What began as an exciting 10-day trip to France to do some sightseeing and take a week-long course on the art of negotiation as part of her Poole College of Management Jenkins MBA program, turned into a much longer adventure for graduate student Valaree Reese.
“While in France, we heard rumblings about COVID-19, but the media there wasn’t nearly as concerned about the virus,” Reese says. While in Paris, Reese, who works as a regulatory compliance specialist for BASF in RTP, received an email from her corporate office explaining travel quarantine rules. Since the email didn’t name France as an area of concern, she didn’t think much more about it.
However, once the mom of an eighteen-month-old son mentioned to her husband her desire to switch her flight to come back a day early, she had the sense COVID-19 might be a bigger deal than she initially thought.
“I honestly just missed my family and was ready to head home, but when my husband didn’t even blink at the ticket cost to change my flight to come back early, that worried me a bit,” Reese says. “The U.S. news channels were painting a very different story than what I was hearing. It was a whirlwind after that.”
The next day, President Trump announced an international travel ban starting at midnight on Friday, March 13th, and the clock started ticking. By the 12th, Reese arranged a new flight, waited in a four-hour customs line at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and then was on her way home.
However, what she hoped would be a sweet reunion with her family would have to be delayed.
“I heard from my boss that I would need to quarantine for 14 days while I self-monitored for symptoms,” she says. From RDU, Reese headed straight to a hotel in Knightdale. Once she worked through the jetlag and sadness over not being able to see her husband and son Gunnar, she finally allowed herself to turn on the news. “I couldn’t believe it was that bad that fast,” she recalls.
She used her two weeks in quarantine to work remotely, complete coursework for her MBA classes and schedule lots of video chats with her family. Finally, 24 days after last seeing Gunnar in person, they were reunited.
“Before that trip, the longest I had ever been away from him was one or two nights, at most,” Reese says. “When he saw me for the first time, it was the best feeling in the world.”