Last March, many of our students in the Master, Advanced Master and Engineering programs were studying abroad.
In fact, 80% of our engineering students spend at least one semester abroad during their studies, whatever the form. As the world is hit by a health crisis, we wanted to provide our students with ongoing personalized support in the situations that each of them is living outside France. Out of the 43 students who were supposed to spend the semester abroad, 20 decided to come back for a traditional semester at the School, while the other 23 were able to follow courses through distance learning at their host universities.
Some of the students on internships abroad decided to continue their activity outside France. Seven of them shared their everyday experiences with us from around the world during the Covid-19 crisis.
Théo NGUYEN and Robin VERON
Chiang Maï / Thailand
Thailand’s Health Minister accused foreigners of having brought Covid-19 into the country
Students in their optional year of the engineering program at ISAE-SUPAERO, Théo NGuyen, 22 (right), and Robin Veron, 21 (left), arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in January of 2020 for a 6-month internship with a major aeronautical parts manufacturer. Upon their arrival, the two students were welcomed by the company which provided them with housing, travel resources and, very quickly, protective masks. When the lockdown in France was announced, Théo immediately started working from home.
Robin said, “It turned out to be a bit more complicated for me because I didn’t have the right tools for working from home. But the company helped me out and did everything so I could work from home as quickly as possible”. At the same time, the students were contacted by ISAE-SUPAERO to arrange to have them come home if necessary. Théo tells us, “The two of us spent long – very long – evenings discussing whether or not we should return to France. We even drew up a risk diagram!” Robin continued, “We decided to stay here, first of all to complete our internship, but also because the trip back to France was going to be long and complicated, as Bangkok was on lockdown. And then we realized we would be taking less of a risk staying here than travelling from airport to airport.”
Since March 26th, Thailand has shut down all businesses not selling basic necessities. “We aren’t quarantined here, but there is a curfew between 10 pm and 4 am. So we can go out. The country was well prepared for a health crisis, as we can easily find masks and hand sanitizer,” the two students said before continuing, “Thailand’s Health Minister announced in the media that Covid-19 had entered the country because of foreigners. They notably said that some of us wore dirty clothes and didn’t take showers... We haven’t had any problems with the population so far, but we have seen some serious racism against Chinese nationals.”
Tokyo / Japan
Here, life goes on as if everything were normal
A student in the Advanced Master program in Aerospace Project Management at ISAE-SUPAERO, Gabriel Delcros, 25, is on an end-of-studies internship in Tokyo, Japan. A few days after his arrival, the country took its first measures against the health crisis.
The student told us, “On March 17th, two days after I got here, the Japanese government imposed a two-week confinement for all foreigners arriving in the country.” Gabriel avoided the quarantine and began his internship at the company’s site until Japan declared a state of emergency. He explained, “After the first two weeks of my internship, my company decided to have me work from home. That was also one of the recommendations from ISAE-SUPAERO. So ever since then I have been working from my apartment, which I share with three other foreign interns.”
In Japan, isolation cannot be decreed, so stores, bars, restaurants, theaters, etc., are still open. Gabriel said, “Here, you don’t need to impose a quarantine, the people do it naturally and they are used to wearing masks throughout the year. I don’t feel like I’m living life any differently than before the health crisis. Here, it’s really like life goes on and everything is normal.”
Singapore has a state-of-the-art medical system
An engineering student in his last year of studies at ISAE-SUPAERO, Alexis Chauville landed in Singapore last March for a 5-month internship with a major aeronautical parts manufacturer. A few days after he got there, the country closed its borders for an indefinite period of time. The student told us, “I could have chosen to go back to France, in fact ISAE-SUPAERO offered to help me come back. But I knew that if I left I would never be able to come back here to finish my internship.”
So on April 6th, he started his internship there, one day before they decreed general home working throughout the country. He was able to meet with his internship supervisor and got what he needed to work from his apartment, which he shared with French and Scottish students. All industries and businesses have been closed since April 7th, 2020, but the quarantine is not as strict in Singapore as in France. So people can walk around freely in the streets and parks so long as they are alone. Alexis summed it up, “I didn’t have to think very long about whether I was going to stay here or go back to France. There are fewer cases of Covid-19 here than in many countries and they have a state-of-the-art healthcare system in Singapore. I’m not worried about my safety at all. Everything is fine here.”
Guillaume BONNIN and Clément BASSE
New Castle/ Delaware / USA
Business as usual! We’re carrying on with our internships on site
Students in their optional year of the ISAE-SUPAERO Engineering program, Guillaume Bonnin and Clément Basse, both 22 years old, are currently on their 6-month internship in the USA, in Delaware. They arrived one month apart, the first in mid-January, the second in mid-February, and they share an apartment in the city of New Castle. At the start of the health crisis in the United States, the American government decided to leave it to each state to define the measures they wanted to take. So since the end of March the governor of Delaware has put a “Stay-at-Home Order” in place, closing all “non-essential businesses” such as bars, restaurants and hair salons.
Clément chuckled, “Thanks to the lockdown, Guillaume now has proof that I was not destined to have a great career in hairdressing.” Guillaume continued, “As aircraft maintenance is considered to be an “essential business”, we continued our internships on site. The company did take various measures such as social distancing and the use of masks.” Clément added, “As they say here, “Business as usual!” We kept on working in the same way until the first case of Covid-19 was detected in the company”.
After a few days in quarantine, the company opened its doors back up for its employees, although many of them could work from home. Clément explained, “For us to be able to keep our visas, we have to put in a minimum number of hours of work. That is one of the reasons why we are still going to the site”. ISAE-SUPAERO offered to bring the two students back to France. The said, “We wanted to stay here, first of all to finish our internship because we knew that the USA was going to close its borders to foreigners. But also because we didn’t feel we were in any more danger here than anyplace else. The strange thing is not being able to see other people outside, but it’s the same situation all around the world.”
Munich / Germany
I stayed in Germany first of all for safety reasons
An Italian student in his last year of the Master program in Aerospace Engineering at ISAE-SUPAERO, Andrea Zollo is currently on his end-of-studies internship in Munich at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). He got there on March 17th. He told us, “I didn’t think the trip to Munich would be feasible because I left the same day as the French President’s speech in which he announced the state of emergency and closed the borders.” He continued, “Unfortunately, the company where I was doing my internship didn’t allow me to go to the site. But for my first day I got many welcome calls in which all my colleagues introduced themselves to me. Since then, I have been working from my apartment and many video conferences have been organized to maintain social ties.”
Andrea explained, “I decided to stay in Germany first of all for safety reasons. Leaving would have meant returning to my family in Italy where the situation was highly critical compared to other European countries. But also because DLR let me work from home”. The student continued, “ISAE-SUPAERO is in constant contact with us and will help us with any problems connected to the internship, our courses or even financial difficulties. It’s very reassuring”.
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