I am a 23-year-old Mexican student who was in exchange at the time COVID-19 affected the whole world. On January 2020, I traveled to Vancouver to complete the exchange program I signed up for. My plan was to stay on campus from January to April and then, after my school studies were over, travel to some places around Canada. I was lucky that one of my best friends also applied to the same program and I had the chance to travel with him to Vancouver. When we arrived there, I was amazed by the size of the campus and how different Canada was from Mexico. In short, my experience during the beginning of this exchange was amazing. I made a lot of friends, enjoyed my courses, I traveled a lot and I had a lot of fun. Of course, COVID turned things around when it arrived.
The news about COVID-19 started to circulate towards the end January. This virus that was affecting China was supposed to be very dangerous. At first, I did not really put much of my attention or interest towards it, I thought it was just something happening on the other side of the world that I would never hear of again. When the news started to escalate, some students at campus started to wear masks and isolate themselves. I still was not worried, the virus seemed very far away. It was about mid-March when things got out of hand around the world and the university announced that the remaining classes of the semester would be completed online.
At first, I was optimistic, thinking we could have more freedom to travel and visit many places now that everything was online, but the restrictions Canada implemented did not allow us to do that. By the end of March, almost all of my friends had returned home to wherever they lived around the world. I was really sad about this, COVID-19 arrived at the middle of one of the best experiences of my life and I was not going to be able to take it back.
By mid-April, I had to come home too. It was weird how I had to quarantine for two weeks even at my own house. I was sad that my exchange had to end so suddenly, but I also had a lot of time to reflect while I was quarantined at home, and the following months when no one could get out of the house. I was so lucky and privileged. What COVID had taken away from me is something that the majority of the world’s population is not able to have. I started to think how worse the COVID-19 situation could be for a lot of people around the world and I was very grateful for the possibilities I was given throughout my life as well as being safe in my home with my family.
The months went by and new opportunities arrived. I was able to do summer courses and got a job at a global firm. My original plan was to stay in Vancouver from January 2020 to December 2020. Even though COVID-19 did not let me finish my plans, new opportunities were presented to me. This pandemic was a bummer, but I can’t help but notice the positive aspects it has brought to my life. It made me reconnect with my family, brought new challenges in my professional career and, in general, led me to being very happy in the present.
This pandemic made me realize, even though it sounds very cliché, that when an opportunity is closed to you, another one is opened. COVID-19 has been very tragic and sad, especially for the most vulnerable populations around the globe, but I think it is an opportunity for humanity to realize that there are many things that are wrong with the world. If we all focus on helping other people, the world would definitely be a better place.
My thoughts and prayers are with people who are most affected, in any way, by this crisis. I believe this pandemic is heading towards its end but is far from over. We still need to be careful and take care of ourselves and others. I’m certain that the reality of the world we live in will be changed after this is over. I hope that the we realize that we cannot take things for granted and that we should always be trying to help people that are in need.