While 2020 has not been what everyone expected, it has certainly served as a learning and growing opportunity.
My name is Damaris Merino, and I am one of the students who had to stay at JBU during the summer. These past months have consisted of a weird mix of feelings and experiences that I definitely did not expect. The last time I went home to spend time with my family and my dog was December of 2019. After COVID-19 hit the U.S, I was not able to go back to my home country El Salvador for the summer because they closed their borders three days before JBU announced we were switching to remote learning.
It was difficult to see my friends going back home, but I also got to stay with friends who were in the same position as me. We felt a lot of uncertainty, because we really didn’t know when we’d be able to go home; there was uncertainty for what we were going to do if our countries were not open by the time the semester was over. Definitely, the time between the new online semester and the beginning of the summer was not the best for us emotionally or mentally, but God did not fail to show His grace through people.
I did not lack anything economically-wise, but I did go through some hard times. The last thing I wanted was to be 2280.9 miles away from my family while a pandemic was affecting us all in different ways. However, things started to get better when summer started, as there was no more uncertainty. We finally found out that we were officially not going back home, and that we would be staying the whole summer on campus.
It was a bittersweet journey, but God continued to show His grace. I was living with my friends in one of the townhouses for the whole summer, and in that moment, it felt like we transitioned into a new semester. We were taking summer classes, but we were also having fun in our own ways. We went biking on many, many occasions around Siloam Springs. I personally got to hang out with friends who live fairly close to JBU, and that helped me to cope emotionally.
As I am talking about my friends, it is also relevant for me to mention that this time away from home helped me really get to know the people I stayed with. We bonded pretty well and went beyond a superficial level of friendship. Rough times really teach us to learn to appreciate our surroundings even when it seems like we don’t have anything to live for. I got to improve my cooking skills, build stronger relationships with my friends and family and reinforce my relationship with God.
One of the main lessons of staying here for the summer is that I am strong and able to find strength even in the hardest situations. I am able to grow and be patient even when things don’t happen as I planned. I am also deeply grateful with JBU and the Walton scholarship for what they did during these hard times. I am grateful for my friends and family who did not fail to be by my side. Finally, I want to let you know that you are strong in unbelievable ways, and that above all, watch the whole world around you with glittering eyes.
P.S: Psalm 91 was one of the ways I was able to find peace and comfort through these difficult times; take a look if you haven’t.