There’s something about travelling back to your home country after being in a foreign country for so long. It feels somehow special, knowing that you are on your way back home to be reunited with your family and back to familiar surroundings. I’m sure most international students would understand what I mean. However, going home in the current times would definitely feel different from any other times. Extra measures and precautions needed to be put in place to ensure health and safety.
After the news of the pandemic broke out, I was unsure whether I should pack up and leave because there were so many uncertainties. My brother was able to make some arrangements to go home as soon as possible. I, on the other hand, had a lot of things to consider before leaving everything behind. Time was not on my side. Everything was arranged on short notice, and I was still unsure. So I decided to stay in the UK until everything had sort of settled down and I knew for sure that I could peacefully leave everything behind temporarily.
I am currently in my final year, which explains how worried I was (well, still am) about how this would affect my studies and if I will ever come back to finish my studies. I’m not really the kind of person who would just do things on a whim. So I wanted to make sure that I at least have some sort of plan or answers to my questions for my peace of mind before I decide to head home. At least some of my friends are still around, so we depended on each other for support instead of our families. We’ve promised each other that we will go home together.
I had initially planned to go back home before Eid, but of course, I couldn’t due to the lockdown, travel bans and closed borders. I waited for what felt like forever to hear news about available flights to go back home. Finally, around the end of May, we were told that there will be a flight available to bring us back home sometime in June. I used this as a motivation to finish all my assignments, so I could prepare myself and relax before going home. It kept me in good spirits which is what I needed the most especially now.
The scheduled flight was last Saturday. My friends and I had to take a taxi from Birmingham to London to catch the flight. We were all nervous and anxious about the journey back home. Still, we were also excited to be going back to our home country and be reunited with our families. It is only right for us to miss home and family more at times like this.
When we arrived at the airport, it looked empty. We were only able to see passengers on the same flight as us at the airport. There were signs everywhere, reminding everyone to practise social distancing and to wear a face covering. There were also hand sanitisers at different places in the terminal so we could maintain proper hygiene. Shops were closed except for Boots and WHSmith, so there wasn’t much to see or do at the airport. It was weird to see the airport looking so empty. It was a whole new experience.
During the flight, a seat was left empty between each passenger. We were also repeatedly reminded to wear our face mask for the whole duration of the flight. Meals were provided using disposable trays and disposable utensils. The cabin crews wore protective gear to limit contact with the passengers, but everything else felt normal.
So, after 13 hours in the plane, I am finally back in my home country, Brunei! As soon as we arrived, we were separated into groups to ensure that we practise social distancing. We were then escorted out to the arrival hall where we were briefed on the mandatory self-isolation policy. After that, we were sent in groups to the assigned place where we would be completing our 14 days of self-isolation.
This experience was somehow eye-opening to me. This is something everyone would have to get used to for a while. This would be our new norm. It is a difficult time, but we must stay positive. We need to remind ourselves that life should go on and make the best out of the current situation. I do hope that I will be back in the UK to complete my final year, and I’m looking forward to graduating. Hopefully, by then, everything will return back to normal.