he arrived in the United States at the JFK Airport, the Center for Disease Control was screening passengers for fever, and Lorimer had to fill out a declaration of health before de-planing.

“I wasn’t worried about bringing [the virus] from Spain. But I was very worried about catching it on the plane or in the airport,” Lorimer said.

Lorimer only recently was able to finish his two-week self-imposed travel quarantine. His schoolwork, like many colleges, has moved online, and classes started at the end of March.

“It was a bit bumpy, and it’s still a bit bumpy. It’s good we can still take classes, but we’re not getting our money’s worth, in terms of school.”


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