I am very well here. I have come to Geneva, Switzerland for my semester exchange at the University of Geneva. The recent situation of the pandemic has currently altered all my plans for this exchange but there is nothing alarming in my situation here.
It was really overwhelming when this pandemic started. As the people that I had come to know just a month back were called back in a small window of time, for e.g. one of my American friends was called back to her country within 24 hours. And the situation was so uncertain that I had no idea of who would be staying and who wouldn’t. My parents were also panicking as they wanted me back but had to respect my choice of being here.
I did not come back to India majorly because:
- Traveling at the peak of the pandemic outbreak was risky given that I have elderly people at my home and I had no problems living here, there was no point in coming back.
- I really wanted to stay in this beautiful place and complete my exchange if the conditions allow me to do so.
So, taking the responsibility of all my decisions and understanding the gravity of the situation, I had to take care of myself and also continue with my university classes. That was difficult but I took into consideration all the concerns my family had for me and tried to find alternatives for those which kind of worked out. However, I took the risk of not receiving medical help if I got infected by the virus as the hospitals were only admitting people from the ‘vulnerable’ group (people in their old-age or suffering from lung-related illness).
Switzerland went under lockdown in the week of March 18, 2020. Under lockdown, we were still allowed to go for buying our essentials from the supermarket, for our regular outdoor exercises and for emergency situations, be they professional or personal. The borders are also closed here but people with a residence permit (applicable for foreign nationals as well) can still come to the country with proper reasoning. The super-markets were open all the time throughout the lockdown, so food requirements were never affected. Non-essentials like clothing stores were closed for a short period but are now open and running again. Although there are still regulations on the number of people in the store but no restrictions on any kind of store to be completely closed.
Dealing with it:
I am staying at a student dorm. As the pandemic began and Geneva went under lockdown, most of the students from other continents went back permanently. The European exchange students had a mixed response and some even came back this month. Right now, the proportion of students at my dorm is still less but it’s not completely vacated. The university has asked us to contact them if we have any kind of personal emergency and has also provided the opportunity to change our courses as the evaluation methods were changed for some of them due to this crisis. The embassy has given out the visa extension services for people stranded here due to closed Indian borders and hence, there is no legal action for being in the country for more than the supposed time.
There has been no compromise in my academic experience as such. My university is conducting the online classes as per our pre-pandemic schedule, so I am mostly caught up in my studies and assignments and spend the rest of my time chilling with my friends near the river or the lake. Coping with this situation would have been difficult if there were military restrictions and a curfew-like situation but as long as we are allowed to carry out our normal life schedule, I am okay with that. My new friends are really supportive and this situation has even led us to bond more closely than we would have otherwise.
For my travel plans, I definitely wanted to visit other countries but with the international borders being closed, it’s not possible now. We can still travel in Switzerland for hiking and town-hopping, and as the restrictions tend to release, most of the adventure activities are going to open in June.
Suggestions for IIT Bombay:
Any aid on the financial front would help us a lot as we had not planned our financial resources according to the pandemic. Also, given that this exchange did not go the way we had hoped for, I request the institute to allow us for another exchange in the coming semester because the deadlines of application for most of the universities have already passed and it might not be possible for us to apply for them through the regular process.
The current number of active cases have gone down almost to 1000 which is amazingly nice as compared to 16000 cases in March-April. The locals are also more relaxed now and continue to take up the precautions by wearing masks and regularly sanitizing themselves. This can be clearly seen as the department stores and markets opened up here during the last week and it was a delight to watch Geneva come back to life.
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