CLOSED EMBASSIES MADE IT DIFFICULT TO GET STUDENT VISAS
Beth Salas, who has just started her MBA at Nyenrode University in the Netherlands, is from the Philippines but was working in Malaysia and had accepted her offer before the pandemic began. A four-month lockdown in Malaysia made her wonder whether she would be able to make the start, she says, “especially because the worth of my savings dwindled significantly the moment the lockdown lifted because of the Ringgit losing heavily to the Euro.”
However, she had her heart set on a career outside Asia. “I guess I was full of the belief that life will go on after the pandemic, so I still chose to be where I wanted to be when all this is over,” she says.
What made the situation particularly stressful, she says, was the uncertainty. Embassies were closed or functioning with a skeleton staff, so visas were not being issued. Beth had to cancel her “employment pass” before getting a passport. Thanks to a canceled appointment that she was able to take, she managed to secure her passport just a day before she was due to fly.
“There was a lot of last-minute stuff that I didn’t think would work out, but somehow did,” Beth says.
“At one point I thought that it’d be impossible to make it to the Netherlands and considered Japan instead, but eventually I decided that I had a plan and I wanted to be in a place I was happy once COVID is over.”
A MiM BRINGS ONE STUDENT FROM TURKEY TO BERLIN
Ekin Su Matkap, from Turkey, got an offer to study a MiM at ESMT, in Berlin, in March and applied for a visa that she expected to receive in May. However, visa centerss closed and when they re-opened were hard to contact, and prioritized tourist visas over educational ones. In mid-September, as her program’s orientation week began in Berlin, she finally got an appointment, although it could still be four to six weeks until she receives her visa.
“I am being optimistic, and hoping I will arrive in mid-October, though it could still be later,” Ekin says. She participated in orientation week virtually and says that the school has made a great effort to try to integrate those who are not yet on campus, but that her experience is very different from a normal first week of university. She will start taking classes via Zoom, which she says she can accept because even those on campus are taking 50 percent of theirs in the same way.
“It has been a very frustrating time, but I never considered giving up because I am concerned the currency will devalue further if I wait, and also my parents are supporting me so I do not want to be a burden on them,” says Ekin. “It has been a bad experience, but I don’t want to wait any longer.”
THE LONG ROAD FROM CHINA TO FRANCE
Yinuo Yu, from China, only received her visa to come to France to study in INSEAD’s first-ever MiM in August. “I waited for six weeks to get my visa, and eventually had a flight booked for September 7,” she says.
However, a storm that evening meant she could no longer fly from Guangzhou but had to switch to Shanghai – a three-hour drive from where she was living. The new flight connecting rather than a direct one and was three hours longer.
Heroically, Yinou had chosen to wear full personal protective gear while on the plane, including a mask, large goggles, and gloves. “I didn’t want to be responsible for spreading the virus to my classmates in Paris,” she explains. “All it takes is for one person to be infected, undiagnosed, and we would all have it. It was the worst flight ever. It was a nightmare, I was sweating so much that the skin on my hands went wrinkly.”
After her ordeal, though, Yinou arrived in Fontainebleau, where INSEAD has its French campus and has now started her MiM. “I’m learning a lot,” she says. “It’s challenging, but my team members are helping me a lot.”
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