Students Abroad During the Coronavirus (Part 2: Argentina)

The second interview in our series is with Emilia Marciniec who is currently in Argentina.

Hannah Crolla-Parkhouse: Hey Emilia, how’s it going over there and what made you decide to stay abroad?

Emilia Marciniec: Hi! Well both options; going home or staying here had their advantages and disadvantages and my heart was telling me to stay. Argentina is my favourite place I have seen in the world and my home for now. When I heard the announcement that the borders were being shut here I thought ‘’I’ll just look up flights quickly’’ and there were no direct flights back to the UK. Any flights that were available were between £2,000 and £3,000 and with 3 or 4 layovers. Imagine in this situation getting on 3 flights and travelling for over 24 hours. I think that’s so irresponsible, there is literally no point doing that. Plus, I can’t afford flights at that price!

HC-P: When did lockdown start there?

EM: They announced lockdown on the 20th March for two weeks, but it keeps being extended. They originally shut the borders until Mid-April but it’s now been extended until September.

HC-P: What are the medical provisions like there?

The health system here is terribly under-funded

EM: The lady I live with told me the reason that measures were put in place so quickly was because the health system here is terribly under-funded. Argentina has been in a disadvantaged situation for many years and has gone through an economic crisis. The government announced that health services wouldn’t be able to cope with the Coronavirus so they reacted quickly; closing everything and cancelling events.

HC-P: What sort of measures have been put in place?

EM: It’s actually stricter here than in the UK; you can’t leave to exercise; only to go for food or to the pharmacy. I leave the house about once a week to go shopping and whenever I do, I see police on the streets. They don’t stop everyone, but they stop every few people asking where they are going. If you’re a foreigner or a tourist, you need to carry your visa around and show a stamp in your passport to prove the date that you arrived and that it’s past the 14-day quarantine period.

HC-P: So quite strict measures!

EM: Yep, the lady I live with can’t even walk her dog because it is not deemed as ‘necessary’. Luckily, we have a small garden that he can run around in. You can only have your dog up to a metre and a half away from your front door.

HC-P: How are people taking it?

People need strong guidance and leadership in these situations

EM: People seem to be co-operating and taking it seriously.  People need strong guidance and leadership in these situations and for the government to tell them how it is, what to do. I think it’s important to be strict with the measures and the government have acted quickly and positively.

HC-P: Do you think there is a lot of respect for the government there?

EM: Hmm, I’m not sure about that one. As far as I know, Argentina has been dealing with poor government for years and also, the President here is newly elected so I don’t know what people’s attitudes are towards him. As far as I know people are aware that the services are really underfunded, and they know that the services wouldn’t be able to cope with a pandemic.

HC-P: Have you noticed any differences between the reaction to the virus in Argentina compared with the UK?

EM: I think in the UK the media caused a lot of panic. People’s reactions were; ‘I need to take care of myself’ and you know, hoard the food, hoard the toilet paper. When people panic, they stop thinking rationally and behave selfishly, fighting over toilet roll instead of caring about each other!

HC-P: Has there been any hoarding in Argentina?

Maybe it’s just Argentinians’ attitudes to life

EM: Not from what I have seen. Lockdown started on 20th March so on the 19th lots of people went shopping. There were queues but no fighting over anything and everything was fully stocked. Every time I go to the supermarket everything is there, the staff are wearing masks and gloves and you have to spray your hands but everything is very calm, no panic. Maybe it’s just Argentinians’ attitudes to life.

HC-P: What about your family?

EM: My family live in Essex, so really close to London. At first, I felt guilty being here while they are dealing with all of it. However, my parents are really encouraging me to stay here. They already have health problems and I have to think not just about myself. I do get why a lot of people would want to go home and be with their families; It’s less stressful, you’re not left alone abroad, but it’s a lot easier for people who have gone somewhere in Europe to get back home as it’s only a short 2 hour flight.  For me, I would be going through a lot of airports, getting on a lot of planes and putting my family at risk. I wouldn’t be able to self-isolate for 14 days without having any contact with my family because there isn’t enough space in the house.

HC-P: Yes, it’s not easy. So, what are you doing to keep yourself busy during the long lockdown days?

EM: Now I finally have the time and no excuses to work on my Spanish and Russian but obviously I can’t do that all day! I speak with my housemate every day to keep practicing my spoken Spanish, do grammar, watch films, listen to music. I try to exercise at home, but it is SO hot in Argentina but that’s a good excuse not to! I cook, read books, catch up on sleep. I do have days where I don’t want to do anything, I just want to stay in bed and pretend that everything that is going on isn’t really happening. Other days I’m more positive!

HC-P: Thanks for sharing your experiences Emilia. Enjoy the rest of your time in Argentina and stay safe.

Hannah Crolla-Parkhouse

Featured image courtesy of Matthew Roth via Flickr. No changes made to this image. Image license found here.

In article images courtesy of Emilia Marcinie. No changes were made to these images. 

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