Traveling with COVID-19

If you're like me and like traveling a lot, chances are high that you are now sitting at home, already sick of home office and studying from home. You are thinking of all the adventures you can start as soon as the COVID-19 situation gets better and some countries open up their borders again. Or simply that you don't have to go to quarantine for another 10 days when you get back.

Maybe now this is the perfect time for a semester abroad. There is probably not much tourism going on in your host city and you don't need to bother about the possibility of quarantine, since it's anyway more likely that your studies continue remotely.

These at least were my thoughts, when I started to plan my Erasmus semester in Gothenburg, Sweden. In this article, I am going to share my experiences with you and all the advantages and disadvantages of doing a semester abroad during these uncertain times. To be honest upfront, why did I choose this semester for going abroad? I had always wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to study at somewhere other than Leoben during my studies. And up until recently, every time I was about to start planning for my Erasmus semester I got stuck with a lot of work and skipped it. Again and again. But I realized that it was the last semester of my master's degree and therefore my last chance.

So when planning your stay abroad, of course you face a few additional hurdles due to COVID-19. There are less flights available to choose from. You need to not only stay informed about all the COVID-19 regulations in your destination country (which was easy for me as an EU-citizen going to Sweden with no regulations), but also the countries you're passing through if you have a change. That was a tough one for me, only because I had to change flights in the Netherlands. I had to get a PCR-Test which was not older than 72 hours. And believe me, if you live in the countryside of Styria as I did in the time before I left, there is only a small time window left for taking the test.

And then, there is the fact that you need to wear a mask all the time during your journey. On the plane, at the airport, in the taxi, just everywhere. And this can get quite exhausting over time. I don't know how other people here at my university in Sweden who arrived from India or China survived this ordeal. But considering the situation on airplanes, it was probably a good idea, because all seats were taken in the row and you were sitting shoulder to shoulder with your neighbor.

But on the other side, traveling during a pandemic also has its upsides. The biggest upside when preparing my stay here was for sure that it appeared to me that maybe not so many students as usual were doing a semester here in Gothenburg. Usually it is quite hard to find a flat or a room here in Gothenburg, especially if you are as well prepared as me and start to search for rooms in December. But due to the current situation, there are lots of free places in student apartments which you would have to sign up for 1-2 years ahead during “normal” times. So this also gives late deciders the possibility to get a room for a really good price. And of course, after such a long time of not traveling it feels really awesome to be at the airport again, even if there are nearly no people there and none of the shops are open.

Concluding this article, I would definitely give out the recommendation to use this time for a semester abroad. Because chances are really good that you get a place at a university, where places otherwise would be rare. And despite of COVID-19 you get a chance to travel and escape your comfort zone (or simply your room). If you have the chance, Sweden is a nice place to go to at the moment because, let's put it like this, the government and the people here have another approach of dealing with the virus. Stay tuned and I will soon share my experiences with you.

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