How the Pandemic Turned my Life Upside Down: One Co-op Student’s Story

How the Pandemic Turned my Life Upside Down: One Co-op Student’s Story

By: Thuy An Lam
  1370 reads

It was just another Tuesday morning, but I did not wake up to the usual alarm. I woke up to the constant “dings” from the messages I received. I remember thinking, “Dang, why did I forget to mute my phone?” while trying to open my eyes to check my phone. All of the messages were from my mom and my sister, who lived in Vietnam. The gist of the messages were, “We really think you should quit your job and come home immediately.” Of course, my instinctive thought was, “Did something bad happen to our family? What happened?” But little did I know they were concerned about the widely spread virus, the Coronavirus. At the time, WHO did not announce that it was a pandemic, the Canadian government did not give any instructions for its citizens, and certainly, SFU still operated like normal. I still had to go to work like every other day. 

Waking up to these messages really stressed me out. I had just settled into a new basement suite. A month prior, I was searching for a new place to rent, signing contracts, and finding movers. And in the midst of going to work and cleaning the new place, my family was really asking me to quit my Co-op position and find a flight ticket to go back instantly? I recall going to work without being able to focus on my tasks, all I did was think about talking to my manager, my supervisor, and my Co-op coordinator, and see what was the best action to take. I set up a meeting with my Co-op coordinator right away that afternoon. I was, as expected, the first student to ever bring up the issue of wanting to go home due to the virus because it was not widespread in BC yet. I thought they would take a really long time to consider this request. I was wrong. My coordinator immediately talked to her manager and connected with my supervisor and manager. They all worked together to try and provide solutions to my situation, and I was given the green light to go back as soon as I could, the day after I met with my coordinator.

What about work? How am I going to complete my Co-op work term? Without even asking, it was as if my manager already read my mind, she reassured me by saying, “You can work remotely from home, once or twice per week.” 

“Will that suffice the minimum work hours per term?” I asked. 

She calmly said, “That should not be your worry! We will work our way around it. You should be worried about getting home!” 

I held back my tears and deep down, all I felt was thankful for having such a kind-hearted, caring, and sympathetic manager. On top of that, my supervisor also allowed me to have one week off to settle in, and I could not thank her enough because I really needed a break, even though I said I did not. My supervisor sent me instructions to access files remotely, I also sent myself all of the necessary files before I flew back in case I could not. We agreed that I would work every Tuesday, and if I need more time, my supervisor would also allow me to work an extra day the same week. My supervisor will send me tasks each week, and I will report to her what tasks I complete and what else I have to continue to work on. 

I booked a flight to go back on March 14th at 1:45 am, which allowed me to have around 3 days to complete the major tasks at work and pack to go home. Even though I could still work at least once a week and still be able to communicate with my colleagues through email, goodbyes were hard. 

To tell you the truth, I still do not know when I am going back to Canada. All I know is I am super grateful for my mom and my sister for being a step ahead of everyone else and hurrying me to go back home, as well as the CMNS Co-op program, my manager, and my supervisor for being super attentive and caring. The day I flew back home, there were about 100 cases in Canada; after just two weeks, the number of cases rose to more than 11,000. 

Beyond the Article

 
About Author

Thuy An is a 3rd-year Communications student at SFU. She worked an 8-month long co-op term for her first position as a Special Program Assistant for FAS co-op. She enjoys taking food photography and trying new restaurants on a regular basis.

 

about author 2
Posted on April 17, 2020