By Jimena Abejón '22
I was in the library finishing up a paper when the entire campus received an email that commanded every student to leave Dartmouth for spring break, regardless of their original plans – and mine was to stay. The spring term was still uncertain; nobody knew that we would not be allowed back on campus to experience the arguably 10 best weeks of the year. All I knew was that I had to pack to go home. It was Wednesday. On Thursday night, one of my best friends sent me the update: the government was suspending all flights from Europe for at least 30 days. On Friday afternoon, I took a flight home. Home is Spain: one of the countries with the worst coronavirus crisis by that time. Spring term was not confirmed to be remote yet, but I already knew that I was not going to come back.
I got home, and all of a sudden things got crazier: a global pandemic, the world on lockdown, and life seemingly on pause. I am not going to dig into the uncertainty feeling that suddenly found a place in our everyday lives, the challenges of studying remotely, or the fear for the health of the people we care about: we all know them too well. I found that I was struggling particularly because I was in a different continent than my favorite place in the world and the life I wanted to go back to.
When you are so far, both spatially and temporally, isolation takes a whole new meaning. Being 6 hours ahead is not just a fun fact: it has been my biggest challenge during quarantine. I have had to adapt to a new class schedule, late-night meetings with my professors and my basketball team, and office hours, which quite often happen during the early morning. But that's okay. I have embraced my inner night owl and adapted: I can still do homework and team meetings at 11 PM, and I can give up office hours. What I cannot give up is my people. I am 6 hours ahead of school — and my social life.
During the first weeks of the quarantine, I remember reading a quote that said that conversations, relationships, love, songs, self-care, and hope would not be canceled. I have been holding on to those words ever since. From the moment I read them, these values became my priority. And because of that, Alpha Phi became my rock.
The sisters in the house decided that life was not going to be canceled. We decided that sisterhood would remain, even growing stronger, and isolation would not stand a chance against us. Those decisions have given me something to go back to when I feel isolated. Every time I need conversations, relationships, love, songs, self-care, or just hope, I know there is an APhi event happening where I can find what I need. Every time I join the zoom call, I´m home again.
Often, my sisters will ask me, “Jimena, what time is it for you?” So many APhi events happen late for me; as a reference, weekly Wednesday meetings are at 4 AM in Spain. This is something that I know a few other sisters in the house can relate to.
It’s not always easy. Every night there is an event, I have to choose whether I go to bed or stay up. School is busy, and life is stressful. I have to ask myself every time whether it is worth it or not, and the answer can’t always be yes: I cannot stay up until 5 AM every week. Every time I say yes though, I wish I did more often.
Even with a screen in between, my sisters have made me laugh so hard I have woken up my family. I have cried, I have gotten to know more of the amazing women in the house, and I have had conversations that range from makeup and skincare routines to diversity discussions — and even some spoilers about Tiger King. Thanks to APhi, some sense of normalcy remains because the love and support of the sisters remains.
Every time my mom hears me on my late-night APhi zoom calls, we have the same conversation: “Yes mom, I know I should be sleeping. No, I´m not waking up before noon tomorrow. No, it´s an investment: I´m investing in my happiness. Smart, funny, beautiful, empowered women make me happy.”