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Twitter Unites PhD Students Stranded in the Peruvian COVID-19 Lockdown

Kara Fikrig, Entomology Ph.D '23
Iquitos, Peru
Two women wearing masks standing in an airport corridor.

"I was thousands of miles away from family, deep in the Peruvian Amazon, in a city only accessible by air and boat. Suddenly, Peru implemented a lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, stranding thousands of foreigners in the country, including myself. I was torn—should I abandon my project (at least for now) and try to leave with the evacuation of U.S. citizens, or should I wait in Peru for the pandemic to end? Ultimately, I decided to evacuate, but my decision was fraught with doubt and worry. When I was introduced via Twitter to another PhD student stuck in Iquitos, it felt like being thrown a lifeline. It was so reassuring to learn that another person had weighed the same risks and benefits and had come to the same decision, and solace to find someone who could really understand my experience. We supported each other through the following days as we waited to be evacuated and finally met in person at the airport waiting for a health check prior to the flight. Now, I can look forward to having a new friend when we finally have the chance to return to Iquitos to finish our fieldwork."