With rampant job losses across the board along with Australian universities moving to online semesters, many international students have been adversely affected in the last few months. What shifts have they noticed in their daily lives since the pandemic took hold?
“I used to live in student accommodation (communal living) and the risk of contracting the virus seemed higher, so I came back home. Now Australia has closed its borders, and I’m uncertain about how my next semester will be,” said Simran Wadhwa, a postgraduate student who is finishing her semester at home in Lucknow, India.
While the online semester gives the comfort of working from anywhere, she believes that it takes away the ability to meet people and learn from others. Also, it takes away the personal touch of campus life.
“I am in my last year of my Master of Economics, and it was an important year in my life such as applying for jobs and taking part in internships. Now the job market and the economy have been greatly affected. As an economics student, I completely understand the shock in the economy and the downfall it has to go through. But it has severely impacted my personal career plan and I hope normal life bounces back,” she told Indian Link.
For now, Simran is trying to spend her time productively by trying to upskill with classes and internships online, reading, and gaining some knowledge.
Regarding mental health, she recommends staying calm, keeping faith, and reaching out. “We can’t meet people, but we can still stay connected with family and friends. I’m sure this, too, shall pass,” she said.
She hopes that Australian borders open so that she can return to resume her semester and get her career plan on track: “I know 2020 is a year that’s just passing by and not adding much to our personal growth. I would want life to go back to normal, the economy to bounce back, and all of us to progressively move forward in a direction that benefits everybody.”
For students like Rhea L Nath who stayed back in Australia, the university’s online semester has presented some challenges.
“I’m not sure if I enjoy the online semester when so much of my degree (Master of Media Practice) involves going out, talking to people, and hands-on work with equipment. With everyone in their homes, those exciting elements have been lost,” she said.
She recognizes that this time of self-isolation has helped to understand herself as a student and a learner.
“I’ve learnt to measure productivity differently by taking the process along with the outcome into consideration. I’ve been coming up with ‘hacks’ to break out of my own laziness. Also, I’ve always had to reconcile with some anxiety, and this period has helped me understand where they stem from, when they are triggered, and what I can do about it,” she explained.
She has been able to continue her part-time job while work from home. While there are periods of nagging uncertainty regarding the rest of the year, she chooses to think positively.
“I’ve been able to continue my part-time work as a journalist while working from home, and I recognize that I’m part of a minority of students (especially international students) who can say that. Thankfully, previous internship experiences back in India also equipped me with the ability to work remotely, so this wasn’t such a shock,” she told Indian Link.
Looking at the future, Rhea hopes to acknowledge lessons from the self-isolation like normalizing work from home and mental health days while hoping for things to get better.
“The next semester is my final semester at university, and it would be great to enjoy those final months on-campus. Much before the pandemic, I had considered going home for the winter break (that’s not happening now) and I had loved ones who were going to visit Australia for the first time to come see me. I’d love for those experiences to still be possible,” she said.