The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the lives of international students who are stranded out of Australia. Most have only a few semesters left before they graduate and grab the chance to land a job in the Land Down Under.
Australia is one of the top countries in the world that students want to pursue higher education in. Many of the best-performing institutions and universities in the country have a big population of students coming from different parts of the world. With lockdowns and travel restrictions, a lot of students were unable to return to Australia for their studies.
This situation has changed, but only for a few.
Current situation in Australia
Australia is one of the countries that are still imposing border restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Feb. 20, 2021, the country has 28,920 cases with 909 deaths, with Victoria having the most number of cases (20,479) and fatalities (820 deaths).
Because of this, Australia only allows Australian citizens, residents, immediate family members, and those travelers who have visited New Zealand previously for 14 days.
As a result, international students who have gone home to their respective countries cannot go back to Australia. Such students are disappointed with the shift to online classes and fear they will not complete their programs in time. The situation is especially troubling for those in taking up courses related to health care. After all, face-to-face classes are still better than online distance learning for most medical students.
Health care students given priority
Despite the country closing its borders to non-citizens and non-residents in March 20, 2020, the Australian Border Force Commissioner made an exemption and decided to fly back 1,050 foreign students who are mostly majoring in health-related courses in Australia. This started during the early part of August 2020.
A big bulk of nursing and medical students in Australia comes from South Asia and the rest of the world. If these students cannot continue their internship because of the lockdown, Australia’s health force will be greatly affected. That’s why on Nov. 30, 2020, the first batch of 63 international students returned to Darwin.
Exemptions in place
At present, there is an increase in the cap of international arrivals to 6,300. Arriving travelers are sent to a facility in Howard Springs for the mandatory 14-day quarantine. This facility in the Northern territory was previously used by the international students who returned to Darwin.
However, the government is still prioritizing flying its 40,000 stranded citizens back home. International students are willing to follow quarantine protocols just so they can complete their programs. These students are prepared to pay all fees and obey any rules given by the Australian government so their education will not be hindered.
As per the new guidelines, individual exemptions may be granted to the following students:
Those who are in the last two years of their degree program focusing on dental, medical, nursing, or allied health (with a confirmed placement in a hospital in Australia or those who are about to start medical practice in two months)
-Those who are completing year 11 and 12 (endorsed by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment or supported by Australian government health authority and education department)
-These exemptions must be filed at least two weeks before travel so as to give room for any changes that may possibly occur. Other than those specific exemptions, Australia is still closed to foreign nationals.
Aside from the mandatory 14-day quarantine, institutions must thoroughly inform their students that they must have enough funds to complete their studies in Australia. Part-time work may be difficult to secure because of the negative impact of the pandemic to the economy. International students are also not eligible for any financial support from the Commonwealth.
With regard to the student’s health and well-being, it is a great initiative for all institutions to provide them with mental health support. This includes orientation, counseling, and even special virtual activities to keep the returnees healthy enough to finish their programs. There are also valuable workshops, tutorials, and other activities that the returnees can join.
There is hope
Since not all international students are in the health care field, the rest will have to wait until border restrictions are eased. As vaccines are gradually being rolled out, light will shine for those who want to complete their studies in Australia.
The federal government is yet to sign an approval to increase the number of return flights for international students in other states in the country, but it may happen soon enough. A petition is also making its way to the House of Representatives with regard to easing up the restrictions for international students.
With the current situation the entire world is facing, as education partners, we welcome inquiries from international students who wish to study and build a career in Australia. We believe that those who yearn to level up their studies and professional career can still do so by pursuing international education. Students can reach out to passionate education agents who are willing to shed light about top institutions and universities in Australia in the new normal