Around the world in 21 hours + 55 minutes (and 14 days)

After spending a year in Boston as an MS Advertising student, I was excited to go back home to Malaysia. While I felt somewhat unsure about whether I got the most of my experience during my last year in Boston, I had to return home because of COVID-19. 

I left Boston on July 31st, exactly 365 days since I arrived after completing my bachelor’s degree at Penn State. Although I attended class in-person during my first semester in the fall of 2020, I ended up switching to remote classes in spring 2021 and had been planning to return home to Malaysia since early in 2021. 

When I was in Malaysia, my parents did everything they could to ensure my comfort. At no time did I have to rely on myself until I went overseas. Even when I was in the U.S., my parents did everything they could to support me. However, I realized that if anything happened to me during the COVID-19 pandemic, my family might not be able to visit me. On the other hand, if something happened at home, I would not be able to get home in time to assist my family either. It was quite scary and frustrating to see the rate at which travel arrangements and regulations changed, and this level of uncertainty was not easy to stand with.

While this may have seemed counterintuitive given that I was physically in Boston at that time, I had no way of knowing the dramatic vaccine-related advances that 2021 would hold. I also did not account for the plans to return to in-person learning that the school had announced for the fall. Fortunately, my coursework was offered remotely this semester, allowing me to follow through with my plan to go home. 

My flight took me from Boston’s Logan Airport to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia via Qatar. I always felt a great amount of anxiety and discomfort when flying, and this time was no exception because of COVID-19. I would need to be quarantined for 14 days after arriving in Malaysia. I was pleased to learn that we could book our stay at our quarantine center of choice and our transportation to the center in question online. 

I was happy to book my stay at the Dorsett Grand Hotel. Part of the booking included the services of a chauffeur-driven van, to carry both myself and my luggage to the hotel. I was satisfied with the safety offered by having the vehicle to myself, and not sharing it with other travelers.

A panoramic view of Subang Jaya township outside my hotel.

Landing in Malaysia was both exciting and scary at the same time. It was pleasant to be home, but I felt that the atmosphere in Malaysia was quite dark because of the pandemic. I found the two-week stay in quarantine very daunting but was pleased with the quality of the accommodation available at the hotel. I was tested once upon arrival, and once on my tenth day, out of the fourteen, at the hotel. I was concerned about any potential exposure to COVID-19 while flying. Fortunately, I was not infected. 

In the hotel, I found Netflix to be a good resource. I enjoyed watching shows like “Star Trek the Next Generation” from the 1980s. I occasionally walked around my room to deal with any sense of claustrophobia or inactivity from being cooped up in one place for too long. 

I was served three meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all of which were made up of a variety of different cuisines. My hotel provided a sweeping view of the city of Subang Jaya. As 14 days in a hotel was almost an eternity, it was nice to see the “Land of the Living” outside, where I observed quite a large number of people and vehicles moving about. The number of cars in the city center was a fair bit more than the much smaller number that I observed later on, on my way home in a taxi. 

Siu Mai.
Sardine rolls.

However, as nice as the hotel was, there was no greater feeling than when I was allowed to go home from the center. When I was abroad in the U.S., I had to learn to survive without the support of my family and, during COVID-19, this pressure of being overseas alone was terrifying. I felt immense relief being home with my family. 

Mohnish Kananathan, Terriers Abroad Blogger

Mohnish Kananathan is a Terriers Abroad Blogger for The COMmunicator, writing about his experience as a graduate student studying remotely from his home in Malaysia. As an M.S Advertising graduate student, Mohnish has served in project management and account management roles in advertising internships. A passionate car enthusiast, he hopes to pursue a career related to advertising in the automotive industry. His hobbies include driving his classic 80s Mercedes-Benz 300SEL and watching Star Trek. He also has a beginner’s understanding of German.

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