Facing a global crisis in a foreign land

The COVID-19 outbreak has left many of Melbourne’s international students worried about their personal well-being and academic progress.

Tanisha Serrao. Photo Supplied by Tanisha Serrao

Tanisha Serrao, an Indian student from Monash University, says that her first semester studying in Melbourne had been a disheartening experience due to the restrictions caused by the outbreak.

“It’s been a tough month for me. I’m new to Melbourne so I don’t have any friends and I can’t make any new ones because of this social distancing,” she said.

“I’ve been very homesick lately and if this continues, I’m scared it might impact my mental health and academic performance.”

Aliff Santaroena, an Indonesian student at the University of Melbourne, said the uncertainty caused by being alone overseas in the midst of the pandemic was worrying, and it was affecting his daily routines.

Ahmad Ariff Santaroena. Photo supplied by Ahmad Ariff Santaroena

“I’m consistently paranoid that I might catch the virus and I always keep an eye out for possible symptoms every time I go out,” he said.

“I do practice social distancing, but there’s only so much I can do. I still have to regularly go to the supermarket to buy groceries and that itself requires contact with other people.”

Santaroena said, despite instructions provided by the University and the Australian government regarding the necessary precautions needed to be taken during this pandemic, he was still feeling anxious.

“If I do get infected, I wouldn’t know what to do and where to go. It’s scary because my family isn’t here with me and I don’t know who to turn to,” said Santaroena.

Many concerned parents of international students are choosing to bring their children back home during this period.

Angie Chuah, a consultant at Malaysian education agency Interstudy, said parents of Malaysian students in Melbourne were in a state of panic and were seeking assistance from her on how to address the situation.

Angie Chuah (second from top right) with the Interstudy staff. Photo supplied by Angie Chuah

“Parents have reached out to me for advice in regard to the situation. Many of them have asked me to arrange with the individual universities in order to bring their children home,” she said.

Chuah advised both parents and students to stay calm and consistently monitor the ongoing situation before taking further action.

“It’s important to wait and see the state of things moving forward before making a hasty decision. The situation might be worse here (in Malaysia) and travelling is risky at the moment,” she said.




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