Locked-down in Spain; Former Taita Taveta University student shares her experience.

Spain has been one of the leading countries in Europe in terms of the most affected by COVID-19. Currently, the Spanish statistics shockingly stand at over 270,000 cases with over 26,000 deaths sadly recorded, as on 10th, May 2020. These statistics must definitely be a worry for anyone within the borders of the European country with slightly over 40 million people. Just like Kenya.

What would you do if you were caught up within these borders, as a young Kenyan native, out just to pursue further studies, and in the least expected of moments, Corona happens?

I got in touch with (albeit online), a good folk, and former college mate: Valencia. A former undergrad student at Taita Taveta University, who pursued a bachelor’s degree in Mining Engineering, Graduating in 2018.   She is currently in Spain pursuing her Master’s in Environmental science in one of  the local Spanish universities, on a scholarship program

I sought, in a brief interview to find out what life was like in Spain for her, during this unprecedented Covid-19 outbreak.

 


mr.job: Hope you safe Valencia.

I’m safely locked in my apartment washing my hands.

mr.job: Is the Spanish Situation exactly as portrayed in the media?

I do not know exactly, what is portrayed by international media but the situation on the ground is very dire with over 260,000 infections and over 26,000  plus deaths. Hospitals are filled to capacity and using makeshift hospitals. This is the fifth week of lockdown. We hope the situation will not escalate

That’s crazy… we hope it doesn’t get worse. I think Spain ranks among the most affected countries alongside Italy, USA and China… it certainly must be dire. with the lock-down, how do you survive basically?

Personally I was able to get enough supplies for 2 months but people are allowed to go out to get food and medicine. The law enforcers are practically everywhere. My personal experience has not been as gruesome as others in fact I’d say it has been fairly kind 

mr.job:  Tell me more

Just in and around

Valencia: I’m in a small city called A Coruña Northwest of Spain, there are not as many cases as in the capital Madrid. The university put in place measures to ensure the safety of the students. International students living in the university residence have been allocated individual apartments. Learning has been ongoing via an online platform for Microsoft teams. We get weekly information about the pandemic and in case anyone needs help with how you can get it.  However, there’s the inconvenience of doing our practice since the country is in lockdown. Institutions of higher learning have had to make adjustments to accommodate the government directives

 mr.job: To start with what’s the name of the university, when did you join, under what program and what are you pursuing specifically

Valencia Ttu: The University of A Coruña. I joined in September 2019 to pursue Environmental Science under the Learn Africa program by Mujeres por Africa foundation.

The course is being taught in English but I had to do a diploma in the Spanish language so as to be able to go about daily life outside the university.

I would say it’s been a good experience to meet people from different backgrounds (religious & culture) since our class only has international students

 mr.job: Great,… then Corona happens…how did your thoughts evolve from the moment you got the initial news, to the moment it has scaled now into a global pandemic, and this finds you while you are far away from home

Valencia: At first I was worried because there was nothing much known about the virus and there was so much unverified information going around. A part of me wished I was in Kenya but another part of me was happy to be where I am. it is only human to want to be home during unprecedented times. The numbers of infections in Spain were raising exponentially daily and it only felt like it was just a matter of time before we all get infected. However the government put in very stringent measures across the country and we were not allowed to go out unless for food, not even to exercise. Of course, the police were there to ensure the new directives were being followed to the latter. For an extrovert like myself, it was difficult to stay indoors all day with only a window to the outs…

mr.job: Impressive, any other foreign students from Kenya alongside? And are classes/schools on in Spain?

Valencia Ttu: There are other students from other African countries. None that I know of from Kenya. The regular school will resume in September if everything goes as per the government prediction

mr.job: Any social restrictions or government measures in the context of Spain perhaps?

Valencia: Of course people are expected to observe the 1.5 feet distance with no hugs and kisses (since here people don’t shake hands)

Valencia alongside fellow students and colleagues in Spain before Corona

mr.job: Interesting. Does this all make you miss home?

Valencia Ttu: I miss home, I miss Kenyan food especially but I have learned to enjoy the food here considering this is a port town there’s so much seafood

mr.job: Comparatively how has life been in Spain in relation to back in Kenya?

Valencia: Spain has good weather. It’s not very extreme like in Nordic countries. The people are friendly and accommodating enough. I love the language, it is relatively easy.

mr.job: Were you set to visit Kenya, or its until you get done with your masters? And what if Corona lasts and the Lockdowns possibly extend to a couple of more months or even a year or so. God forbid!

Valencia: I hoped to make a couple of visits back home, in between the semesters/modules. Right now am a bit indecisive, But I should figure out after I get the final verdict about post-Corona for our program.  If it gets worse, I think I’ll have to extend my stay here. I talk to everyone I need to both locally and abroad, … the only thing missing is physical presence otherwise I’m okay with it

 

mr.job: What has been the major take-home lesson from all of this from an individual perspective?

Valencia:

As a country, we need to invest more in Research & Development if we’re going to solve some of our perennial challenges such as floods, famine and also in ICT. But my greatest take home is we definitely need to focus on building a circular economy

mr.job: Interestingly you share a name with one of the Town’s in Spain-Valencia have you visited any other places so far

Valencia: Yes, it’s actually the 3rd largest after Madrid and Barcelona cities.

 

mr.job: Your university name ‘Coruna’, does it make you guys laugh considering the coincidence of the pronunciation with Corona? 🤔

Valencia: It’s quite a funny coincidence. When the virus started in China it was even more hilarious but now we used to it😂

mr.job: And what’s your word to all fellow students or Kenyans that might feel trapped away from home during this pandemic?

I can encourage them to keep heart! and be strong & optimistic. Home is not a place… it is a feeling… It is definitely in your heart!

mr.job: That’s an interesting way to look at it. Regards Valencia. Stay Safe. How do you say Goodbye in Spain? 

Valencia: Chao or Adios

mr.job: Great! Adios! 

 

Valencia at a park next to the University

 

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