As so many, I’ve finished my PhD during the pandemic (in Belgium), which is mixed with different feelings. But it also comes with an additional very interesting challenge, looking for a new job and (potentially) a new home during the pandemic. I was quite lucky and got a grant for the US. Because it might be an experience that many of you have not had, I’d like to tell a bit about how moving continents in the pandemic was.

We were nervous, so we started the day early to be on time at the airport, 3 hours before departure (as suggested by our ancestors). But, the airport was literally empty, check-in was not possible because nobody from the check-in was working. There were about 10 flights on the entire day (from Brussel airport). Empty airports and planes continued on our entire trip, with quite some advantages. We had enough space in the airplane, we didn’t have to wait at the customs

We were somewhat scared because our kids had to wear masks during the entire flight. For context, different countries have very different regulations. Switzerland and Belgium say kids below 12 years do not have to wear masks at all (this was even before vaccination). So our kids were not used to it at all. Conversely, the US wants kids above 2 years to be masked, including during the flight, so we were stressed whether Johanna (3 years) would play along. But luckily, the flight attendants were very human and accepted behavior as on the right.

All in all, it was quite the experience. Very exhausting, but probably not because of COVID. COVID might the day itself more bearable, but the administration before hand quite more complicated (we needed travel forms and COVID tests of all sorts, and we were not entirely certain whether we had done everything correctly up to the day itself).