At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, I was in southern Germany, holed up only half by choice amid travel disruptions. I had only one friend there, Risako, a Japanese exchange student who became my effective lockdown buddy. And she was leaving me.
Risako’s university in Japan was actually ordering her home, she said. She didn’t have a choice, and she was sad. With growing travel restrictions, with every country banning everyone but citizens and residents, once Risako went back to Japan, she was uncertain when she would be able to return to Germany and her studies.