From Our Scholar Blogs:

On Returning Home During a Pandemic

On Returning Home During a Pandemic

As an international student in the U.S, homesickness is not new to me. During the past spring semester, however, it got extra challenging. The self-isolation I experienced from COVID-19 induced restrictions dramatically worsened my homesickness. All the enthusiasm, drive, and motivation I had in my first year began to fade, making it difficult to focus on anything I was doing. It was this strife that persuaded me to finally come home to Cambodia this summer. My first return in almost two years. It was not easy.
From February 2021, COVID cases in Cambodia have been continuously rising. Our government has thus imposed strict regulations for those who are coming into the country, including a two-week quarantine without exception even for those who are fully vaccinated like myself. It would have been a lot more stressful to try and figure out the whole travelling process on my own. Fortunately, another SHE-CAN scholar, Vuochnear Ly came to Cambodia just several weeks before me and was able to share with me all about her travel experience. In the week before my flight, Vuochnear broke down all the details. She told me about things like the transit airport, what to expect when I arrive, and the quarantine procedure from beginning to finish. I’m grateful for the many long calls I had with her.

​It took a total of 37 hours from Gettysburg, PA to Cambodia including the 9-hour layover in Singapore. Fortunately, my layover in Singapore felt short thanks to all the check-in calls and texts from my SHE-CAN sisters Vuochnear and Dary, my mentors, family and friends. When I landed at Phnom Penh international airport, I had a feeling that I don’t even know how to put into words. The special feelings of joy, happiness and comfort that overwhelmed and choked me up a little, reminding me that “I’m finally home”.

​The good feelings continued even during my quarantine.  I was extremely lucky to have the room to myself at a government designated quarantine hotel and was also fortunate to have nice and kind quarantine neighbors. We shared food that our family brought to us, and chit chatted across the hallway with masks on during those two weeks.
Now, I’m writing this blog from my home sweet home in Kampong Cham, Cambodia, where I was born and raised. It’s true that in a pandemic, traveling becomes so complicated, almost impossible, and some people might say that it’s not the smartest or safest idea for me to come home during this unprecedented time. Still, just L. Frank Baum says: “There is no place like home.” Simply being here with my family rejuvenates me in ways I can never get from anywhere else in this world. All the stress, planning, and worrying, it’s all worth it.

Riya’s home in Cambodia.