Brightness During the Dark Times of COVID-19: A Special Message from Dr. Mark Ashwill, Managing Director & Co-Founder
Dear Students, Warm greetings from all of us at Capstone Vietnam!
As I wrote in a recent University World News essay for international education colleagues, Viet Nam has overcome steep odds in many contemporary arenas and throughout its millennia-long history. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Viet Nam is doing all of the right things, placing the health and well-being of its people and foreign visitors above all else. The result so far is relatively few confirmed cases of the coronavirus compared with many other countries.
Viet Nam has received global praise, including from the World Health Organization (WHO), for the steps it’s taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus, including quarantine for individuals who meet certain criteria. Vu Duc Dam, deputy prime minister, noted that: “If fighting COVID-19 has been a war, then we have won the first round, but not the entire war because the situation can be very unpredictable.”
Round Two of the “War” Against the Coronavirus
Round two announced its dispiriting presence with the discovery of new cases the evening of Friday, 6 March, Viet Nam had a grand total of 16 COVID-19 cases, the last one reported on 13 February. People were beginning to calm down and look forward to returning to “normal life.” Of the cases reported since then (as of the morning of 21 March), many of which are related directly or indirectly to VN54 and other flights, 24 of those who have tested positive and are currently receiving treatment, or 32%, are foreigners.
While the war against the coronavirus is still raging and no one can predict the ultimate outcome, the fact remains that Viet Nam has acquitted itself well so far on its own merits and compared with many other countries, including those with considerably more resources at their disposal but plagued by incompetent leadership and handicapped by delusional citizens who don’t take it seriously or even view it as a “hoax.”
Cooperation is Key
From the perspective of someone like myself who has lived in Viet Nam for nearly 15 years and whose trip to the country was in 1996, COVID-19, like other national crises, tragedies, and even celebrations, seems to have activated the collectivism that is still very much a part of Vietnamese culture but is too often lurking beneath the surface these days because of Westernization and the rise of individualism.
Vietnamese from many walks of life have united and, like the Ghen Cô Vy lyrics say, are determined to beat this disease. They care about their own health but also that of the community and therefore take this highly contagious virus with deadly seriousness. Most foreigners, be they expats like myself or tourists, are also doing their part to support this collective efforts as respectful guests of Viet Nam and caring fellow human beings.
A Silver Lining?
In his 1966 book Vietnam North: A First-Hand Report, prominent Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett wrote about and marveled at the ingenuity of Vietnamese medical professionals in successfully confronting difficult medical and surgical issues created by another war that included bombs and resulting injuries for those lucky enough to survive.
It has always seemed to me as if the idiom Necessity is the mother of invention could have been invented by the Vietnamese. While 1966 was a time of war, embargo, deprivation, and suffering, 2020 is one of unprecedented economic well-being and access to knowledge, experience, and resources. Just imagine what Viet Nam can accomplish in the post-COVID-19 era.
Once the war against the coronavirus has been won, Viet Nam is well-positioned to harness this can-do spirit to overcome this and many other daunting challenges to the benefit of the entire nation and the world.
Making Lemonade Out of Lemons
In a recent Tech in Asia interview, Porter Erisman, who was a vice president at Alibaba during the SARS crisis in 2003, observed that “the Covid-19 crisis presents other opportunities for us all, beyond business. Maybe it's time to write that book or screenplay you’ve always dreamed about. Maybe it's time to slow down a bit and focus on that exercise plan that you’ve been putting off and take up yoga or do push-ups and sit-ups at home.” He also talked about spending more time with his children. “And I’m sure that some day - after we’ve overcome this challenge - we will look back and fondly recall those times when we slowed down and spent time together as a family.” His point is COVID-19 has forced us to change our schedules, to spend more time at home than usual, and to limit our contact with other people. How are you staying positive and being productive during this strange time?
Thinking About Overseas Study?
While the spread of a virus like COVID-19 is a downside of globalization and has made the world a bit scarier and less accessible for the time being, it remains interconnected, which means that the knowledge, experience, and skills you acquire from a quality overseas study experience will still benefit you in your personal and professional life. Now is a golden opportunity to give this more thought and begin planning with the assistance of Capstone’s advisers. In lieu of face-to-face meetings, which are always the best under normal circumstances, you can connect with them via a number of chat apps and social media.
Capstone and COVID-19
Our advisers have been working hard at all hours of the day doing their utmost to provide students with accurate information in general and about rapidly developing situations that are unique in the countries in which “Capstone students” are currently studying, e.g., Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the UK, the USA, etc. Rest assured that you are in good hands with them. I’m grateful to our advisers for their dedication and to you for your confidence in them.
Yes, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus will continue to rie in Viet Nam but I have the feeling, based on actions taken to date and people’s willingness to safeguard their health and that of others, that the situation is under control, unlike in many other countries. I can’t tell you when but I know that this, too, shall pass, and that, hopefully, the world will be better prepared for the next international health crisis.
Should you have any questions or require assistance about any overseas study-related matter, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Take care and stay healthy!
Mark A. Ashwill, Ph.D. (Bac Mark)
Managing Director & Co-Founder