Returning home during the coronavirus pandemic: My quarantine story

Being an international student for so many years, travelling back and forth between Vietnam and the UK is not much of an interesting story to tell anymore. However, this time, it was different. The moment I got to Tan Son Nhat airport, no one was waiting for me. My older sister was not there with a cup of bubble tea to greet me as usual. My mum, whom I have not seen in months, was not there. No one!

Instead, other people who were waiting for me: healthcare workers and airport staff. They informed me that I would be taken to a quarantine camp as I had just returned from a high-risk country. Yes, you guessed it, this will be a travelling story like no other.

I captured every moment of this journey on my Instagram story since I know this was going to be a once in a lifetime experience. The airport scene when I arrived was hectic. I was confused and mad, even. For the first time, I felt unwelcome in my home city. I waited for so long to get out of the airport. Finally, after 12 hours, I was placed on a coach to a military facility that was about 20km away from my house. My friends in the UK were super worried about me when they saw the conditions I was put in. I had to share a room full of bunk beds with seven other girls, whom I had not met before. There was no mattress or hot water. It surely sounds like someone’s biggest nightmare.

I went through many emotions throughout this whole journey, but I was weirdly calm when I arrived at the facility. I knew that I was not alone. I soon realised that everyone was equally confused and desperately wanted to go home. As a result, I tried to stay positive and went with the flow to see how it goes.

Overall, I must say that my experience being quarantined was not fully bad. I met awesome people and learnt so many things during my time in quarantine. My roommates were wonderful. They cheered me up every time I was feeling low, and they were always there for me. It is fascinating to see how strangers like us can form such special bonds during this difficult time. I even met some of my old friends here, coincidentally! I formed some new and healthier habits as well. The fact that I woke up early enough to have breakfast really surprised people who know me. I also went for a walk with my new mates after dinner every day. Looking back, the atmosphere was quite chill and relaxing most of the time.

Above all, I was very grateful for the staff and soldiers who did their best to support us. They woke us up every morning; they catered to us three times a day. They even sang to provide us with some entertainment, how cute! My family was somewhat relieved when they knew that I was taken such good care of by these staff.

This experience has surely changed my point of view about life in general. I feel more and more thankful for what I have had so far in my life and have definitely learnt how to open up to others.

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Nhu Ngo

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September 2021
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