COVID-19 disrupted my plans, but it didn’t stop me from moving forward

The pandemic foiled my internship and summer plans, but I found it's still possible to spend my time meaningfully.

Ashley Tan Yu Yi

Published: 12 June 2020, 12:55 PM

COVID-19 has been a great disrupter of plans and schedules. From cancelled internship opportunities to postponed trips with friends, feeling like the pandemic has pulled the rug underneath our feet is a shared experience.

I remember feeling frustrated when I first received news that the summer programme I had applied for was cancelled. As an undergraduate studying in France, I had been looking forward to spending my time exploring Paris over the school break.

With the sudden change of plans, anxiety over finding an alternative arrangement to fill my holidays gnawed at me. After all, summer internships and opportunities often require applications months before the commencement date.

With the cancellation of my summer programme, I felt a great amount of uncertainty surrounding how I should spend my summer. PHOTO CREDIT: ASHLEY TAN

Many of my friends had similar experiences — their internships and summer activities had either been cancelled or postponed, and any travel plans were also ruined. Disappointment was palpable all around.

However, despite COVID-19 foiling my plans and bringing a great amount of inconvenience, I haven’t let it prevent me from moving forward with new pursuits.

It’s common for us to plan for overseas trips with friends or family during the summer holidays, but these have been delayed due to COVID-19. PHOTO CREDIT: ANDRE BENZ VIA UNSPLASH

While planning ahead and manoeuvring life’s curveballs are good traits to adopt, doing it isn’t always easy. Thankfully, growing up in a digitally connected world where I could Google “things to do during COVID-19” gave me a better sense of direction and helped me discover a couple of things I could do with my time.

Enrolling for an online music course

Given that I’ve played an instrument for years but never studied it as an academic subject, I decided to sign up for a free music course offered by Coursera to fill time during the circuit breaker.

Vivaldi and Corelli’s music had always appealed to me, but understanding the specific characteristics that underpinned the Baroque period helped me better understand why I enjoyed 17th Century music.

Online platforms like Udemy offer free courses on topics including coding, photography, astronomy and personal development. PHOTO CREDIT: LEWIS KEEGAN VIA UNSPLASH

The pandemic has opened up many online learning courses through platforms like Udemy, edX and Open Culture. If you’re a typical Singaporean youth like me, your eyes would likely light up if something that is both useful and free is presented to you.

A couple of my friends also signed up for coding courses together to both learn a new skill and “keep each other in check”. They were worried that they might register for a course only to abandon it halfway through, so they signed up with a partner to hold each other accountable.

While the courses haven’t been easy, we have still been having fun with them!

Reaching out to volunteer organisations

Another thing I did during the circuit breaker was to reconnect with, an organisation that I had worked with over a couple of years before I left for my studies overseas.

Speaking with my mentor made it easy to identify ongoing projects I could help with, such as organising dialogues aiming to foster a better understanding of different racial groups.

In a way, this provided me with a renewed sense of purpose, especially amidst the pandemic.

The crisis has highlighted that Singapore still has a way to go in terms of embracing racial and religious acceptance over tolerance. It has also shown us that more work needs to be done to build a more inclusive society that cares for groups such as migrant workers.

Knowing that I’m playing a small role to foster conversations and provoke thought on this issue has made the effort worthwhile.

Helping others often provides us with a sense of purpose. PHOTO CREDIT: GIVING.SG WEBSITE

There are many other organisations that have been recruiting youths to volunteer or work on new initiatives. For instance, some of my friends have pointed out that SG United is always on the lookout for volunteers to contribute through blood donations or serving as chaperones for senior citizens during the pandemic.

Pursuing a passion project

While the circuit breaker has brought stress and anxiety, it has also given us more time to pursue passion projects.

For me, this has taken on the form of working on a Zine (an informal magazine) with a couple of friends. Compiling and editing stories, along with illustrations, had always been something I wanted to pursue, and the pandemic provided me with that opportunity.

While planning for this, my friends and I were also inspired by the turn of events, and are now hoping to find a way to sell copies of the Zine before donating profits to organisations dedicated to helping those affected by the pandemic.

Some other interesting projects that my friends have been working on include sewing a dress from scratch, creating an online game about the circuit breaker, pursuing a work-from-home baking business, and even launching an online startup.

These have only highlighted youths’ ability to adapt to current circumstances and find new ways to innovate, even in difficult times.

Cookies made by a friend who started a home bakery business during the circuit breaker, after realising that there was a market for home-made food. PHOTO CREDIT: BERNICE TOK

The project doesn’t always need to be big or require tons of energy. As long as it’s something you’re passionate about and can focus your energy on, it can bring a sense of fulfilment. It could also be an interesting bullet point on your resume, or a fun story to share about how you spent your summer in the midst of a pandemic.

I’ve realised that being upset in the face of uncertainty is normal. Initially, the pandemic had left me feeling rather down, especially given all the plans it had upended.

But as time passed, I also realised that the crisis has taught me many crucial lessons. It’s shown me the importance of resilience, and how we can and will adapt even in trying times, as long as we keep an open mind.

So even if my holiday doesn’t turn the way I had hoped, at least I know that I explored my options and tried my best to make it meaningful.

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