Samantha Kiernan, class of 2019


In this interview, Samantha Kiernan, Brown University class of 2019, discusses her experiences during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Kiernan discusses international news and anecdotal stories and later her personal struggle with potentially catching COVID-19.

Kiernan begins by elaborating on her interest in international relations, her study abroad time in Ireland and China, and her first position with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East. She details learning about COVID-19 through Chinese social media. She also recalls the way her friends reacted to the death of Dr. Li Wenliang – the Chinese ophthalmologist who warned about the COVID-19 outbreak.

Kiernan goes on to discuss how little life changed in Washington, DC, where she lives, and how she urged her friends and family to heed warning about the outbreak spreading to the United States. She talks about her growing fear when the virus broke out in Italy, as well as how the United States Presidential race was overshadowing news of the virus. She explains the difficulty of getting her parents to realize the severity of the outbreak, and also the isolation she felt living and working in her studio apartment before deciding to return to her parents’ home in Connecticut.

Furthermore, Kiernan describes falling ill with body aches, a headache, a fever, and shortness of breath. She recalls trying to quarantine from her parents within their home, and her tests results coming back negative for COVID-19. She also details the rollercoaster journey toward getting well. Kiernan closes her interview by discussing gender inequalities in experiences with COVID-19, and emphasizing her disappointment with how politicized the American public’s reaction to the virus became.


Recorded on April 16, 2020 via Zoom
Interviewed by Mary Murphy, Nancy L. Buc ’65 LLD‘94 hon Pembroke Center Archivist

Suggested Chicago style citation: Kiernan, Samantha. Interview. By Mary Murphy. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. April 16, 2020.


Samantha graduated from Brown University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a regional focus on China. During her time at Brown, she was a member of Brown Mock Trial, Strait Talk, and the Student Language Exchange. She studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, and Harbin, China, and interned with the nonprofit buildOn, U.S. Department of State, and Irish Parliament. After graduating, Samantha first worked as an outreach and analysis consultant for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and now works as a research associate in Washington, DC.