Bags packed, flight booked – What could go wrong now?

04 Mar 2020

Those of you who followed my previous post know that I am getting ready to fly to Japan. And while I thought that I had all things settled for my journey, I underestimated the power of events that are outside of my control. I am of course talking about the Coronavirus outbreak.

People’s opinions on this topic vary a lot: some are scared about what might happen if they catch the virus and would like to buy all available face masks and disinfectants. Others, myself included, are less worried. I personally view this virus as just another inconvenient illness that anyone with an otherwise healthy immune system should be able to overcome. So even if I should become ill, I would not be too worried.

I understand that the heightened attention surrounding the Coronavirus comes from its fast spreading and the resulting unpredictability. Combined with the fact that people with a weaker immune system do have a risk of serious consequences. And while that leaves reason to worry to a certain degree, I am not too worried about myself. But although I try to stay optimistic despite this outbreak, I must admit that I grew a tiny bit concerned in the past few days.

Unsurprisingly, my university in Japan has sent out emails detailing precautions against the virus. Headlines written in capital letters (never a good sign). The list of precautions included that any exchange student coming from or flying via China or South Korea will have to contact the Japanese university to settle on how to proceed. Phew! When I was booking my flight, I almost booked a ticket that would have had a stop in China. On advice of a friend, I decided to take a more expensive flight via Dubai instead. That was close!

Apart from this, my Japanese university also plans to modify the orientation week activities to cut down on interactions between students, out of fear of the virus. I think that’s a shame, but then again, the university is just trying to protect us.

What these emails showed me is that going on a semester abroad does not only depend on passing all necessary courses before; events that are outside of our control can interfere as well. However, I still aim to keep my optimism high and make the best of this time – with or without pending virus panic.

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