It’s Been a Long 4 Years Apart

Looking over the coast of The Netherlands on my flight to the UK.

The pandemic has been an extremely difficult time for many people, separated from friends and family for so long and in many ways isolated socially. Or, for many students, the pandemic might have meant moving back into your family’s house during the chaos of it all.

For my family and I, the pandemic meant cancelled visits to see my dad’s side of the family – including my ageing grandparents – in England. Being so far away across Canada and the Atlantic, I would see them growing up as often as we could, every couple years or so, and I have many fond memories of my time with them.

In January, before arriving in the Netherlands for my exchange semester, I was supposed to have a visit with my family in the UK. However at the time with the OMICRON variant rampant and increasingly strict travel measures, I had to cancel my plans.

The last time I visited my family there was over four years ago. Finally, this spring break, I was able to visit them for Easter as the pandemic seems to slowly wind down in Europe.

So much has changed since the last time I saw them: I’ve aged (I was only 16 the last time I saw them), they’ve aged (one of my grandparents is in his mid/late 90s now), and the world we live in has been transformed.

My Grandad’s cute little house which reminds me of the time I spent here growing up.

We talked about the impact the pandemic has had on our lives, and it was especially interesting to hear from their perspective as seniors about what the pandemic has been like for them— from healthcare to daily life to mental health. Many of the struggles of loneliness, isolation, and mental health they discussed with me reminded me of challenges myself and other students I know have felt over the course of the pandemic.

Luckily my grandparents don’t live alone, but they still noted that social isolation was difficult for them and they noticed that in some cases being away from other people for so long effected their mental sharpness and mood— effects that I think a lot of students can also relate to.

Overall, I feel very, very grateful to have been able to see them, especially as they live far away from Canada and are getting older and older as the years go by.

As life slowly begins to return to “normal” after these crazy few years, make sure you hug your friends and family a little tighter, and make sure they’re doing okay: I think that everyone could use a little extra support and encouragement during this strange, strange time.

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