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Guyana – the land of many waters – is a country blessed with Amazon rain forests, sparkling rivers, sandy beaches, magnificent waterfalls, and inspiring educational institutions, all of which are now under lockdown due to COVID-19. The pandemic has led to dramatic alterations in everyday life of students living in Guyana. Things that were once taken for granted, such as seeing friends across campus, the rush of arriving to class on time in the morning, etc., now seem like things of the past.
Being isolated in my room, with not much freedom to go out or anywhere, was stressful. The quarantine made it difficult to complete the group projects that I had. For someone like me, who is used to spending most days on campus between classes and the library, being at home is a real motivation-killer. However, I wouldn’t let it overtake me. I refused to let oversleeping become a counter-product of boredom. I took an introspective look and noted down areas I could explore. For instance, I didn’t like cooking before. One of the most significant hurdles any student faces when migrating is meeting their dietary needs, as most of us don’t know how to cook. But, with no canteen food and having to cook meals at home every day, I developed an interest in it. Besides, it’s a lifesaving skill. It helps us stay healthy and makes us feel less homesick.
With this in mind, I then realized that a change in perspective is all I needed at this hour. If you start thinking that you’re stuck in your room, it can be quite demoralizing. Instead, we should condition our thoughts to: “I’m safe in my room, and I’ve got opportunities to do things that require my concentration.” So, I started to follow a routine. It not only helped me with my sleep patterns but also kept me motivated to do my work.
As the world is under complete lockdown, doctors and frontline officers are still at work trying their best to bring things back to normal. Being a medical student, I must do my best with what I’ve been given. TAU’s initiative for online classes on Skype/Zoom has helped me cope with my studies and kept me busy on most days from 8 to 4 pm. Albeit, it is quite a challenge for both students and the faculty. The electricity and Wi-Fi issues do add to the challenge during the online classes. With that being said, the faculty and staff are available throughout the day at any point in time for our reach. Their encouragement and support have been of most help during this pandemic. The library has taken an initiative to send eBooks via e-mail to help students study. However, personally, I would choose hard copy books over eBooks any day. Though an online class can never match the physical presence in the classroom, it is the best that we have now, and staff and faculty of TAU are doing their best for which I really appreciate them. As a class representative, this lockdown has increased my workload; it’s also helping me with time management and multi-tasking, which is very important for me as a doctor.
With the leftover time that I have, I find myself watching a movie or two, reading books, and mostly spending time with my family. The interesting stories about my mom’s patients, my dad’s jokes, and the fights with my brother is a blessing. Due to my busy schedule and the huge time difference, I had difficulties staying in touch with my family so often. But, this quarantine has given me the opportunity to stay in touch with them. I also manage to keep a check on my friends and colleagues — it’s about reassuring each other that we are there to help. Honestly, I feel It’s ok to be not ok at the moment, but dwelling on the negatives is not ok. Guyana and TAU have all the amenities and opportunities to unwind while pursuing a medical degree, despite the lockdown. For me, personally, it is like a home away from home.
The quarantine period is an opportunity for all of us to do so many things that we couldn’t before. We just need to spend some time figuring out what they are. If nothing else, I hope you take away a little motivation from an inside look into my life under lockdown. I still look forward to returning to the classroom, learning in-person, meeting up friends, and going for grocery shopping.
Ms. Ashwini Bhonsle, MD