Since the Coronavirus outbreak, many young Arabs studying abroad decided to pack their bags and leave behind personal independence and head back home. Despite the evident risk of travelling during the crisis, they still felt like being closer to their loved ones made more sense than being stuck alone in another country.
For those already living at home, quarantine means even more time spent with their parents. And that can be tough.
So what is it like to be isolating at home with parents? How is “family quarantine” upending the lives of young Arabs? We caught up with five of them to find out.
Rachad, 26, Syrian
“As I am approaching my one month quarantine at my parents apartment. I can reflect on this time as being a fruitful and enriching experience, but to be honest at times it’s frustrating and irritable. I work in the hospitality industry and have enjoyed living independently away from parental control. However there were times when I missed my family and home immensely. Now being at home 24/7 for the past month, I have appreciated the moments I spent with them, helping out with chores, watching the news and just being able to enjoy each other’s company. A typical day involves cooking something new with my mother trying out new recipes, exercising with my mother as well and watching TV with my grandmother in the afternoon. As a young adult, I would enjoy some privacy and “me time”. Not having anything to do can lead to quarrels and arguments over the smallest things. I find ways to spend some alone time by watching a series, reading a book or asking about my friends and family. However during extreme times of frustration and heaviness from family, I take the opportunity to do the weekly supermarket to breathe and have some me time. I remind myself that being around people you love in these difficult times is precious.”
Sara, 24, Lebanese
“Honestly, I was not looking forward to it. I feel more comfortable and independent, when I’m outside. But I started social distancing before it started to spread rapidly in early March. I didn’t want to risk infecting my family (especially my father being most at risk) so I stayed home and still am. But it’s difficult. I yearn for peaceful days. Lately, I’m being criticized over everything I say or do. But other days are worthwhile. I have wanted to spend time with my father and it’s finally happening. As an immigrant parent, he juggles so much already, trying to keep up with the bills and all of that. He doesn’t give time for himself. I understand the hustle, but all I wanted for him is to take care of himself. This is the first time in a very long time I have seen him actually breathe and not worry about the bills. That’s the one thing I am happy about during quarantine.”
Yasmine, 18, Moroccan
“It’s quite heavy. My mother and I get along well but the more we are together the worse it’s getting; she’s annoyed that I’m annoyed basically. I’ve had some pretty bad news about my post-high school situation because of the virus, and I have been pretty upset because of that. But when I talk about it she just gets angry and says, “stop talking about that, you can’t do anything anyways” or “getting angry about it won’t change a thing so stop it”, when I just need to talk about how I’m feeling because bottling it up isn’t good. And my dad is an annoying person, so my mom and me can’t deal with him anymore. I’m grateful for our health though, but I would have liked to spend this lockdown differently. I miss my sister who couldn’t join us and would have appreciated seeing my grandparents”.
Youssef, 23, Jordanian
“It was a tough decision to make because I’ve paid a whole year of fees and have an apartment in New York, and I feel like I’m missing out on the life I am owed. I am now back with my parents, which is nice, but I don’t know what the future holds for me. Will I be allowed back in the USA? If so, would I be stuck there? It’s very confusing. I’m just trying to take it each day at a time, enjoy my parents’ presence and hope for the best.”
Maya, 25, Tunisian
“I visited my parents for a holiday and ended up being stuck with them. It’s great because in Tunisia, I get to eat the food I like and things seem easier to me. We’re here for each other and I’m never really “isolated”. However, I feel like I’m back in adolescence. Sometimes I get anxious and stressed out, and I just want to smoke a cigarette in the evening. But I can’t. I’m stuck at home with nowhere to go to. Or sometimes I want to call friends and speak about my feelings without a filter, and I feel like there’s always someone overhearing me. There are obviously pros and cons to the situation. Altogether, I’m grateful that I’m able to spend this time with my parents. This quarantine feels like therapy to me. I’m redefining the values of my relationship, my career and the meaning I want to give to my life. And doing that here, close to them, is even more powerful in my opinion.”