This reflective piece has been provided by Ms Brittany Banna who is currently completing a double masters at the University of Oregon and works as Assistant to Professor Steven Shankman, UNESCO Chair in Transcultural Studies, Interreligious Dialogue, and Peace

Greetings, from Eugene, Oregon!
I am a double-masters candidate and assistant to the UNESCO Chair at the University of Oregon, and living with my Palestinian-American family during COVID-19. Schooling has been transitioned to distance learning, my high school senior brother will not have a live graduation ceremony though anticipates enjoying his first college semester on campus come Fall 2020, and my parents are immunocompromised. The learning curve both logistically and emotionally has been a tremendous one.

As a double-masters candidate, the difference in experiencing my second masters and finding my bearings at a new pace and within a new structure (the degrees are studies in different fields with different cultures and style of professionalism) is more than I could have imagined, but I feel grateful about this new term. I’m more than fortunate to have a kind, supportive professor and enthusiastic colleagues in the class who create a sense of connection and unity despite the necessity of remote learning. All materials are virtually accessible and are costing less than materials typically do because they’re being accessed online through public resources (the result of my professor’s thoughtfulness and resourcefulness).

Social distancing has slowed life down in some regards while speeding it up in others. I feel worried about future professional prospects, and about the people around me who are financially insecure and in continual fight-or-flight mode as a consequence. Transitioning my research from in-person to on-line has required a major mental adjustment, and an emotional adjustment as well, as I’ve experienced grief over the loss of face-to-face encounters.

This pandemic should, ideally, bring us all together, and thus discouraging the stigmatization of any particular race, country, or ethnic group. The truth is, however, that I have indeed witnessed stigmatization, blaming, scapegoating, and fear-mongering on the geopolitical landscape. The spread of the coronavirus has created for paralyzing fear, uncertainty, joblessness, and hopelessness. But I also have also witnessed heroism and selflessness. I’ve seen people respond to the call for moral elevation. People are redirecting their attention to help others who are more vulnerable to the virus and in need. People are displaying and expressing more visible signs of gratitude for their health, the health of their loved ones, and sharing their visions for a world that will be healthy and virus-free.

People are vividly demonstrating that unity, compassion, cooperation, and solidarity are key to solving the challenges that face our global community. The renewed humanity I am witnessing makes up for the inconveniences caused by COVID-19 in my life, like having to study remotely. This crisis moves me to support my friends, family and neighbors as patiently as I can, and to work even more passionately to create a vibrant and caring community, both locally and globally.

We are all in this together!