In the following week, it became clear that the further goals of my stay would be difficult to realize. All face-to-face meetings for spring were canceled, and our Weatherhead scholars forum on 11 March was one of the last (personal) meetings that took place. There was already a kind of aura of nostalgia in the air during this meeting because it became clear to everybody that the corona crisis would probably affect the US far more than other countries. I was at least lucky to have my secondary data available for use and to have my paper presentation set on 25 March, so I could continue to concentrate on my research.
But during spring break my guest lecture was canceled, and the situation in Europe became quite dramatic. Austria was among the first countries to establish harsh measures, and the government clearly advised all Austrians abroad to come back to Austria. I also realized—talking to colleagues—that many German fellows had already returned to Europe and that the number of regular flights to Europe might decrease dramatically in the near future. Finally, the Trump administration decided to introduce a travel ban from Europe, which became the center of the pandemic in March.
I started weighing our options. It was clear to me that the situation in the United States would get worse and that the health, economic, and social consequences could be very incalculable and probably very dramatic during the coming month. And maybe there would be no possibility to return to Europe in the near future. The main advantage of my research plans is that I can do most of my research at home as well. It is still possible for me to use the Harvard Online Library, and I can participate in all online meetings at Harvard University as well. Due to the established health system and the Austrian government’s proactive crisis management, it is highly probable that the effects in my own country will not be as severe as in the United States. The situation in Austria is also easier for my family than in the US. Schools are closed in both countries, but it is better to get my daughter involved early in her regular school class in Austria as well. And finally, our families at home started to get worried due to the dramatic government appeals to return. So I came to the final decision to leave the US. I communicated my decision to the Weatherhead Center, to Fulbright Austria, and to the Institute of International Education (IIE), which is responsible for Fulbright scholars in the US, and everybody clearly supported my decision.