An essay by student Omarys Davila of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico continues to feel the impact of the 2017 Hurricane Maria. It is recovering from a 2020 earthquake and still reeling from COVID-19. Yes, being an online student in Puerto Rico is difficult.
The difficulty hasn’t occurred because of economic aspects. It’s more about the unpredictable things that happen that limit us from performing certain functions. I remember that by September 2017, when sources predicted that a hurricane named Maria headed for Puerto Rico could be a Category 5 when it hit the Caribbean Sea. It was a moment of great fear and frustration since I had never been through anything like this. The day before Maria, we had to take refuge in my grandmother’s niece’s house because we live in a floodplain.
When Sept. 16, 2017, arrived, at around 6:15 a.m., the wind and rain came. It was one of the worst days of my life. When everything had settled down, we went home and found that the river had entered our house. We lost almost everything. It was a sorrowful moment. We were without electricity for four months and water for more than a month. There were long lines at gas stations and shops, and many had lost jobs.
At the end of October 2017, I started studying at a local university. Having no electricity or water posed many limits. I was also unemployed, so I couldn’t afford gasoline to go to university, and it was complicated and frustrating. A friend who was fortunate enough to have water and electricity and was close to the university offered me a place to stay and saved me financially.
Then came Jan. 7, 2020. At 4:24 a.m., a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit and lasted 37 seconds. We had to get up and leave since the high magnitude threatened the house, which was positioned near a beach, and we didn’t know if there was a tsunami warning. There was a lot of damage in the southern area of Puerto Rico. The electricity came quickly for my family and me, but it took a long time to arrive in other towns. Our university was severely affected, and its facilities were not suitable for receiving students. The town itself lost power for an extended period.
By the end of January, I moved to Delaware with my mother and brothers. I decided to leave college and my enchanting island. It took several days to find a university I liked and felt valued. I sent applications to several universities to see who supported me and accepted me faster. I was very nervous because it was a new challenge and experience for me, and I’m not very good at English.
When I finally received the acceptance email from Wilmington University, I was overwhelmed. I was eager to start and meet new people until COVID-19 arrived, and I had to leave for Puerto Rico. COVID-19 was very tough at its peak. I had no job but had to pay college tuition. I found ways to do that, mainly bake sales and a fundraiser. The process was complicated because we were locked down, and it was problematic getting the things I needed.
We tried not to leave the house much since we didn’t want to get infected. I live with my elderly grandparents. By taking the necessary steps, we paid for college, and I finally enrolled in Fall Block 2 classes.
It has been hard for the students of Puerto Rico. We have gone through things that have caused extensive delays: a hurricane, an earthquake, and a pandemic. And yet, thanks to Wilmington University, I know that all things are possible.
Thanks to the College of Arts & Sciences, Omarys Davila is interning for WilmU Magazine. She hopes to gain experience for a communications career.