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Aidy Reflects on Studying Abroad and COVID-19

Aidy Reflects on Studying Abroad and COVID-19

Aidy Ung, a senior at Lafayette College reflects on her study abroad experience at the University College London and the silver linings of 2020.
Although 2020 was not quite what I had imagined it to be, the pandemic did not necessarily ruin my year. On New Year’s Day, I landed in London, where I embarked on my study abroad journey at University College London (UCL). I was so excited about exploring the museums, parks, galleries, theaters, and many more London has to offer. At the same time, I was also overwhelmed about everything else I 
needed to adapt to — from new academic challenges to new living situations to budgeting my personal finances. UCL is so big, compared to Lafayette College, and it was very frustrating trying to navigate the system. I am so used to knowing who to ask for help, but things did not seem to work the same at UCL. A lot of information is posted on the school website, but it was very challenging to find the right person to ask for clarification. 
On top of that adjustment, my first month in London also involved planning for the rest of the spring semester and applying for a summer internship. I was contacted for a phone screening and interviews with senior engineers. I was extremely excited when I found out I got an internship position with Langan Engineering and was really looking forward to my summer. During that same first month, I was also planning a trip to Paris and Amsterdam in mid-February. Because I hold a Cambodian passport, I needed to apply for a separate European

Studying abroad in London!

Schengen visa in addition to my UK visa that I held. The European Schengen visa application required everything: the details of my trip, travel health insurance, a roundtrip reservation, proof of accommodation, and proof of financial means. Yes, I needed all this even before I went on the trip, and it was so emotionally draining, especially under a time crunch. Luckily, I applied for the visa with a friend, so we were able to go through the visa application together. Our Schengen visas arrived just in time, less than a week before our planned trip.

​Despite all the complications, the trip turned out to be one of the best and most memorable trips of my life. I was so in love with the Dutch countryside for its architecture, farmland, canals, and of course, the windmills. My friend from Cambodia who lives in Paris showed us all around the city, and we all went to Disneyland! We also spent a day trip to the Palace of Versailles. It was a wonderful time bonding with my friends. 


The windmills in the Netherlands

Little did I know that by the time I got used to living in a big city like London, it was also the time to say goodbye. In mid-March, for my health and safety, I had to leave the UK and go back home to Cambodia. I felt a bit regretful thinking about how I could have really enjoyed and explored London more if I knew that I had to leave early. In spite of that, I learned my lesson to take time to enjoy the present. This mindset allowed me to make the most of my time at home, and I have become more mindful. 
After being away from home for almost three years, it was amazing to reconnect with my siblings and be there for them. We spent good, valuable time together, playing, and learning. My unexpected presence at home during this uncertain time meant so much to my family. During my time at home, I came to realize what “opportunity cost” means. While I miss being home to support my siblings, I realized that the reward is tremendous to have an opportunity to study at Lafayette College, where I have been equipped with the skills, knowledge, and network I need to develop my country.

Visiting the Eiffel Tower

During this pandemic, everything seems gloomy. However, it is important to reflect on silver linings and the positivity it has on our lives. I have accomplished so much this year, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all the challenges that allow me to develop my skills and grow to be a better person. I am grateful that I have always had a home to go to. I would not be at my best if not for my friends, my mentors, and my family, who have always been there for me and unconditionally support me as I figure it all out.