By Cristina Ionita
I’m currently sitting in my room, debating whether to take down the Christmas decorations or if I should start a new episode of Queen Sono on Netflix. On Spotify comes ’Vivir Mi Vida’ by Marc Anthony, and I remember the last time that I listened to this song – January 2020.
I was back in Romania, meeting the two new members of my family – my cousin’s wife and nephew. I had high hopes for the year. I was seeing my family growing and my parents surprised me with a family trip to Austria. Walking down the streets of Vienna I couldn’t help but marvel at the never ending streets, the beauty of the old buildings and the strong German accent. I felt grateful for being able to see such beauty, for being with my parents again and for enjoying a cup of coffee at Cafe Europe – one of the busiest and delightful cafes in Vienna.
If only I knew what 2020 would prepare for us… I’d probably take a whisky.
Two months later I was checking my inbox and I found a very strange email starting like this: ’Someone has anonymously recommended you for the Rep Election 2020! […]’.
I remember being very confused as I had no idea who wrote that nomination (it was very nicely written and made me feel very good about myself, I’m not going to lie) and why they would see me as suitable for such a position. After pondering the idea and coming up with the worst scenarios – having to deliver a speech in front of students, creating a video with me speaking to students, not being able to commit to this on top of my studies and my work – I decided to do it. I wrote my manifesto, attended all of the meetings, ran around the campus to put up posters (it was dreadful to see my face on almost every wall) and tried my best to show people who I am.
During the election week (the third week of March) I was meant to travel to Amsterdam with my class for a study field trip. After day dreaming about the trip for 3 months, and almost starting packing – the university cancelled the trip due to the pandemic. On the same week I was meant to celebrate my 21st birthday. One day before my birthday, the university sent out an email advising students to go home. I was heartbroken. I booked a one-way ticket to Romania and I had less than 24 hours to pack my belongings and leave the studio I was living in with my best friend.
On the flight to Romania my laptop broke down. After landing I had to quarantine at my friend’s house for 2 weeks. We spent our days writing assignments, trying to understand what was happening around us and being checked by the police at the most horrendous hours (7 in the morning – which was 5 am in the UK).
I stayed in Romania from the 20th of March until the last day of July. It was lovely to see my family, to see my nephew growing, to laugh with my grandma about her sneaking around in her youth, to speak my own language and to connect with old friends. But I felt that I had to come back. I had to return to Cambridge and restart my life.
I spent weeks trying to find a new place to live and I was worried about my studies. My final year was going to be nothing like how I imagined it. I finally managed to find a house, and thankfully my housemates are the best people on Earth.
I started working again, but everything felt so forced, so unsteady. Since returning to campus I’ve met lovely people that helped me to see the bigger picture, that made me laugh at 2AM in the Open Access Area as I was writing my assignments half asleep. As Christmas was approaching I knew that there was no chance to visit my family, but I decided to spend it with my new family – my housemates.
And here I am now, thinking about how 2020 showed me how strong and resilient I am.
2020 was about us. It was about the way we connect to each other from afar. It was about caring about other people in the same way which you should care about yourself. It was about appreciating every single moment you’re breathing. It was about believing and having hope.
Saying that the last year was tough would be an understatement. However, it was also the year that I learned to bake cheesecake, that I played the piano the first time, that I had dinner surrounded by people that brighten even my darkest moods.
I am grateful for the lessons that I’ve learned and for the special moments I shared with people. I’m grateful for living in 2020, not just surviving.