I realized that the different world that I currently faced is what is known as the “new norm”. This “new norm” will be our newly-adopted life until the coronavirus disappears. Sadly, I realized that I hate this “new norm”.
The experience of a Fulbrighter amid the Coronavirus pandemic: Rania Hamed (Jordan, 2019/20)
In May 2019, I was notified by the Fulbright Program that I had been awarded the Fulbright Research Postdoctoral Scholarship to the United States for the academic year 2019-2020. For the nine-month scholarship, I will be performing my research work in the College of Pharmacy, Texas A & M University (College Station, TX) under the supervision of Professor Mansoor Khan.
On Sep 1st 2019, I flew from Jordan to Texas, USA, and started working in the laboratory in the second week of Sep 2019. It was an extraordinary opportunity, working on my proposed project and learning new techniques that will further advance my research experience. Everything was working perfect until the middle of March when we start hearing about the coronavirus pandemic.
In March 2020, the in-person classes were cancelled in schools and universities due to the coronavirus outbreak, and thereafter states issued the shelter-in-place recommendation. By that time, my work in the laboratory was suspended. Moreover, in March 17th, Jordan closed its borders and international travel to Jordan was banned. Thus, it was a very difficult time.
In Early May 2020, Jordan implemented a plan to return students studying abroad, professionals of exchange programs, and those on a short visit, to their homeland.
On May 5th, 2020, I had the opportunity to find a seat on the Royal Jordanian Airlines to travel back home May 7th. Thanks for the Fulbright advisers for arranging travel for me and my colleagues.
At that moment, I realized that it was less than 48 hours until I have to leave my city (College Station, TX) to catch my flight to Jordan. On May 6th, I flew from Easterwood airport (College station) to Dallas/Fort Worth airport (Dallas) and then Chicago O’Hare International airport (Chicago) to catch my flight the next day to Queen Alia airport (Amman, Jordan).
This trip back home was different in all ways, where airports were nearly empty with only tens of passengers. Moreover, it was unusual for me to see most of the passengers and airport staff wearing gloves and masks.
My flight to Jordan was on the very early morning of May 7th. Therefore, I found out that I had to spend one night in my favourite city, Chicago. Chicago, the windy, vivid city, which used to be my last stop before leaving to Amman, was also different. It was almost empty of moving cars and quiet with no life. I used to spend three to four days in this wonderful city, exploring famous places and shopping. This time, I found that I needed to spend one night, or even less, in a hotel without going anywhere.
Moreover, many things looked different to me. For instance, it was really hard for me to leave College Station without saying a proper goodbye to my friends and colleagues who I spent several months with them. There were no goodbye parties or even group pictures. Instead, emails and WhatsApp text messages were sent to them. Furthermore, it was so hard for me to realize that arriving Jordan wouldn't mean arriving home and hugging my family. This is because I had to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel in the Dead Sea (Jordan) to curb the spread of the virus in my country.
Finally, I realized that the different world that I currently faced is what is known as the “new normal” or “new norm”. This “new norm” will be our newly-adopted life until the coronavirus disappears. Sadly, I realized that I hate this “new norm”.
Rania Hamed received her Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics from the University of Iowa in 2011. During her PhD, she worked under the supervision of Prof. Jennifer Fiegel. Dr. Hamed’s research was focused on the development of a more physiologically–relevant in vitro model that mimics native, non-diseased tracheal mucus to enable studying the surface properties of mucus and bioaerosol formation in the trachea. After her graduation, she joined the Faculty of Pharmacy at Al–Zaytoonah University of Jordan as an assistant professor. There, she embarked on her research career in Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery. Her research focuses on developing controlled–release matrix tablets using hydrophilic/hydrophobic polymers, nanoemulsion–loaded hydrogels, oleogels and bigels for topical delivery, and determining the key parameters of the dissolution media that control the rate of dissolution of the poorly-soluble drugs to better predict their in vivo performance. She published 27 manuscripts in peer–reviewed journals and has 29 posters and/or oral talks in scientific meetings. In July 2017, Dr. Hamed was promoted to Associate Professor. Dr. Hamed received the post-doctoral Fulbright scholarship for the academic year 2019/2020, working with Prof. Mansour Khan in the College of Pharmacy-Texas A & M University, Texas-USA.