“To be very honest, it was not the best,” she says. “I was scared to go out—I kept getting emails from the University as well as the lodge where I am staying about not going out—so, I was home all day, doing online classes.”
“I really felt like I was missing out. I came from far away to study, and I was just sitting at home, not getting to meet people.”
“In the first semester, it was a struggle to find the motivation to study, but the lecturers were so supportive. Even if I was lagging behind, there was love and encouragement from the lecturers.”
Abigail was likewise grateful for the many online activities arranged for students.
“There were job seminars, online events, quizzes and games, once a week at least. These really helped.”
Like so many students across Australia, Abigail found herself struggling financially and gratefully accepted the free food distributed by OzHarvest to international students, as well as support provided by Baptist Care SA.
“You have no idea what a huge help this was,” she says. “I was so touched by Baptist Care, I asked if I could volunteer, but they weren’t looking for volunteers, so I volunteered instead with the Women’s Community Centre (SA), Elcies in Norwood and the Red Cross Shop in Kidman Park. What I am volunteering is not even a fraction of how OzHarvest and Baptist Care have helped me, but I feel I should contribute in some way with my time, if I can.”
For the same reason, Abigail was deeply grateful to receive the Matthew Flinders Scholarship, supported by Flinders alumni, staff and friends—and similarly inspired to follow this example.
“It made such a huge difference; I was very, very grateful. When I graduate and start earning money, I will also try to be an alumni leader and help people in need.”
As challenging as lockdown was in South Australia, going home to India was a much riskier option. With just over 9 million cases, India now ranks second behind the USA for the highest incidence of COVID-19, and third for the number of deaths (just over 134,000), behind the USA and Brazil. Abigail says going home did not even occur to her.
“I did not even think of going home, because the situation was so horrible. I think I am so blessed that I was here.”
Abigail is also thankful that her mother had travelled with her to Sydney and is still staying with her brother.
“I’m really glad she’s here in Sydney. I am worried about my other siblings, but I know they can take care of themselves.”
This semester, students had the option to continue online learning or participate in person, and Abigail leapt at the opportunity to see her classmates face-to-face and make new friends.
“I’m not usually one to make a lot of friends, but I have quite a few now!”
And she is finally embracing the advantages of her international education, with classmates from Australia, East Timor, Bangladesh, and many other Asian and South American countries.
“I’m getting to know that learning isn’t just ‘book-learning’,” Abigail says. “Where I come from, it’s all ‘book, book, book’ and studying for exams. But here, there is a lot of interactive class participation. I get to meet people and learn their views on things. I realise now that my way of thinking is just one way of seeing things. Flinders is widening my horizons.”
“I hope I can get some work experience here for a year or two and then would like to go home and find work in a multinational company. A lot are setting up bases in India, and education from abroad is looked on as an advantage, especially from Australia.”
Please help more students experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 by giving to the Matthew Flinders Scholarship Fund. Donate today.