Making the Best of a Bad Situation: How Expats Mastered the COVID-19 Crisis
Nearly every country around the world has been affected by the coronavirus. Needless to say, it has had a particularly negative effect on the lives of many expats who may have had to quarantine away from their friends and loved ones.
However, many InterNations members have shared with us their personal stories regarding how they’ve made the most of the situations they have found themselves in due to the pandemic. While each person is in a different position and understandably not everyone has been able to make the most of that time, many people have used the past few months in a positive way, learning new skills, helping others, and adapting to the new and uncertain situation. This is all while simultaneously managing to maintain deep and meaningful connections with family and friends — and in a few cases even rekindling old friendships and developing new ones.
Using the Time to Foster Creativity
Lisa is an InterNations member from the US who is currently living in Portugal. She has been able to find positivity among the uncertainties caused by the coronavirus. While Lisa’s daily routine hasn’t changed as drastically as some other people’s may have — she is easily able to work from home — she still feels “fortunate” and “incredibly lucky,” to be experiencing lockdown in Portugal instead of in the USA This is especially the case as some of her friends in Denver are finding the lockdown more challenging with people panic buying essentials and causing scarcity for others.
Not only does Lisa feel relaxed about her situation, but she is finding lockdown to be an experience for “growth,” and has filled her time pursuing online education. “I took an improving your presence in the internet course,” she explains, “and my husband and I both took The Science of Wellbeing.” This highly popular course offered by Yale University proved to be particularly valuable in these times. In order to improve her learning skills, she also took a course on learning how to learn. “Because I have been beating my head against the wall trying to learn Portuguese, which is no small task,” Lisa says.
Another InterNations member, Janie, has found her life very much disrupted by the pandemic. Having travelled to 238 countries and destinations, she was planning on visiting the last ten on her list by the end of 2020, but of course, this plan went awry due to the coronavirus outbreak. Rather than “roaming around Afghanistan,” as she thought she would be, Janie is in Adelaide, keeping herself and her friends entertained by writing stories about mishaps on her travels. While Janie misses traveling the world, she and her friends are able to travel through Janie’s humorous stories. Not only has writing about her experiences kept Janie and her friends entertained and in touch, but it’s led to rekindled connections as she has been reaching out to those involved in her stories. Having planned this book in her head for years, she has finally found the time to actually write down her experiences, and she plans to release her stories in a book entitled “Around the World in 99 Disasters.” Despite having made the most of the unexpected free time, Janie says as soon as possible she is looking forward to being “the first one on the plane” as borders open up again.
Lidia, an expat living in Austria, has also used the free time caused by the lockdown as an opportunity for growth. Lidia has enjoyed having more time to play music during the lockdown. Although, she can’t play the organ while being stuck at home, she has been happy to be able to continue practicing playing the keyboard and mandolin. She and her friends have also found creative ways of staying in touch, despite not being able to be with each other physically. Lidia had to celebrate her 40th birthday during lockdown. She expected this to be a very lonesome occasion, however, she was delighted when her friends showed her that she was still on their mind by sending her birthday gifts. “I heard the doorbell,” Lidia says. “My friend was covered with a mask and everything, and then she brought this present for me, wishing me happy birthday. Another Italian friend sent chocolate. That was sweet and a nice surprise.” While Lidia lives in Austria, her family is still in her birth country Italy. Along with many others, Lidia has found technology to be a blessing for keeping in touch and even spending quality time with people. Lidia and her family have had meals together over video calls where they would cook using the same recipe and this came pretty close to what having a meal with others is like under normal circumstances.
Helping the Community
With flights from the UK to the USA cancelled, photographer Mark found himself alone in the UK, away from his wife who he had planned to join in New Orleans. Despite the difficult situation, Mark put his time to good use, volunteering to help those that were most at risk from coronavirus and going grocery shopping for the elderly and vulnerable.
Mark also used his photography skills to “capture history,” and the significance of this time by taking portraits of families and individuals from a distance. When he shared a photograph he’d taken of an ex-country cricket player, people contacted Mark to say they remembered this man playing on the team. It made Mark happy that, through his photography, he managed to reconnect people that hadn’t been in touch for years.
While most people who were separated from their partner during lockdown have felt depressed and lonely, Mark is glad to have turned his time away from his wife into a positive experience and an opportunity to help others. “Every storm will pass,” he says, “so look for the positives of the situation, be patient, and give back to others.” His acts of kindness have helped lots of people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and he truly turned what could’ve been a lonesome time into an opportunity for kindness.