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Deported from NYC, March 18

Coronavirus had begun to rear its ugly head in New York City.

It will be fine, I told myself. It was one or two cases. Once that happened in Hong Kong, the authorities had shut it down quickly.

I had totally underestimated the incompetence of the United States.

Within 2 short days, NYU was forced to close as the virus raged out of control. Amazing. My dad insisted I should come back through some very passionate WhatsApp messages. I was torn. I was two stamps away from a free bubble tea for my stamp card at PaTea, the tea shop next to my dorm. But the rampaging virus could not be ignored. Plus, my dad is a very smart man and he’s like 40 or something, so I decide to trust those years of experience.

Alas, the decision was made for me after NYU announced they would be evicting all students from residence halls and we had 3 days to leave. Beast!

You are leaving tomorrow, your flight is in 12 hours, my dad texts. 12 HOURS!!! I almost grow 10 white hairs on the spot, but I calm myself down quickly. I am a minimalist after all - I really only own 5 shirts, 5 pants, and 5 hoodies, giving me a total of 50 outfits (since the hoodie covers the shirt). The staples of my wardrobe fit comfortably into my duffel bag, and 6 hours later, I am off in an Uber.

The whole ride my father bombards me with article after article of panic at baggage claims and check-ins, the photos looking like something out of a Black Friday catastrophe. My phone buzzes with messages from other fellow international students, such as “my flight just got cancelled wtf” and “wait I’m homeless now”. Scenarios of the authorities denying me entry into Hong Kong flash through my mind. No! Impossible. I am a citizen there.

After much needless anxiety, I arrive at the John F. Kennedy airport. My back is starting to strain from the 5 shirts and 5 pants and 5 hoodies I am carrying and I am visibly sweating with each step. But I dig deep, as they say, and continue carrying my entire wardrobe on my own two shoulders.

I finally board the plane and all is beautiful and well. Many movies later, I land Hong Kong. The second half of my hike begins. I curse my dad for asking that I travel “light”. At this point I have developed scoliosis as I haul my sizable load through the Hong Kong International Airport. But alas, my parents finally meet me at the parking lot and I make it back in one piece, albeit with a broken back. All in all, this was genuinely the most stressful experience of my 19 years on this earth but I am HOME! Wahoo!