Right now, traveling anywhere can seem like Mission Impossible. But Niels Kristian Damsgaard and 16 of his fellow CBS students have done exactly that.
They are in Hong Kong for their fourth semester as part of the Globe Program. But arriving in Hong Kong came at a price: 21 days of self-isolation, which ended on January 18.
“The day before departing, I was a little nervous about going into isolation for 21 days. That’s a long time to spend in a room. Luckily, we had planned ahead and stayed in the rooms in pairs, which I was really happy about. Otherwise, 21 days would have been very tough,” explains Niels Kristian Damsgaard via a Teams connection from his dorm room.
As it happened, the three-week hotel isolation were less of an ordeal with cabin fever and claustrophobia than Niels Kristian Damsgaard had feared.
Upon arriving at the hotel, the students were guided to their rooms. Niels Kristian Damsgaard and his roomie had ordered an exercise bike for their room, so they could work out a bit, and food was delivered directly to their door three times a day.
“Being in that hotel room gave us a sense of freedom. I could get up whenever I wanted and do exactly what I felt like doing. Watching Netflix, reading books and just relaxing. In Denmark, I did something every day. Worked or studied. So coming from a busy everyday life, it was really what I needed. To truly relax without feeling guilty,” he explains.
On the third week of isolation, their studies in Hong Kong started – online of course.
“After two weeks, it was actually great that we started attending online lectures. Just to do something else,” he says.
Quiz nights on Zoom
The rest of Niels Kristian Damsgaard’s fellow students from CBS all lived in hotel rooms scattered about on the 27th floor of the hotel. So, if they were sitting in the windowsills talking on the phone, some of them could see each other.
However, the students also took turns to arrange online events for each other while in isolation.
“It really helped me to get through this knowing that we were all in the same boat. And every night at around 20:00, we met on Zoom and each room took turns to host an online event. Like a quiz night or draw and guess. We also talked about what people had been up to during the day and discussed the food. It was really nice having something to look forward to every night,” he says.
In general, Niels Kristian Damsgaard is not sad about the way his exchange trip kicked off. Rather the opposite.
“We have had this experience together, and it’s very special. I really feel we have a strong community feeling in the group of CBS students, because we know each other so well now,” he says.
During their isolation, the CBS students also had online calls with the students from Hong Kong and the US who are also part of the program.
Making friends during a pandemic
On January 18, the students were allowed to move from their hotel rooms to their dorm rooms on campus.
“It was SO great to come out and get some fresh air. Being out was actually a little weird at first, though,” says Niels Kristian Damsgaard.
In Hong Kong, the restrictions resemble those in Denmark. You must wear masks everywhere, and may only meet one other person outside your own household. Restaurants close at 18:00, but are open for take away afterwards.
This meant that the 53 students from the Globe Program could only see each other one-on-one. And although you might think that cannot be much fun, it has proven to be a positive experience.
“We have arranged something called Buddy Dates, where each student meets two other Globe students during a week, so over the course of eight weeks, we will have met everyone. We then go for hikes in the surrounding mountains or take strolls in the city, and in that way can actually get to know these people better,” he says and continues:
“If we could gather for bigger events, we may not get to know everyone equally well, but being one-on-one for a day of activities boosts the community feeling and togetherness.”
All in all, Niels Kristian Damsgaard is happy that he even got the chance to visit Hong Kong during the pandemic, and therefore prefers not to see the restrictions as having a negative impact on his stay.
“Of course, I hope the restrictions will loosen up in time, but if the rest of the stay is like this, I think it will be great as well. I’m just grateful that we even had the opportunity to come here,” he says and adds:
“And then it’s a big plus to get away from the Danish winter. It’s around 22 degrees here and ideal for jogging.”