Different Countries, Different Worlds. Part One By Yasmeen Ogaily and Maraki Tamrat

Three countries have almost 60,000, 8,000 and 2,500,000 cases. What makes Iraq, Austria, and the United States alike? What makes them different? How would three teenagers, all the same age, react to being stuck in a Pandemic? As we all know, COVID-19 has taken over everyone’s workspaces, schools, summer plans, and frankly, our lives. We now live in a world where COVID governs our daily lives. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is in our control. We think about how COVID affects us as individuals in the US, but what about other countries such as Iraq and Austria? How do the lives of high school students living in those countries differ from those in the US?

When thinking about Austria and the United States, the two countries seem to differ greatly. With 7,447 COVID cases compared to a whopping 2,487,392 COVID cases, students in Austria lead different lives compared to students in the USA. When interviewed, both an Austrian teen and an American teen described how they were affected by the many factors that alter our daily lives, in both negative and positive ways. The Austrian teen states, “I’m very introverted and love being at home, so quarantine was honestly pretty great...I picked up hobbies like diamond painting, sketching, improved my creative writing skills...watched a lot of Netflix, and more. I was thriving during quarantine, if I’m being completely honest.” Her opinion on quarantine completely concurs with the student from the United States. When asked about her opinions on the quarantine, she stated, “Positively, I got time to focus on other things besides school...I started baking, I read a lot in the beginning of summer, and I watched a lot of TV...and worked on volleyball and basketball.” Both teens picked up hobbies and worked on improving their current passions. Even though they live on opposite sides of the world, the girls accomplished similar activities.

Quarantine was one of the many new things that everyone experienced during this pandemic. Whether it was spent in Austria or Iraq, quarantine was pretty much the same for everyone. Stay inside, don’t visit people, and don’t go out (or wear a mask if you do). However, that was six months ago so what does day to day life, including school, look like for teenagers across the globe now? Unlike most of the United States, Austria and Iraq have opened up schools and other learning facilities. Their countries have managed to keep the Pandemic under control, which means that they don’t get to experience the joys of remote learning. As of September 19th, 2020, Iraq has 59,615 cases while Austria has 7,447 cases and is also currently going through their second wave. When asked the question, “What does daily life and school look like for you during COVID-19,” here’s how the Iraqi teen responded. “My life regime changed almost completely… it was both negatively and positively affected.” When asked about his school routine, he described it similarly to howwe all would have described it pre-corona. “I wake up at six o'clock, go to school at seven o'clock, then school hours are over. [I] take a rest, spend time on homework, then spend the free time, and go to sleep.” He also spoke about how masks and gloves were required in schools at all times. When asked the same question, the Austrian teenager’s response seemed more apprehensive despite having 52,168 less cases. “I’m attending [school] in-person, but I think it’s worthy to mention that if they gave us the option to do online school, I definitely would have taken them up on that offer because in-person school is far too risky.” The Austrian teen then proceeded to explain the preventative measures that her school had taken in order to make it as “COVID free” as possible. “We get our temperatures taken right as we walk into the school by a digital thermometer. We have to keep our masks on while walking in the hallway as well…In class, I wear my mask throughout the entire period.” Both teens seem to have similar daily schedules, but when comparing their schedule to those of a teen’s living in the US, they are drastically different.

With over two million more COVID cases in the USA, our lives differ greatly here in the US, especially due to the virus’s firm control over our lifestyles. With that little amount of cases, do students in Iraq have to wear masks in public? How often do they see their friends? Do they get fined if they don’t wear masks? An Iraqi student describes the mask laws in Iraq, “Wearing masks and gloves...are obligatory for everyone, but there are some violators and there are no strict laws to hold citizens accountable.” When describing the mask regulations in her area, a United States student responds by saying, “You have to wear masks outside, but when I go downtown there’s not a lot of people wearing masks...not really social distancing...and the repercussion for not wearing one [a mask] is paying a fine.” In both countries, no matter the amount of COVID cases, you have to wear a mask. In Iraq, they are also wearing gloves to protect themselves from getting the virus, which the United States has not yet done. Also, the Iraqi student claims that he sees his friends almost daily, whereas the US student said that she sees her friends about as much as she can. Despite living on opposite sides of the world, they both seem to enjoy quarantine, and both have to wear masks in public.

Austria, Iraq, and the United States may contrast greatly in cases but they still have many similarities. When describing their daily lives, school, and how they spent their time in quarantine the three teens had a lot in common. Other than the obvious differences like online school vs. being in school physically, they shared how they all still had to wear masks in public and how the Pandemic is very much apparent in their day to day lives. Now, what would daily life look like for someone living in Jordan or India? Stay tuned to find out.