Queensland’s borders are set to open this month, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. It has also been reported that 250 students would arrive per week in a pilot project that could be scaled up.
indian student, Gill (name changed on request), doubted that any of this would amount to anything. The University of South Queensland student, whose master’s degree in engineering has been severely disrupted, has seen too many botched plans from the Australian government to help international students return.
We caught up with Gill to find out more about why she is cynical about opening Queensland’s borders 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 have a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering. My father is an engineer too and my brother too. Since I was a child, I have had a fascination with the way things work.
I kept trying to figure out how technology was made possible. I loved opening up old devices and knew that was what I wanted to pursue.
Unfortunately, I did not learn enough in my baccalaureate because it was more theoretical than practical. So I decided that a master’s degree abroad would help me learn more about electrical and electronic engineering in a practical way.
Most of the people I know chose Canada. But, I always wanted to explore Australia. I got my visa in November of last year and started my program the following February.
People told me to postpone my studies but I thought the Queensland borders would be open now, so I decided to continue. I didn’t know how wrong I was.
What are the most difficult things you face as Queensland’s borders remain closed?
People think that studying from a distance can’t be too bad, but I can confirm that it is the worst. I pay a lot of money for resources that I don’t have access to.
I come from a small village in India where the internet is sometimes bad. Last month we also had unstable electricity.
Imagine depending on your laptop for your education and career with that in tow. There is also no library for backup and no peers to ask for help.
Due to the jet lag, some days I have classes at times like 3 a.m. I had to drop a class this semester because it required hands-on work that I couldn’t understand through video lessons.
In the second semester, I cried almost every day and almost gave up. However, with the help of my parents, I persisted. I am completely dependent on them financially and emotionally.
Is it enough to get my degree? I highly doubt it. I completely miss the university experience. Now, halfway through my program, I still don’t know what my university is like.
With Queensland’s borders still not open, how does that affect you? What more can be done to help?
I understand that you need visas to enter a country so I am very confused as to the way Australia grants visas and at the same time denies entry to people. After being so loyal to the country, I feel betrayed and broken.
To be left with this confusion and without a real deadline is very upsetting. All we want is Australia, to be honest with us and for Queensland’s borders to finally reopen.
We are students who pay money for an educational experience that we don’t get. We pay a lot more than domestic students and I find that super unfair.
One of the main reasons I chose Australia was to experience the multicultural society.
Is your university giving you enough support?
My university has tried to help, but could it do better? I think so. I don’t think they recognize the struggle of international students stuck abroad.
We struggle with things like being afraid and being depressed.
Do you have a backup plan for your future?
Honestly, I don’t. I put my whole future on the line with my studies in Australia and didn’t expect Queensland’s borders to remain closed for that long.
There is no going back for me now because I can’t waste time and money. I have friends who change their study destinations to Canada and most of them already have visas.
They learn and experience a lot more than I do. It is very upsetting.
What attracted you to Australia as your main study destination?
There are more reasons than I can list. I am obsessed with coffee and have heard their coffee culture is one of the best. They also have a high quality education system and I love the look of wildlife and natural beauty.
I don’t like the cold so I feel like Australia would be the best place for me. I also love beaches and there are some of the best in the world. I still have the hope that maybe one day I will be able to experience it all.
The media are silent on the suffering of temporary visa holders, ask the government when they will bring in students and temporary visa holders who are scheduled to be brought in after an 80% vaccination. No announcement for the moment, the media keep mom and government too. #LetUsBackToAus
– Australian Temporary Visa Holders (@TempVisaHolders) November 17, 2021
What is your advice for other students who want to study in Australia?
For the students who are in the same boat as me, I would tell them to think about it very carefully. Is it worth it?
I know these two years have been more difficult than anyone can understand, but I want to hope for the best. I wish everyone good luck in their future and hope to fly soon.