Making the most of a hiccup
Unless you somehow have managed to find a way to completely avoid all news sources and outlets since the unsettlements of late 2019, you will know the terms ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘COVID-19’ all too well. The January 2020 Global Grads were out on their South East Asia Semester and were impacted directly by the effects of Coronavirus.
The first road trip of the Global Grad encapsulates four different locations- Siem Reap, Koh Rong Island and Phnom Penh in Cambodia, finishing up with Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a trip full of beautiful sights, cultural awareness and dark history. However, we didn’t manage to reach Ho Chi Minh City as there were issues on the Cambodia-Vietnam border.
Upon catching our bus which would take us to the land border and beyond into Ho Chi Minh City, we to cross into Vietnam. This was because the border had already been closed to those from the European Union. This was passport based- the fact Nikola had lived in Australia for over a year was irrelevant. However, this did not apply to the UK.
Nikola remained on the bus but got rejected before leaving Cambodia. We said our goodbyes to her as we were stamped out, expecting that this would be the last time we saw her. It was not.
Cambodia had one case of COVID-19 at our time of departure, a Japanese man in Siem Reap. Forty had already been quarantined for suspected contact. Our trip to Siem Reap coincided with his, giving us two choices- go back to Cambodia or get quarantined in Vietnam. Understandably, we chose the latter, returning to Phnom Penh.
The next few days were difficult. We could still enter by air, but every time we thought we were sorted, something new would be needed. New visas since we were entering through a different border? Then we needed acceptance letters. Luckily, we managed to arrive in Da Nang two days later.
Teamwork is essential on a Global Grad semester since you’re sharing hostels and activities for several months with the same people. This difficult situation was unprecedented but a useful time to work on soft skills.
Another was leadership. Nobody in Global Grad could lead us to the right situation alone- we were at the mercy of the Vietnamese government’s decisions. But we needed a few level headed people to navigate the situation to get the best resolution. Georgia and Louella, our Locations Managers, did this perfectly and I cannot thank them enough.
What I am trying to do with this blog post is be honest. Travel has its hiccups at times. Please don’t let the woes of travel put you off having the adventure of a lifetime. In fact, Vietnam has far less cases of COVID-19 than the UK.
While hiccups are the last thing you want on a semester, they can actually bring more benefits than a smooth sailing one. You get to learn about where you are in more depth- most major tourist attractions are closed in Da Nang, but that means we were seeing more local, authentic places instead of the touristy cash grabbers.
In addition, it furthers self-development. On top of living abroad, you’re navigating situations which you may divvy to your parents if you’d stayed at home.
Don’t give into fear during uncertain times. Once ensuring your safety, embrace them! We all feel very safe despite the ominous global situation due to Global Grad’s support. It was stressful at the time, but looking back, it was an insightful learning experience.
If you want to know more about our situation, get in contact with Global Grad HQ and they can inform you or put you in contact with a student. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that Global Grad put your wellbeing first and foremost in these unideal situations.
About the author
Jasmin Dawling is one of Global Grad’s January 2019 students and is completing a full-time Bachelor’s degree with the Open University in International Studies. While this is her first time formally blogging, she has had plenty of writing experience in the past, from novel writing since the age of six to working on the school newspaper. Apart from seeing the sights of South East Asia and working on her degree, Jasmin spends most of her time either procrastinating or writing down her novel ideas, be it on her travelling-inspired new ideas or the 7-part series she’s been toying with for almost ten years.