I think it would be sufficient to say that the Spring 2020 semester is not going according to plan. At the beginning of 2020, I was excited to start my semester abroad in London, England. I couldn’t wait to experience all that London had to offer, from the fish and chips to afternoon tea I was overflowing with excitement and anticipation. Although COVID-19 was around before we left, I didn’t even think to be worried about it; I was determined to enjoy all eight weeks of my time abroad.
When we first stepped onto English soil it was around 5:00 am, I was jetlagged and exhausted but above all, I was in disbelief that I was in another country and 4,168 miles away from home. This disbelief quickly turned to excitement as we made our way to AIFS’s headquarters, also knowns as the Taylor House. We quickly dropped off our luggage and walked around Kensington before our taxi picked us up to take us to our homestay. We explored every nook and cranny of what would soon become our second home in the next eight weeks.
Around 11:00 am my roommate and I was on our way to our homestay. We were quickly introduced to the loveliest homestay hosts in a beautiful home in Muswell Hill. Before leaving for London I had felt nervous about living in someone else’s house, but as soon as I was settled in Muswell Hill began to feel like a home away from home.
Within two weeks of being in London, the international city was quickly turning into my favorite place in the world. I had mastered navigating the underground and buses and had no problem getting around London. My roommate and I already had our favorite grocery store and routine lunch spot after Wednesday lectures, any thoughts of COVID-19 were far from my mind.
But, COVID-19 was not as far away as I thought. Things quickly started to go downhill. First, it was concerts getting canceled, next it was the schools in the U.S. shut down and before I knew it my trip to Paris was canceled because we were no longer allowed to leave the UK. I was devasted since going to Paris was the number one thing I wanted to do while in Europe, but I didn’t want this ruin my weekend. My friends and I quickly decided to take a day trip to Bath. Even though the thought of possibly being sent home early was looming over us, we tried to enjoy the day as best as we could. Suddenly, while sitting in a coffee shop in Bath drinking giant white-hot chocolate, we got an email from Lauren announcing that we would be staying in London!
At that moment I could have cried tears of joy, I was trying to not jump up and down and freak out in the middle of this coffee shop. I couldn’t believe it, we were staying, everything was going to be ok! I remember feeling so grateful towards Lauren and Bethany at the time, they had been fighting so hard to get us to stay and we really were!
Unfortunately, the joy did not last long. After getting back from Bath we heard that other schools that were here with us were getting sent home on Friday. I kept praying that DMACC would hold on, to not send us home. Alas, Monday afternoon Lauren and Bethany gathered all of us and announced that we would be getting sent home though they weren’t sure when they suspected that we only have two more days left in London. Two hours later we get an email from AIFS, our flight to Chicago leaves Tuesday afternoon. We had less than 24 hours left in London, my roommate and I quickly got dinner at our favorite restaurant, Seoul Bakery, one last time. We had our last Monday night karaoke, bought some souvenirs and chocolate and tried to make the best of the little time we had left. What was supposed to be four more weeks suddenly turned into 18 hours.
As I was sitting on the plane ride back to the U.S. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I would no longer be able to do once I arrived back home. I would no longer be able to get bubble tea at The Alley, ride the underground or double decker buses, or decide last minute to go see a musical because why not? While my head was spinning with all these last time thoughts, I never thought that this would be the last time I saw any of the people with me on this trip.
Hearing the news about Lauren put my head through a whirlwind of emotions. I was in shock and disbelief. In a world where everyone is worried about COVID-19 and making sure everyone is healthy and safe, it never occurred to me that Lauren would pass away in such a tragic accident. It just seemed so surreal and totally unfair; we weren’t even supposed to be home yet.
Lauren Rice was one of the most interesting and passionate professors I had ever had. The first week of my Encounters in Humanities class I remember being in awe of how she took something that looked so mundane and found art in it. She always pushed me to think deeper and find meaning in everyday things like architecture and music. In the little time that I knew her, I always felt her passion for everything she did. Every time she talked to us her eyes were sparkling with excitement. You couldn’t help but smile when she talked like this, the way she described things made you want to listen. It’s what made her such an amazing professor, you could tell that she loved what she did as soon as you walked into the classroom.
Lauren is someone I will never forget. She was the first professor I made a true connection with while in college. Thanks to the study abroad program I was able to form a connection with both Bethany and Lauren that I will cherish forever. Lauren Rice will always be the one who pushed me to actually think about art in a way that I never have before.
Thank you, Lauren, for showing me what it’s like to be truly passionate and for teaching me how to find beauty where others do not. I will always miss our little chats we had during field trips for Encounters and bonding with you over our love for books and dogs. In the future, I hope that I can radiate that same kind of energy and passion to others just like you did to me. May you rest in peace.