#ThisIsNTU Series: Letters to COVID-19

By: Student Integration Committee

If you could address a letter to COVID-19, what would you say? Letters to COVID-19 is a special #ThisIsNTU series where we collect stories from our student community during this trying period when Singapore came to a standstill. We’ve sought to represent a diverse range of experiences on how fellow students have coped with these changes and have emerged stronger. Here are some letters written by our NTU students.

Ng Jun Yi, Mechanical Engineering, Year 2  – (Local Student), Student Integration Committee

Dear COVID-19,

You took the world by storm, and certainly my world too. I never realised how many privileges I had taken for granted – the privilege to go out whenever and wherever, the privilege to meet whoever I wanted. These were the things I never thought would be taken away from me, even if it were just for a period. Being an extroverted person with a love for travel, this Circuit Breaker had been especially difficult for me. I scroll through my phone just to get a reminisce of the fond memories I’ve created and the beautiful places I’ve been to. 

I’ve learnt to appreciate what I have in life even more, and to prioritise what’s important to me, building and maintaining the relationships with people close to me, focusing and improving on myself career-wise. After all, it doesn’t help to mope around and remain negatively affected about what I can’t control. In fact, I’m still planning for my next destination when this is all over.

The world may not remain the same, but that’s not enough of a deterrent for me to stop growing and dreaming.

Yap Gine Hann, Mechanical Engineering, Year 1 – International Student (Malaysian), Student Integration Committee

Dear COVID-19,

You wrecked all our plans apart. Our ambitious, colourful, exciting 2020 plans are now in complete shambles. You didn’t warn us, you came like a swift thief – and months later everything we know, the way of life that we originally had, were gone. 

But I want to thank you. I have so so much to thank you for. 

I thank you for the times I can reach out to my old friends, to call them and tell them the “I miss you”s that I should have told them long ago. I thank you for the loneliness that compelled me to call my family and say the “I love you”s that I should have told them long ago. I thank you for locking me in the dorm, forcing me to come to terms with myself, with you and with God when I should have done it long ago. I thank you for showing me that I’m actually so weak inside, and I really, really need the love of God & others to sustain… 

I thank you for telling me that I can cast my restless self away, and just rest… I thank you for turning my attention away from myself to others, to the world that’s beleaguered with social issues… I thank you for teaching me that what I thought was important (studying, grades), was actually not. In fact, there’s so much I can do for the world… which I should have known long ago. 

So I thank you. 

You’ll be here for a long haul. But that’s okay. As much havoc as there is in the world everyday, we are waking up to find ourselves stronger. Though we are weak, yet we are feeling more powerful day by day. Though we are limited, yet we never felt more alive. Though there’s so much to despair, yet never have we found so much to hope for. Though you meant it for evil, yet we can see how God meant it for good.

So I thank you.

Elitsa Ivanova Georgieva – NBS Year 1 – International Exchange – (Europe)

Dear COVID-19,

For some you are a myth, others see you as a monster waiting for us to crack, some paint you as a nature savior. Who are you really? Are you the bad guy here to destroy us or to teach us lessons?

This year I went on an exchange to Singapore. The first semester was a blast! I fell in love with the country, its people, the university, and nature. Words aren’t enough to express my love for this beautiful place. Sadly, you came upon us during my second semester. We all became depressed, scared, and fearful. Many exchange students forgot the joy of experiencing this exciting culture, and many of the locals felt extremely anxious due to the circumstances. It was hard for everyone to keep up their spirits. Most of my friends left because of you, my music room got locked, you captured the one I never thought you would and took him away from me. I saw you as the devil, the one lurking in the hospitals my parents work at, and I pray they will hide well while you count.

My soul was aching. As the world was closing down, my life was changing drastically. That’s when I knew I needed to be strong. I had to change my routine into a colorful one filled with reading, writing, singing, training, and online socializing.

COVID-19, I will not thank you. However, I will tell you that I am not scared of you anymore. I saw the world change in front of my eyes and I know we learn each day how strong we are. We all do what we can, we spend more time with the ones we love and we finally truly see how important it is to cherish every moment. With this newfound power and united strength, you do not stand a chance.

Natasha Chawdhry, Public Policy and Global Affairs Year 4, International Student (Canada)

Dear COVID-19, 

You first arrived when I was away from my family.

I was lucky enough to be able to fly back home before the circuit-breaker, only to arrive home where my entire family was under quarantine. I am privileged, in that my family quarantined themselves with me, and after 3 months away from them, we are able to spend quality time together. 

Although you may have cut my exchange short, some good things did come from the frantic trip back home. When I heard you had come to Canada, I was scared, and needless to say, worried for my family, and my friends, one of whom sadly had gotten infected. I’ve been able to stave off boredom by going for walks, and keeping my mind busy. I read, and I write; I work, and I volunteer – all from the safety of my home.

Canada is slowly beginning to ease its restrictions, but still we remain inside, at least for the time being. That is by no means a bad thing, necessarily. I have been able to play board games, and was able to take a moment to disconnect from the busy city and school life that has kept most of us students busy for almost our entire lives.

I suppose I thank you for giving me some time off to reflect on life, and most importantly, get a good rest.

Younghoon Jung – NBS Year 2 –  (Local Student)

Dear COVID-19,

When I first heard about you through online newspaper article, I thought you were just like any other seasonal virus – along the lines of MERS, H1N1 and swine flu. Little did I expect you to be this dangerous, claiming the lives of many and drastically changing the way we live. We are no longer able to meet our friends for dinner anymore. We cannot travel overseas with our families and friends anymore. Whatever we have thought of to be “normal” is not the norm anymore. In short, our lives have been turned upside down, and probably will stay so till you completely leave us alone.

Personally, I was looking forward to my overseas internship and exchange program. At first, I was extremely disappointed and furious as I had prepared extensively during the semester. However, I came to realise that perhaps you are giving me opportunity to grow stronger. I had more time to upgrade my skills through many free online courses, expand my knowledge in areas I am interested in and most importantly, rest well so that I have enough energy to move forward to the next stages of my life.

Although you have made our lives difficult, you won’t stop us from moving forward. After all, humans are strong – much stronger than we expect ourselves to be. I will definitely remain resilient and focus on growing and improving myself, undeterred by whatever problems you throw at me.

During this unprecedented period, NTUSU would like to remind everyone to stay vigilant and take care of one another. Together, we’re stronger. Take care everyone!

Read More: OP-ED: What Multi-Cultural Singapore Can Take Away From The Black Lives Matter Movement

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