Irene García Amaral – Global Perspectives during COVID-19

At the WCIA, we understand that the outbreak of COVID-19 has been difficult for so many people across the world. At the beginning of the pandemic, we reached out to people worldwide to share global perspectives on COVID-19, recognising the global nature of the issue, and some of the similarities and differences of experiences in different countries. We wanted to identify and share both the positive and negative stories emerging from the situation. Over a year on from the start of the pandemic, we’re reaching out again…

Originally from Madrid, Santi works in our WCIA Communications team. He has a background in Communications, Latin American Politics, and Spanish teaching. He reached out to Irene García Amaral, a Portuguese national based in Porto studying engineering at the university and recently arrived from an academic period abroad via Erasmus+ program.

Here’s her story

My personal thoughts about last year? I think it’s created a sense of adaptability. We all have learned together at every level. Specifically, being an engineering student at the university, I see supposedly advanced countries without the ability to provide online teaching. It is simple, and yet it took a while for us to adapt to innovative ways of learning and teaching thanks to new technologies. In the engineering industry, so many companies had to close down their activity. But slowly but surely they too had to adapt to a new, unexpected environment. These type of situations are not really covered in any how-to manual. Relatedly, there is increasing flexibility for employees that can work remotely, for example.

“I think it’s created a sense of adaptability”

At a personal level, I rather focus on the positive. I have learned to be at ease with myself. There are plenty of people who feel the need to be social constantly. Well, now we come to understand that, although caused by a force majeure, there is too happiness in spending time with oneself. It is amazing how much solidarity and generosity the pandemic has brought. Seeing death, hunger or unemployment, just to name a few, makes you reflect about the role you want to play in the world. At the University of Porto, I joined a volunteer program providing support to international students who would suffer from isolation, anxiety or lack of resources. When the pandemic started, I could see free food baskets in the streets of Porto for those most impacted by it. Isn’t that a beautiful gesture? It is incredible seeing how many people have joined to help out! This gives me hope for the future and motivates me to keep getting involved in social causes. That is what human kindness means.

“I joined a volunteer program providing support to international students who would suffer from isolation, anxiety or lack of resources”

In September 2020, I had the chance to go to Valencia for an Erasmus+ program. There I saw a completely new face of the pandemic. I made everlasting friends and enjoyed a nice Mediterranean city without tourists. Contrary to what everybody told me at the beginning, I did many things. Maybe I got to know my friends at a more personal level. And that has been very satisfying. Talking about adapting, we enjoyed our socially distanced life in the outdoors before curfew. The idea was not be down for what we couldn’t do, rather being happy for that we were allowed to do. New life, new ways.

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