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Sreileak’s Unforgettable Last Semester

Sreileak’s Unforgettable Last Semester

Sreileak Hour, a recent graduate from Scripps College, writes about her experience quarantining in Kauai with one of her mentors.
It was March 11th, 2020. I was preparing for my midterms when I received an email from Scripps that school was going to temporarily transition to online classes. On the same day, I received email after email with constant updates about the situation. Finally, I got notice that the whole semester was going to be online and all students were required to leave the campus within the week. 
I was freaking out. What was I supposed to do? I was supposed to be graduating in two months. Where was I supposed to go? I don’t have a home in America and flying back to Cambodia during the pandemic didn’t seem like a good idea either.
I emailed my SHE CAN mentors in the Bay Area asking for advice. They were very kind and many were willing to let me stay with them in San Francisco. 

My graduation celebration in Kauai

Who would have thought that this crisis could turn into one of the most wonderful experiences in my life? Following Scripps’ campus closure, my mentors and I agreed that I would stay at Anne’s house in San Francisco while Anne and her family were abroad. However, they couldn’t leave the United States due to border closures. So, they decided to go to Hawaii instead and asked if I wanted to join them for one or two weeks. I agreed. ​​
I was very excited to go to Kauai for the first time. One week turned into two, and two turned into three until I had been in Kauai for 3 months. We celebrated three birthdays, including my own, as well as my graduation. I had the best birthday I have ever had and the most wonderful graduation I could have wished for. Despite the upheaval, I had my mentors, their families, the SHE CAN family, and my friends all over the world celebrating my birthday and my graduation with me. I am grateful beyond words.
In addition to the fun celebrations, Kauai was so beautiful! The island has the most spectacular views of ocean and mountain scenery and the sunsets were incredible. I saw whales for the first time and I caught more fish than I ever have before! The weather was amazing. In Kauai’s tropical climate there were a lot of plants and species that reminded me of my childhood in Cambodia, which made me feel at peace.

Celebrating my birthday in quarantine


Making bubbles at sunset in Kauai

Although most of my time was spent indoors, it was still enjoyable. I had amazing dinners. The food was great but my favorite thing about dinner was the fact that I got to spend time with people who made me feel like a part of the family. I appreciated our fun chats at the dinner table that ranged from debating about our favorite dessert to talking about childhood memories. I also enjoyed watching TV, doing puzzles, cooking, and exercising. I was amazed to learn that such simple moments could mean so much to me.
I am glad that despite the chaos, my last several months in the U.S. turned out to be some of the most beautiful and memorable moments of my life. I have realized that for the past five years, I have built meaningful and genuine connections with my mentors, their families, the SHE CAN team, my SHE CAN sisters, and my friends from Scripps. They will always be there no matter where we all are in the world. I am truly thankful for all of them.