International students return to Western Australia, but COVID chaos remains – ABC News

International students return to Western Australia, but COVID chaos remains
For the latest flood and weather warnings, search on ABC Emergency
As the international education sector in Western Australia begins to recover, some are questioning whether a COVID-inhibited student experience is still worth the up-front cost.
Being an international student in WA means forking out at least $20,000 a year.
Studying nursing would cost more than $30,000 annually – for domestic students, after government subsidies, it costs around $4,000.
After the state's border restrictions were lifted in March, many have still been willing to put up the money for a tertiary education experience immersed in the culture of a new country.
But as their first semester back comes to an end, some international students say they are still bearing the brunt of the chaos.
The international student numbers have made a strong recovery since the border opened, according to Edith Cowan University deputy vice-chancellor of education Angela Hill.
"When there was a delay in the border opening, some students had to change their plans," she said.
"But we were really delighted with the numbers of students who were able to return. International students just enrich our campuses in so many ways, and enrich the whole student experience."
While it will take some time for a full recovery, Professor Hill is confident they're on the right trajectory.
It is a similar story at the University of Western Australia, where enrolments for the first semester this year were almost 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels.
But students across universities have returned to a studying experience vastly different from the one before the pandemic.
Dhanya Shri Vimalan started her undergraduate degree in 2020, just as COVID started making headlines.
"When COVID hit, it felt like I received less support," she said.
Katrina was excited to return to campus once Australia's international border reopened — but fellow international students have grown tired of the government's delays. 
"I was a close contact … I had to isolate for seven days. I couldn't work for a week.
"Because I'm an international student, I didn't get any of the benefits that permanent residents or citizens get here.
"My mum studied actually in Perth, at Murdoch, when she was growing up. I guess it's kind of sad. I wanted that full uni experience."
For postgraduate nursing student Hameed Mohammad, grappling with constant disruptions to his practical placements has become his new normal.
"My flatmate tested positive … as a close contact [you] can't go work in the hospital," he said.
"Being an international student, when you're doing a health degree, you're going on a prac.
"When you get COVID positive, your prac will be delayed … it does impact your visa, it does impact your studies."
Sofia Gonzalez Torres is the international student committee president at Curtin University, and said information about support for students lacked clarity.
"We were supposed to be supported by the government and universities when we were coming here as the borders just recently opened," she said.
"I feel like new international students are receiving a little bit of support, but the current international students are not receiving any at all."
Curtin University lecturer Renee Ralph was an international student herself and said she empathised with the current students.
"It's harder to impart the information for them to absorb," Dr Ralph said.
Dr Ralph said it was unfortunate there were so many disruptions, but was hopeful universities and international students would adapt.
"For those who were online from South-East Asia, the language barrier was there. You had to be a little bit more patient and articulate [with] the themes," she said.
"This is a new normal. We have learned new skills. Zoom, Skype, video-conferencing is just part of life now."
Mankeha Balgobin is an international student in one of Dr Ralph's classes who has embraced the shift to virtual learning.
After moving from Mauritius to Perth more than two years ago to study, Ms Balgobin was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition and moved to Sydney to be with her family.
But online learning programs already in place due to COVID meant she was able to continue her studies without disruption more than 3,000 kilometres away.
"I feel like the transition from face-to-face to online has been really easy for me," she said.
"I've been more focused on my studies when I've been doing it online than face-to-face."
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.
AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)


Leave a Comment