ACU alumni share their stories of life in lockdown

The COVID-19 pandemic led many governments to put their countries into lockdown and brought huge changes to our lifestyles. People were required to stay home, some businesses were made to adapt, parents juggled between working and remote learning, and teachers adjusted to new methods of educating their students.

ACU has thousands of alumni across the globe – from paramedics and healthcare staff, to teachers, accountants, entrepreneurs and community workers. We reached out to some of our alumni overseas about their experiences in lockdown.

Fiona Boumelhem


Deputy Team Leader, Ealing Council, London UK

Bachelor of Theology (Social Work), 2007

“I am employed as a team manager in a front door team. We receive all the referrals for any child where safeguarding concerns are identified. When the pandemic broke, the local authority I work for responded quickly to ensure that the staff were safe and put provisions in place. Buildings around the borough were closed and skeleton staff were working from our head office. Visits to see children and families were done remotely or at their doorstep. New ways of working were put in place and thankfully staff were already equipped to work remotely.

We have also seen an increase in referrals from police and from schools when students return from the school holidays. The pandemic has had an impact on homelessness, child and parental mental health and added an element of financial pressure on families. There has also been a significant increase in domestic abuse since the lockdown and as a result we had to change how we are working with victims of domestic abuse and how we undertake our assessments on children and families. 

The lockdown also affected me personally. When I heard that Australia was closing its borders and flights were being grounded, I immediately thought of my family. All my family are in Australia so not being able to visit home and not having a trip to look forward to is hard. I usually travel home for Christmas because I hate the cold and don’t want to be in the UK during this period, but it’s uncertain if I’ll even make it home this year. Being away from family means I’ve missed out on a lot of events. I’m really close to my sister Louwana, who gave birth to a baby boy in June. I met her son Augustine on Facetime, which made me miss family more.

One of the advantages of working and living in the UK is the travel across Europe. Over the last few years, I got to visit a new city or new country a few times a year. However, with the current restrictions in place, travels for this year has been put on the back burner. In the first two months of lockdown, I spent my Sunday mornings speaking to my mum and getting virtual cooking lessons. I also found other ways to connect with friends and relatives. COVID-19 made us miss important events or cancel travel plans, but it also allowed us to slow down and reflect on what’s truly important.”

Tin Ma Ma Htet


Founder and Executive Director, Sayarma Foundation, Myanmar

Master of Teaching (Primary), 2016

“COVID-19 highlighted underlying social issues, inequalities and unfilled gaps through the sufferings of people at different levels. On the other hand, interconnectedness and the value of supporting one another has never been more magnified.

In Myanmar, teachers, parents and students are still new to the use of computers in the classrooms and struggle to go through online learning platforms. But we do know that many people know how to use Facebook. Sayarma Foundation, with the help of volunteers across the country, provided a free online learning at home program on our Facebook blog to help parents and teachers. It is a four-week program, and our first batch of lessons had more than one million views. We are already in our third batch of learning at home lessons.

COVID-19 challenged everyone, but it also encouraged us to find alternative solutions and showed us that there is always something that we can contribute. Burmese Buddhists would call this ‘the nature of dependent origination.’ This is the time to feel connected.”

Billy Peters


Paramedic, London Ambulance Service, London UK

Bachelor of Paramedicine, 2019

“I never considered an international role during my time at ACU, but in January I moved to the UK to work for the London Ambulance Service (LAS). Working in a new healthcare system was always going to be a challenge but has been particularly difficult in such a dynamic time. I’ve been lucky to be here doing the job that I like. In retrospect, it must be very difficult for the people that have been stuck working from home all year. There has been such a huge demand on the LAS that we called upon the London Fire Brigade to supply firefighters to work as ambulance drivers, allowing the LAS to increase their capacity to respond to emergency calls, and putting more vehicles out on the road. 

With this year’s events, my own grievances with the pandemic have been dwarfed by the impact I’ve seen it have on some of my patients. Each day, I meet people from so many diverse backgrounds, and I get a glimpse of how they are dealing with 2020. Some have been so lonely they call an ambulance just to have someone to talk to.

I might not have done all the travel I had hoped for by now, but I’m still on the other side of the world doing my dream job. No complaints from me.” 

Alannah Pearson


Primary School Teacher, Edenhope College, Edenhope Vic

Bachelor of Education, 2020

“What a year to be a graduate teacher. This year has been tough, but there are also many great things about being a graduate teacher in 2020.

I started my teaching career with a small group of Year 3 and 4 students. At first, I found it difficult to connect with them due to my lack of experience. Coming from a different area made it even harder to form connections. I decided to focus on one student at a time and build relationships as I go. I started really enjoying time spent with the kids in my class; hearing about their weekends and stories about friends and families. My students were my first friends.

The biggest shock for me was the amount of time I had to spend planning. I was used to having a supervising teacher to support me during my placements, and to have to do all the work alone was an adjustment. I worked long hours in my first few months – planning the first term on my own. When I started working with another teacher, my mental health and productivity improved immensely.

As I was starting to feel comfortable in my job, COVID-19 happened. Being adept with technology, I volunteered to help train other staff to use Google Classroom. I created several resources to assist staff with online teaching. It felt good to be able to help other staff members and still able to take care my own responsibilities as a teacher.

When the beginning of our flexible learning period began, I felt completely out of my depth. Whilst I had a good understanding of the programs and needs of my students, I knew it was going to be even more difficult than face-to-face teaching. One issue we face in the community is that many students have little or no access to internet. On top of putting together online content, I also had to arrange printed programs for several of my students. I was essentially doing double the work.

As a school, it took us a little while to find our feet and understand what was working for our students. When our second round of remote learning happened, we were more prepared.

2020 has certainly not been the year I was expecting. I have missed out on a lot of things such as school photos, camp and Book Week celebrations. But I am also grateful to be able to step up and show my commitment to my school, my students and to my profession. While I would’ve preferred a normal year, I can’t say I’m disappointed with how the year unfolded.”

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs