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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Catherine Blayze '20 in Northern Ireland, UK

When we were told we had to pack up and leave, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Where do I leave to?” Do I stay in the United States and risk being stuck, away from home and family for a very long time, or do I go home to the U.K. and risk not being able to go back to Midd? 

I am very lucky that my younger brother, James, is a freshman at Midd. We received a phone call from my dad when the news came out saying "whatever happens, you two must stay together no matter what." I immediately burst into tears and realized that this was a lot bigger than I thought it was. 

We made the tough decision to go home. 

We stepped into the empty Burlington airport and looked at each other. James noticed I had tears in my eyes and he looked straight at me, squeezed my hand and took a deep breath. We didn't leave each others’ side until we reached London the following morning. 

Being home in the U.K. is also a strange experience because I feel so far away from everything and everyone. Spending four years in the U.S. means that I feel like most of my connections are over there. Now, on a five-hour time difference, there is a little more planning needed in keeping connected.

Another huge part of my life at Middlebury that changed in less than a week was my tennis career. This has been really tough. Unfortunately, I missed the entire season last year as I was ill with a virus and post-viral fatigue. I spent the entire year progressing back to being fit to play. There were practices where I felt like I couldn't lift my racket anymore but I pushed on. 

As a team we want to win a national championship more than anything ... we have been so, so close every year I've been here (three years in the NCAA semifinals). Every single one of us believed we could make history and bring it home for everyone this year. We worked so unbelievably hard for this season! However, I would not change anything. I have met some amazing people through this process and endured challenges that have just made me continually stronger. I am so thankful for the experience tennis at Middlebury has given to me.

As I sit at home typing all of this, I have had a lot of time to reflect. Yes, this has been extremely tough for everyone (especially the senior class). However, if possible, we all need to put everything in perspective. This is an international crisis and everyone has to do their part to try and help and protect others. Whether that's just staying at home and helping around the house, we all need to come together and support each other through this. We are an amazing community — that's why I picked Middlebury. 

Midd became my home away from home. Let’s maintain that community, just virtually. 

What has been your greatest worry or day-to-day concern as coronavirus has spread?

I worry about my family that are key workers, and people who are not so fortunate as I am to have a safe home to go to.

What has made you happy over the past few weeks?

Being around my family and seeing the effort of all students to try and support each other. It really is amazing to see the number of texts and emails I received wishing me a safe trip home. This included people in the administration, past and present coaches and friends.

Submitted March 26, 2020.