What COVID-19 is teaching me: Karina Cheah, USA

Karina Cheah square


The COVID-19 crisis is a global challenge for people from all over the world and all walks of life. Discover our interview series how they experience the current situation and which lessons they are drawing from their time in lockdown.

Karina Cheah had just started her internship at Initiatives of Change Switzerland when the COVID-19 crises started and she had to move back to the US in a hurry.


What is your current situation? How is the spread of COVID-19 impacting you?

My name is Karina Cheah. I am currently back in the States (DC area) after my university’s study program in Geneva ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am spending 14 days in self-isolation, and what happens afterwards depends on what regulations are next put in place, but the pandemic seems such that I will be staying home for several weeks.


Describe in 3 words how you are feeling right now?

Disappointed but grateful and curious.


What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

Coming to terms with the end of my planned semester abroad and having to readjust to this unexpected turnaround.


What are the lessons you have already learned from this time?

I’m confined to two rooms due to my quarantine, so I’ve had to look for ways to keep my morale up and pass the time. Walks outside (while practicing safe social distancing, of course) are a great way to give myself a break and keep morale up, especially when working from home.

Also, if there’s ever a time to try things you’ve always wanted to, it’s now. I’m teaching myself ukulele and learning more about Thai history between classes and work.


Do you practice quiet time? If yes: what is your practice and how does it help you?

I take a little time at the end of every day to write a short journal entry on the good things that happened that day, my thoughts on the day, and my aspirations for tomorrow. If I really need to reset during the day, I make tea or hot chocolate and listen to music without looking at my phone.


What are your best tips and tricks to fight anxiety/loneliness/uncertainty (whichever you struggle most with)?

I’ve turned off my news notifications and stopped looking at the updates as often to try and lower my anxiety, and it helps a lot to not have doomsday headlines popping up on my screen every hour.


How can we connect with others and support them when we have to barricade ourselves?

Keep in regular contact with friends and family. Most of us are inside now – there's no reason not to reach out to someone you have been thinking about or want to talk to. In those conversations, catch up on things you’ve missed in each other’s lives or trade stories. Forget about the virus, even if just for a little. It’s refreshing.


What made you laugh today?

My dad trying to teach our dog, Moose, to do yoga. It didn’t go so well.


How would you (as a person) like to emerge from this crisis?

I’m hoping to be more resilient and more optimistic, and who knows what else the crisis will bring?


What are you grateful for?

I’m so, so grateful for the experience that I did get to have in Geneva, even though it was drastically shortened, and for the IofC team in Geneva who are helping to keep me busy and sane by staying in contact. I’m lucky enough to have an amazing network of family and friends around me who understand my disappointment about the semester ending the way it did and who are supporting me and each other to push through this surreal experience.


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