Confidence is key Down Under

Overseas-education | Crystal Wu 2 Nov 2021

While many countries are opening up their borders, Australia remains one of the most stringent in terms of pandemic regulations, with the travel ban, which started last March, only slowly lifting this month.

Student globetrotter Nerissa Chow, who is in her last year of university at the University of Queensland, was one of the few who flew back before the ban.

"I quickly booked a flight from Hong Kong to Brisbane to go back before the government announced the border closure. When I went back, the masks were sold out and I had to ask my parents to ship some masks to me," Chow recalled.

"However, not many people wore a mask to the university, which I felt quite scared about."

It was only when the news started reporting confirmed cases that the residents panicked and bulk bought food and tissues. "Luckily my roommates and I bought enough supplies in that period," she said.

Chow shared a flat due to expensive dormitory costs. During the pandemic, she and her flatmates also stayed in a lot more and only went to places frequented by fewer people. "Two weeks after the start of university, UQ switched everything online to protect all students' health and safety."

Online lecture recordings and quizzes that happened weekly, as well as online exams, are some of the new things that Chow had to keep track of in the new normal.

She found the learning experience to be stressful at the beginning due to the many technical difficulties. "I did not get very good grades when I first started online. I was not used to it," she said.

She also saw negative impacts of remote learning on her well-being.

"You could not really go out and meet friends. It was just like a lockdown. You just felt stressed - it was not just the studies that affected you, but also the relationships with your friends that you could not go out with. It just made you feel quite depressed."

Chow moved back to Hong Kong to finish her online learning, and hopes to return to Australia for her graduation next year.

Student life in Australia was very different before the pandemic. "To enjoy my university life and get to know more friends from different countries, I joined a dance club and yoga club. It was fun. They held classes every week. You just have to pay A$25 (HK$146) to access half a year of their classes."

Chow has also been a member of the UQ Hong Kong Student Association since her first year. She joined the orientation camp to meet other Hong Kong students from the same university and program. "It hosts events such as barbeque, canoeing and speed friending and welcoming parties," she said.

Looking back on her overseas studying experience, Chow believes that heading Down Under at an earlier age was a better choice.

"If you want to meet more local people, you have to be more confident in your English. Don't be afraid that your English is not good as they know that English is your second language," she said.

"So be confident."

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