Life as an Exchange Student Returning from Singapore

Vivian Karamitros
UNC-Chapel Hill Student

I knew that studying abroad was supposed to be an experience, but not this kind of experience. I sit here typing this as I finish my two-week self-quarantine after returning from a shortened semester abroad in Singapore. Just getting to this point has been nothing short of a nightmare. In mid-March, I started receiving email after email from my study abroad advisor and the US embassy in Singapore regarding the uncertainty of the global situation. Then, I received the email from my study abroad advisor notifying me that all study abroad programs had been cancelled. However, at the time, Singapore had a much better grip on the virus than the U.S., so I made the decision to stay. However, the next day, when the CDC made all international travel level 4 and more airlines started cancelling flights, I knew I had to return home as soon as possible. Within the next 48 hours, I still had to turn in assignments, take quizzes, pack all my belongings, check out of my dorm, and say my goodbyes. One night before I had to leave, my airlines cancelled all their flights, forcing me to buy another set of tickets while frantically calling my parents at midnight. I finally made it home after much stress. 

 As this global pandemic keeps developing and stay-at-home measures keep me indoors and isolated, I’ve found I am devoting more time than ever to academics and my workload has increased. Exams turned into several papers, and homework assignments turned into additional mandatory readings. 

In addition to more work, the time differences place me in an awkward situation. My exchange university--the National University of Singapore--is 12 hours ahead. So every time I have to attend a recitation, I have to open my laptop and log into Zoom on their time. I’ve had classes at 8 pm, 11 pm, and even 4 am, I’ve had to meet group project members at 10 pm, I’ve been tutored at 11 pm because of conflicting time zones. If you’re wondering if making classes online has turned students into lazy, ungrateful individuals, here’s one that isn’t. 


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