What was supposed to be a quick trip home to New Caledonia turned into quite a journey for Bachelor of Applied Management student Margo Ballesta.
Margo started her degree in early 2019 but had to urgently return home to New Caledonia for family reasons in March 2020.
It was supposed to be just a five-day trip, so she took only the essentials and left all of her precious belongings in her Auckland flat. However, the day before she was due to return to New Zealand her flight was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“I was living with uncertainty as I did not know how things would evolve.”
Visa complications meant she had to take a break from her study but was able to resume online this June. Shortly after that, she heard she was one of 1,000 international students selected to return to New Zealand as part of a Government border exemption.
However, she first had to secure a highly sought-after spot in managed isolation, which took three months. When she finally did manage to get a room, the booking was for three days later.
“I was feeling it was unreal that I would get back in three days, but I took the first opportunity that came up and managed to do all the necessary things to be ready for my long trip.”
The trip from New Caledonia to New Zealand is usually just two hours, however, Margo had to take a detour.
“I could not get a straight flight from Noumea to New Zealand, I had to go through Tokyo, then Singapore and then Auckland, only to then know that my MIQ was in Rotorua.”
“Kind of a world trip to go two hours away from my home country.”
She was delighted to get back to Auckland and all of her belongings 18 months after she’d left, but by that stage, Auckland was in its most recent lockdown.
“So, I did not get back to the campus ever since 2019, and as of today we are currently still in lockdown Level 3.”
Despite these trials, Margo is positive about her study experience. She says online study has been great because she enjoys learning independently.
She thought team assignments would be a big challenge in the online setting, but they went better than expected.
“We managed pretty well to communicate almost every day; we often did calls through Microsoft Teams. It was cool to see that we could manage to adapt and work efficiently.”
She says she can ask questions whenever she needs to, which has been beneficial.
“With today’s technology most of us have social media, and that allows us to keep in touch with both classmates and teachers.”
Her tips for others studying from home are to listen, take notes, and ask questions whenever you have doubts.
“The main thing is to stay motivated because you can easily get distracted or just lose motivation, for that I created a routine to keep myself productive.”
Margo’s hard work and dedication have paid off. She recently received an Excellent Scholar Award for top marks in her programme.
She says being stuck offshore was not easy, but she was lucky to be with family and friends who motivated her not to give up.
“This experience taught me that things can happen unexpectedly. We never know what tomorrow will bring. There is no point in having regrets or stressing out, as it won't solve anything.”
“It taught me to always try to live in the present moment without thinking about the past and future, to just enjoy living in the now and taking care of myself and my close ones.”