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‘I cried almost every day’: How Australia’s COVID-19 response crushed this Indian student’s dream

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As a University of Southern Queensland student, Gill's path to get a master’s of engineering has been severely disrupted. Source: Gill

Queensland’s borders are set to open this month according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. It was also reported that 250 students would arrive per week in a pilot that could be scaled up

Indian student, Gill (name changed upon request), doubts any of this would amount to anything. The University of Southern Queensland student, whose master’s of engineering has been severely disrupted, has seen too many botched plans by the Australian government to help international students return.

We caught up with Gill to learn more about why she’s cynical about Queensland’s borders opening and how the pandemic has affected her life since 2020:

What made you choose to study engineering and why pursue it in Australia?

I already hold a bachelor’s in electronics engineering. My father is an engineer too and so is my brother. Since I was a child, I had a fascination with how things work. 

I kept trying to figure out how technology was made possible. I loved opening up old devices and I knew this is what I wanted to pursue. 

“People told me to defer my studies but I thought the Queensland borders would be open by now so I decided to continue. Little did I know how wrong I was,” she says. Source: Gill

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn enough in my bachelor’s degree as it was more theoretical rather than practical. So, I decided a master’s abroad would help me learn more about electrical and electronics engineering in a practical manner.

Most of the people I know chose Canada. But, I always wanted to explore Australia. I got my visa in November last year and started my programme the following February. 

People told me to defer my studies but I thought the Queensland borders would be open by now so I decided to continue. Little did I know how wrong I was.

What are some of the most challenging things you deal with as Queensland borders remain shut?

People think studying remotely can’t be too bad but I can confirm it is the worst. I am paying a lot of money for resources I can’t access. 

I come from a small village in India where sometimes the Internet is bad. Last month, we also had unstable electricity. 

Imagine depending on your laptop for your education and career with this in tow. There’s no library for backup either and no peers to ask for help. 

Because of the time difference, some days I have classes at hours like 3 a.m. I had to drop a course this semester because it required practical work which I couldn’t comprehend through video classes. 

During the second semester, I cried almost every day and nearly dropped out. However, with the help of my parents, I persisted. I am completely dependent on them financially and emotionally. 

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“Because of the time difference, some days I have classes at hours like 3 a.m. I had to drop a course this semester because it required practical work which I couldn’t comprehend through video classes,” she tells Study International. Source: Gill

Is it enough to get my degree? I highly doubt it. I’m missing out on the uni experience completely. Now, halfway through my programme, I still don’t know what my uni looks like.

With the Queensland borders still not open, how does it affect you? What more should be done to help?

I understand you need visas to enter a country so I’m very confused on how Australia is granting visas and at the same time denying people entry. After being so loyal to the country, I feel betrayed and broken. 

Having left with that confusion and no real timeline is very upsetting. All we want is Australia, to be honest with us and to have the Queensland borders finally reopen.

We are students paying money for an educational experience we’re not getting. We pay far more than domestic students and I find this super unfair.

One of the main reasons I chose Australia was to experience the multicultural society. 

Is your uni giving you enough support?

My uni has been trying to help but could they do better? I think so. I don’t think they acknowledge the struggle of international students stuck overseas.

We struggle with things like being scared and being depressed. 

Do you have a backup plan for your future?

I honestly don’t. I put my entire future at stake with my studies in Australia and never expected Queensland borders to remain shut for so long.

There’s no going back for me now though because I can’t let the money and time go to waste. I have friends who change their study destination to Canada and most of them got visas already. 

They are learning and experiencing much more than I am. This is very upsetting. 

What drew you to Australia as your top study destination?

There are more reasons than I can list. I’m obsessed with coffee and I heard their coffee culture is one of the best. They also have a high-quality education system and I love the aspect of wildlife and natural beauty.

I don’t like cold weather so I feel like Australia would be the best place for me. I also love beaches and it has some of the best ones in the world. I’m still holding on to the hope that maybe someday I’ll be able to experience all this.

What’s your advice for other students wanting to study in Australia?

For students who are in the same boat as me, I would tell them to think about it very carefully. Is it worth the pain?

I know these two years have been more difficult than anyone can ever understand but I want to hope for the best. I wish everyone good luck in their futures and I hope to fly soon.