“I flew out of Copenhagen a week after my program was suspended, and was on a plane of just ELEVEN people total. I came to find out when we landed, that the flight I was on would not be heading back to Copenhagen, and that the airline was canceling all direct flights into the states… so I very literally got the last flight directly home.“
22 year old Amanda Kraynik of New Jersey, USA will soon going into her 5th and final term of schooling to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. This past academic year, Amanda had been working toward completing her mandatory year of studying abroad, in Copenhagen, Denmark, and traveling around Europe with her psychiatric service animal, Tara who is trained to help Amanda manage her severe anxiety.
Amanda was forced to evacuate Denmark and fly home before the travel ban went into place. However, in order to travel with a service animal, you need to contact the airlines at least 48 hours before departure–and every airline has a different definition of what a “service animal” is. Some airlines require formal documentation and some won’t allow a psychiatric service animal to fly unless it’s on a direct flight to the U.S.A. Trying to get a direct flight to travel with Tara was already extremely challenging and the pandemic made it nearly impossible–especially on such short notice.
Amanda successfully caught a flight out of Copenhagen just a week after her program had been officially suspended and found herself on an airplane with just a total of just ten other passengers. When they landed back in the U.S., she learned that the flight she was on would not be heading back to Copenhagen to complete its roundtrip, that the airline was instead canceling all direct flights into the states… Amanda quite literally caught the last flight straight home. Now, she’s thinking about the challenges she’ll face when she goes back to school in California in the fall– how driving across the country will be made that much more difficult because different states have variations regarding rules regulating travel.
Read more about Amanda’s journey facing COVID abroad, having to adapt to such rapid change upon returning home to New Jersey, and taking on a load of online classes through a school that’s located across the world, below:
Can you tell us a bit about your experience facing the challenges of COVID-19 with diagnosed severe anxiety and being forced to come home from studying abroad months ahead of schedule?
“As I said, I am diagnosed with anxiety. My anxiety is a type of OCD where I need to have control over things. I need my room to be set up a certain way, the dishes to be stacked a certain way and homework to take the amount of time that I allot for it.
When I lose control over a situation, I tend to get panic attacks or very bad anxiety where I don’t eat, don’t sleep and don’t leave my house. That is why I have Tara, she helps me not only with removing my attention from things that will make me anxious, but also is a sweet girl that makes me smile when I am at my lows. Obviously, this situation with COVID, one where is it impossible for me to have any control, has not helped with my mental health, but I hope by sharing some of my story, others will not feel alone in this crazy time.
Currently I am in school, AKA trying to do remote learning, which is not easy. For one, I don’t have much motivation at the moment to get school work done because there are more important things happening (like a global pandemic). In addition to that, my professors are still in Copenhagen while I am in the states, so the only contact I get from them is emails. “Studio” (an important component of Architecture student’s course load in which they create models) is also something that is super weird to do remotely.
I am used to making models and talking with professors every other day about my progress, but now I don’t have the materials or tools to model and the only feedback I get is an email every ten days based on the progress I submitted online. I know it is also hard for our professors and I am very thankful that our program figured out how to finish out our classes instead of me losing a semester of college credit.
My goals for the future are to move to Europe and practice adaptive reuse. Adaptive reuse is a type of architecture where you take old buildings that are no longer necessary and reshape them into something that a community can use again. It is a type of building that doesn’t require demolition and rebuilding everything from scratch, but it also helps cities keep their identities and show off stories from their past.”
Who are you quarantining with and where exactly are you living right now? Is this where you permanently reside or is it a temporary living situation due to the pandemic?
“Currently I am quarantining with my family. My mother, father and brother are all working from home which has been a bit crazy. Tara is here too, with my parent’s dog Julie, and just a few weeks ago my brother adopted a puppy, Nala, so having the 3 dogs in the house has been entertaining.”
When the COVID-19 outbreak started to spread outside of China, I was not in the United States, I was still studying abroad in Copenhagen–and was actually just starting my second semester there. At that time, I thought that I would be spending this pandemic abroad and finishing out my year with my program. Sadly, the day the travel ban was announced my program was suspended and we were instructed to leave as soon as possible.
Not only did I have nothing packed to leave so suddenly, I also had Tara with me and had no idea what would happen with her if I were to come into the states during the travel ban… That was a Thursday, the travel ban was set to take place on Saturday. My parents and I spent all day trying to find flights before the ban took place but found nothing because every person was trying to get into the states at that time.
Also, it is helpful to know that in order to travel with a service animal you need to contact most airlines at least 48 hours before departure, and every airline has a different definition of a service animal…some require documentation that isn’t given in the states, and some won’t allow a psychiatric service animal to fly, unless it’s a direct flight to the states.
Trying to get a flight without a pandemic happening is usually a pain, but trying to get a flight with a pandemic was nearly impossible. Then, that Friday, stories were coming in of people from my program who were missing a connecting flight, because their first flight was canceled or because of the new precautions in the airports taking even longer–and they were still stuck somewhere in Europe. It was then I decided I was not going to fly out, and get stuck.
Luckily, I was staying with a host family who told me I could stay as long as I needed which felt like a giant weight was being lifted off my shoulders, and allowed me an extra week to get ahold of airlines to find a direct flight from Copenhagen to Newark, New Jersey so that I wouldn’t risk being stuck in a connecting city.
I flew out of Copenhagen a week after my program was suspended, and was on a plane of just ELEVEN people total. I came to find out when we landed that the flight I was on would not be heading back to Copenhagen, and that the airlines was canceling all other direct flights into the states… so I very literally got the last flight directly home.
With my extra week, I was able to contact the Newark airport and let them know that I would be entering the United States with a service animal. They had someone waiting there to escort me off the plane and through the airport, so that I wouldn’t have any trouble with Tara… It was very nice to not have to worry, and even nicer that everything ended up going so smoothly coming home (even though I didn’t really want to come home).
Now, I’m in Southern Jersey with my family, and we are all quarantining together.”
What has your community been doing to fight the rate of transmission? Is this how you think the situation is best handled?
“Coming from Denmark to the states, most of the things that were implemented in New Jersey had already been implemented in Denmark while I was there, so none of it came as a surprise. New Jersey only has essential businesses open right now and a lot of the essential businesses that are open won’t even let you inside. You line up outside to get takeout or pick up things you ordered. Most stores have a limit on the amount of people in the store and will have arrows on the ground meaning that you can only go down the aisle one way. Face masks are also now required if you go anywhere. Most states around New Jersey also require you to quarantine for 14 days if you enter them from New Jersey because we are considered an epicenter like New York.
Honestly most of this makes sense to me. I am a healthy young adult so my chances of surviving COVID-19 are high, but I don’t want to risk spreading anything to individuals who could definitely be harmed by it. Most of these measures are to prevent spread so that the hospitals don’t get overrun with patients and that makes a lot of sense to me. It’s hard because I would have liked to come home from seven months abroad and seen my friends, but I want to be considerate of others during this time.”
What has been your daily routine so far during the pandemic?
“Since I am still in school right now, most of my days have been spent writing essays and doing studio work. We have an ongoing puzzle table in our living room which has also been keeping me busy (I think we have done about six puzzles now). This past weekend my family and I actually cleaned out our garage which I don’t think has ever really been done and now there is plenty of room for one of our cars to fit which is a huge improvement.
Some days where I feel a bit more anxious or depressed about the situation I start sewing masks for my friends and family with the extra fabric I have. I have always loved sewing and making cloth masks for people means they won’t be buying the stock of masks that medical professionals need. I also have plans to make my brother a t-shirt quilt once school is over because I already have one of my own and I think it will help with the boredom. I might try baking too, because I baked my dad a cake for his birthday in March and it turned out pretty good. Normally when I bake things, they aren’t edible so maybe I can use this time to get better at that…”
What’s the biggest challenge you think you’ve faced during this quarantine situation?
“The biggest challenge has definitely been my mental health. I was at a place in Copenhagen where I was actually sleeping and felt the happiest I had been in years. Sadly, when the pandemic happened, all of the unknowns really put me in a bad place. There are days I don’t want to get out of bed and I am not motivated to do anything. Instead of school being a distraction, it is more of a burden to me. I am so happy that I have Tara with me because when I can’t get up from bed she will jump on and off the bed and push under my head to lift me up so that I actually get downstairs in the mornings. If I didn’t have her constantly bugging me to get up, I would probably spend most days in my room.
I have no control over this crazy situation and that’s hard to wrap my head around. My friends and family are having health scares and there is nothing I can do to help. They are losing their jobs and source of income and friends who just graduated now have no real way to get a job in this type of climate. I want to do all I can to help, but the only thing I can do is sew a face mask. I don’t want to burden others with my anxiety issues because I see all the ones they are dealing with. On top of it, it isn’t easy to be open about how I feel because not even I really understand everything going on. It’s definitely a very weird situation that I never thought I’d be in so all of the unknowns is really hard to cope with.”
What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?
I really enjoy the sewing I have been doing because I feel like, at least I am doing something, even if it isn’t much. I have also been doing a lot of reading because I have several unread books and now I have time to get through them. Reading is something that takes my mind off of everything going on because I am focusing only on the story, so it really helps with my anxiety. Another thing that helps is having Tara around. I talk about her a lot but it is honestly because she has improved my life immensely. I can’t imagine going through this pandemic without her because I don’t really have the feeling of loneliness when she is around. Plus, her and my parent’s dog trying to interact with my brother’s new puppy is pretty hilarious.”
Is there anything you feel that this experience has taught you that you’d like to share as inspiration for everyone going through this together?
“It’s definitely is not easy, and I know that people with mental health issues are having a very rough time. There’s a lot going on, and it’s hard to wrap your head around it all. The best thing to do is to try and stay positive. Negativity is going to everything much worse, and I know that from watching the news that most of what we’re hearing is negative.
But there is a lot of good going on, too! Neighbors are helping neighbors, teachers are going above and beyond to be there for their kids, a new concept of a hero is emerging, minimum wage jobs and jobs that weren’t really seen as important are getting the recognition they really deserve!
Try to focus on the good in the world, and the great new perspective on the world that this pandemic has given us. And you know what? If some days you “just can’t,” that’s okay. You are going to have bad days, but remember that making it to tomorrow is still an accomplishment and deserves to be celebrated.”
Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any important plans you had laid out for the near future?
“I have actually been planning (or rather, trying to plan) my third cross country road trip this summer. I live in New Jersey and go to school in California, so in order to get my car there I drive it cross country and make a trip out of it. I had planned for doing this in the beginning of June, but it doesn’t look like that is going to be happening right now. I normally camp most of the way, so I am hoping that camp sites and National Parks will open up once things start looking better since they are more open areas that are easier to social distance in.
It’s also a bit hard because every state right now has different regulations, so having to drive through a bunch and not knowing those regulations would be pretty hard right now. I am hoping to do the trip in mid-July, and already have my route pretty much planned (heading for North Dakota, Montana and Yellowstone this time around), but am taking it day by day.”
Anything else at all, you’d like to share?
“Fun Fact: Dogs on flights longer that six hours are supposed to wear a diaper…”
Also, Tara was the first service animal ever to study abroad through my program with Cal Poly, and I hope that my successful experience traveling with Tara can pave the way for others who also wish to travel or study abroad with a service animal.”
Follow Metropolitan Molly updates by subscribing to my newsletter, website and on social media below:
Interested in nominating someone with a stellar story for the COVID Chronicles? Submit them, here.