Where are we at this time of uncertainty?
Published At: April 15, 2020
An international student’s take on her life during Australia’s lockdown.
Written by: Wunny
Was there a point in your existence where you feel in yourself to be in a matter of life and death? Was there any circumstance when you felt vulnerable, alone, incapable and voiceless? Was there any time where you have foreseen that one day, you’ll be thinking of going home because everything’s gone wrong? Or, was there a little bit of undaunted hope, unwavering positivity and unshakable determination deep inside you that no matter what happens, you need to be bolder and braver?
As timely as it is, we, international students, are facing such an overwhelming catastrophe that has been testing our capability to handle and fight an enemy without any preparation or defense. This Coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak, which put us all in a state of flux, has caused devastating ripple effects and significant disruptions to industries globally. People from around the world are greatly affected thus, the pandemic has caused a tremendous level of stress for everyone. Yet, the stress on international students, just like me, is significantly greater than those of domestic students. Why? How so? The pandemic has understandably caught international students off guard.
“In the midst of this outbreak, I feel emotionally and physically challenged. A week ago, I just lost my job. The only job that helps me fund myself while here in Australia. I was only a casual. Of course, they would prioritize the citizens and full-time workers over me. I have anticipated then that problems may come along the way but I didn’t expect it to be this bad. And yet, it happened”, a fellow international student told me when asked about how she felt about the situation.
International students came to Australia with lots of hope - we committed ourselves to an opportunity that ensures and acknowledges our dreams to pursue in an unfamiliar land. But why do we feel forsaken and unwelcome? This is unprecedented and scary. With lost jobs, how will we be able to pay our bills whilst being here? How are we going to pay our hefty tuition fees? How many more petitions online should we sign in order for the government to notice us? But the question is, are international students even included in the picture?
We must not forget that international students contributed $38 billion to the Australian economy in 2018-2019. The payment of tuition fees and living costs make international education Australia’s third-biggest export after coal and iron ore. We work all sorts of jobs, pay our taxes, and contribute to superannuation to support Australian businesses and communities running. At the moment, while it is true that the government is undertaking all sorts of measures and announcing various packages to support Australian citizens and permanent residents, unfortunately, these plans and programs do not cover us international students making us not eligible for any. On the other hand, National Cabinet further noted that the Commonwealth had announced a package of $1.1 billion to boost mental health services, domestic violence support, Medicare assistance for people at home and emergency food relief (to protect Australian lives and help Australia keep functioning). How ironic as it is. How I wish the government does not forget, that we also live within the borders of the Commonwealth. We cannot say, however, that the Australian government has not done anything at all given the fact that it has provided us with the opportunity to work extra hours supporting critical areas. However, we still stumble under financial distress as most of us have lost our jobs. We feel helpless as some of us might desperately risk his/her safety to find or go to work to continue to sustain ourselves amidst this outbreak.
In a dire situation such as this, we only hear an eerie silence of support from the government as the country is on the brink of lockdown. Undeniably and obviously, we face a high level of uncertainty and hardship. As much as we want to seek help from our families in our home countries, we would rather not, as they also face the same scourge we are in. This crisis tremendously affects us, international students, as we not only worry about our own wellbeing but the health and safety of our families back home add to the huge amount of concern that we face every day. It is truly disheartening that we have been left vulnerable and in a state of jeopardy.
Where are we at this time of uncertainty? Are we not on the same boat as well? As we witness the outbreak unfolding globally, we also want the higher education sector to pay more attention and offer systematic support to vulnerable international students. We want to be included in the policies. As the government develops policies to react to the fast-changing situation, we ask them not to neglect us. As confused and scared we are throughout this crisis, a little sympathy and words of acknowledgment would help us ease the image of helplessness in our minds.
But there are several reasons that we should inculcate in our minds to keep going and this is my message to my fellow international students:
Let’s have a positive outlook on life. We must visualize that our future has already been planned by God. This situation indeed is testing us but we should look forward to a future that we have already started, and accomplish it according to His will.
We should know that everything ends, even in bad times. I know there are so many things that trouble you, as per myself, but please have patience and courage to get through it. As Virginia Satir said, “Life is not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way you cope is what makes the difference.”
Let’s all look back to our pasts. Do you remember a time where you felt enclosed in a box that you couldn’t breathe but eventually found a way out? If yes, worry no more. You are strong as you overcome the challenges before. As John Maxwell said, “Facing difficulties is inevitable, learning from them is optional.” Let’s all learn from difficult times. You are not alone. We are all in this together.
Lastly, let’s all realize that we’ve come a long way. Sometimes we get so focused on the road ahead, that we never look back to see that we’ve already traveled so far. In short, these difficult times will pass. Know that it gets better. No matter how hard you’ve had to fight or for how long, never lose sight of that brighter future that awaits you. You have the power to do and overcome anything.
Wunny, not her real name, is currently studying Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care at Queensford College in Brisbane, Australia. She has since then transitioned to online classes and has decided to utilize her skills in writing to fight boredom while on quarantine.
She dedicates her piece to her fellow international students who are facing difficult times to look at the brighter side of things.