On 15 October 2021, National Office staff, Jasmin Melan chaperoned six Asia Kakehashi scholars to Japan to fulfil the requirements of the Ministry of Education. 

Since the Japanese international borders are still closed, the chaperone had to make a turnaround trip to Japan and it was truly a memorable experience. The global pandemic has made travelling internationally difficult. There are limited flights and some of them limit the loading of the aircraft, making it challenging to pick the airline of one’s choice. 

The Japan-bound students flew on Singapore Airlines, which perhaps is the only airline in the world that requires a 48 hours PCR test validity. Other airlines require 72 hours validity. As a result, Jasmin had to take one PCR test for her flight to Japan the day before departure and another one on the day of departure for her return flight. 

While transiting in Singapore, the group was escorted to a holding area to ensure that they would not wander around in the transit hall. Later, they were escorted to their departure gate by airport staff. Jasmin reported that they could not move around as they pleased and noted that shops and food and beverage outlets in Changi were all closed.

Upon arriving in Narita Airport in Tokyo, Jasmin was asked to disembark first and was met by an airport attendant who said that they would take over the students from then on, and she was escorted to the security area of the airport back to the same arrival gate, for her flight home, which was a mere two hours after her arrival! 

Jasmin only spent two hours in Japan without leaving the airport and did not even have a chance to have a meal there as all shops were closed. The airline only served one meal onboard to minimise infection risk and all passengers were required to have their masks on throughout the journey except during the one meal time. In anticipation of that, Jasmin had packed some buns, bananas and tea bags to take on the trip. It turned out to be a good move because she was on long transit in Changi and with no food outlets open.

Despite spending only 2 hours in Japan, she still had to be quarantined for 14 days because the new ruling for 7-day quarantine only came into effect two days after her return home. The learning from this experience is to be always prepared for any uncertainties!