When the world came to a stop to curb COVID-19, it undeniably impacted people of all industries, our usual routines and not forgetting everyone’s favourite hobby of all time, travelling. For 29-year-old Siti Zulaikha, it was no different when she had to cancel her trip to Switzerland due to the lockdown.

It was impossible not to dwell on it mostly since it involved months of planning, but for the assistant teacher, she took it as an opportunity to pick up new skills and languages to fill up her free time. Read our interview with her below where she shared on how it ultimately draws down to an individual’s will to be open to learning regardless of how old one might be.

The travel junkie

[INTERVIEW] Taking the chance to acquire new skills during the travel ban

“Go see what the world has to offer.” IMAGE: Siti Zulaikha 

Recall how you’d casually flaunt your holiday trips once in a while? Zulaikha undoubtedly made many envious of her frequent travels which could go up to twice a month. Being an assistant teacher in an international school, this of course was an added advantage for her with the ample amount of school holidays.

Zulaikha has been across Asia, including Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand as well as solo trips to Hong Kong and Vietnam. “Each trip I go on is an opportunity for me to learn about the cultures and immerse in the wonders of nature that differ from Singapore,” she said. The budget traveller is also one who enjoys trekking and sightseeing in the mountains over shopping or lavish trips.


“It’s not about the cost or how far you travel to, but its really about how you appreciate whatever you chance upon,” she shared.

No point crying over spilt milk

[INTERVIEW] Taking the chance to acquire new skills during the travel ban

Image: Siti Zulaikha

Just weeks before her trip to Switzerland, Zulaikha received what she regarded as the most devastating email of her life. She shared how the trip was meant to cheer her friend up after a broken-off engagement, who needed a lot of coaxing upon receiving the news.

“There’s no point in crying over spilt milk, but instead, maybe try to look into the positive side of any mishaps,” she advised.

With her travel plans halted, it sparked her to finally use her SkillsFuture Credits that the government has made available to everyone above 25. According to the baking-enthusiast, she always longed to take up baking classes for pastries and bread-making but would often prioritise travelling instead. When the pandemic happened, she considered it a blessing in disguise as she could fulfil her wish.

She also signed up for a Thai language class to better communicate with the locals the next time she visits Thailand. Even with technological advancements such as Google Translate, she encourages everyone to learn the basics of a country’s spoken language which can perhaps even help one score discounts with the shopowners.

There isn’t a full stop to learning

Zulaikha was surprised that her classes were mostly filled with the pioneer generation. “It’s crazy how I initially thought people of my age would fill classes, but instead it’s otherwise, and that motivated me to keep learning even more,” she expressed.

To her surprise, she even saw a Chinese elderly coming into her Mandarin-speaking class. “The uncle told me that he was from a poor family who didn’t get access to proper education, thus with the skills future credits, he was then able to continue learning,” she shared.

“The older you are, the more you need to improve your skills further to be on par with the younger generation. It’s not just for yourself but also your career growth,” she advised.

It’s evident that it’s slowly becoming a tech-savvy world where everything is done through smartphones or electronic devices. “It’s fine if you are not open to upgrading yourself further, but the world changes and so will your company. If you do not pick up, you’ll eventually lose out and who knows even get replaced with fresh grads,” Zulaikha reiterated.

With most classes held over Zoom, there’s no using “It’s too far” as an excuse. As for Zulaikha who prefers physical classes, she is thankful that Singapore is slowly healing and physical classes have resumed. “If you are ashamed to attend classes, watching a mere 30 minutes of a Youtube video teaching you a new skill would be sufficient,” she shared.

Get out of your comfort zone

[INTERVIEW] Taking the chance to acquire new skills during the travel ban

“The greatest part about solo travelling is that you’ll end up meeting new people.” IMAGE: Siti Zulaikha

Like solo travelling, the introvert mentioned how she often attended classes alone as her peers do not share the same passion as her. “It may sound lonely at first, but you’d end up meeting people of the same interest, and you’d get to learn a lot from each other,” she encouraged. “If you are going to stay in your bubble, you will start to realise that your life is stagnant. You just got to build some courage and go forth with whatever you have always wanted to do,” she also urged.

Zulaikha’s life quote that she holds dearly: “Never ever lose patience, not with yourself and most importantly not with God’s plans.”