Alumna Jeanette Leenders' 2nd blog

Rescheduling (again and again) and return to the Netherlands

"I am stuck overseas, during a pandemic and unable to return to my home, the place where I had lived for the last 5 years?"

Jeanette Leenders [F 2012] started her journey in life at the Teaching Hotel, travelled and worked around the world and now, due to Covid-19, happily returns to the Teaching Hotel. In a few blogs she will share her journey from hospitality talent to a professional, from Maastricht to the rest of world and back to Maastricht again.

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Time for a holiday

My dad and I would go on holiday together every 2 years. I would fly from New Zealand to meet my dad somewhere in the world. We decided to go to Sri Lanka and booked to go on March 13th. Didn’t realize I flew out on Friday the 13th, maybe that wasn’t a good idea. New Zealand is secluded and by the time I left the country, there were only 3 cases of COVID-19 in the entire country. I was desperate for a holiday and decided to go. Looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have been this ignored and should have looked at what was happening in the rest of the world with COVID-19.

A few days into our holiday, museums, national parks and touristic places were closing down. My perfectly planned holiday wasn’t going as expected. At this time New Zealand implied a mandatory 2 week self-isolation for when I would return from holiday. I contacted my travel agent to reschedule my flight back to New Zealand. The first available flight was on the 28th of March, more than a week away. 

What to do now? 

Things started to move quickly and all the sudden New Zealand announced at 3pm local time that they would close the borders at midnight that evening for all travelers, except for NZ residents and citizens. I applied for my residency nearly a year earlier but hadn’t received a reply, hence I was still on a temporary work visa. This would not allow me return to NZ. What to do now? I am stuck overseas, during a pandemic and unable to return to my home, the place where I had lived for the last 5 years? 

We decided to look for flights back to the Netherlands. With only a few flights available in the following days, we booked to fly out at 2am that night. I thought to arrange transport to the airport for that evening, but the Sri Lankan government just announced a complete lockdown from 6pm that day for the entire weekend. This meant that we had to pack our bags immediately and take off to the airport. We arrived at the airport 13 hours before our flight would depart. The airport looked like a zoo of tourists trying to fly out. There was literally no room to sit. It honestly felt like everyone was trying to escape the country before they couldn’t leave anymore. 

Arriving in Amsterdam

After 2 long flights, we arrived in Amsterdam. I was packed for a tropical holiday to Sri Lanka, not for spring in the Netherlands. Quickly bought a jacket and some jeans to get through the cold. So here I am, back in the Netherlands, not knowing when or if I could return to New Zealand. It felt like the entire world shut down and I had no clue what was going to happen next. 

Next episode Jeanette will blog about her return to the Teaching Hotel.

Missed the first blog? Read it here.

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