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Working Abroad While Adjusting to Global Changes

Higher Education Expat - Sheltering Abroad Battling Two Virus Threats & a Cyclone

Empty Lecture Hall

The landscape of higher education has been disrupted worldwide. I am not making a radical statement if you are reading this article as a higher education professional globally. You are living the reality in similar ways like myself. Professionally, I grew up in the US higher education system from small to large, from the private to public institutions and almost everything in between. I leaped in 2007 into international higher education by moving abroad to lead a residential life program of 9000 beds in the Middle East. I returned to the US for a moment at the end of 2009, then back to my passion for #highereducation abroad.

My second leap was in 2012, and I have continued the journey until now. However, like many of you, when the virus (COVID-19) was located in its initial epicenter and only mildly spreading in Asia, I had just started a new position in student affairs at an institution in #Bangladesh. Our leadership had a conversation about what we would do if our city, Dhaka, was impacted. We created plans, laid out the realities, then waited.

An Emerging Nation Experience

I work in an emerging nation. One that is not on the radar in higher education, much less the rest of the world unless you are following the Rohingya Crisis. Cox’s Bazar region of the nation has many Rohingya refugees. However, many of you have a part of this country’s primary source of GDP in your daily life, the clothing you wear or fabric items you have in your home. An emerging country seeking to develop its infrastructure for increased capacity or an education system to decrease brain drain, and grow, Bangladesh was soon faced with its 1st officially confirmed COVID-19 case. As a highly dense city, #Dhaka lacks the capacity for too many pandemics like some of its more developed Asian countries. However, what it may lack in advancement, it more than compensates in resourcefulness and willingness to find creative alternatives.

Intersection in Dhaka with bus, and other vehicles
Intersection in Dhaka - Sazzad Aryan/Unsplash

So I am also managing the potential of a second virus infection, with no known cure, but very treatable. The second is dengue. A virus transmitted by a mosquito which is here year-round and in increasing numbers during a wet/rainy period. They also breed throughout the year as the city has stagnant water in many places and a few lakes. However, the city is ready for this virus. There are nightly fumigations, supplies of sprays, and various types of repellents for your home and body. There is also the trusted mosquito net that you hoist over your bed for added protection at night.

So I have adjusted my mindset to staying at home while swatting mosquitoes. Then the news came on 18 May; a “super cyclone” was forming in the Bay of Bengal. A #cyclone, also known as hurricane or typhoon in other regions of the world, is common here during the monsoon (rainy) season. However, it had been 20 years since a cyclone of this magnitude formed in the bay. It was heading for the coastline where Bangladesh and India share a border. Okay, I live inland in Dhaka; however, it was projected that the wind and rain would reach the city and slightly beyond. Cyclone Amphan, as it was named, had a sustainable wind range from 155-165 kph (102 mph) when it made landfall. By the time it reached Dhaka, it was torrential rain and howling winds. I could hear metal items banging outside and rain pounding on the windows. I was in my safe zone of the house where my final drift off to sleep was about 4 am. Frankly, the cyclone increased my anxiety and stress level as I was unsure what to expect being inland.