So near, so far – offshore study during COVID-19

Anqi was at home in China when the COVID-19 shutdowns began. She decided to stay in China and continue her studies from there.

Student Anqi Zhuang was at home in China when the COVID-19 shutdowns started. Rather than trying to get back to Australia, Anqi decided to stay in China and continue her studies – temporarily – from there.

A fourth-year student in ACU’s Bachelor of Teaching/Bachelor of Arts (Mathematics), Anqi Zhuang was visiting her family in China when COVID-19 triggered university shutdowns around the world.

“I decided not to travel back to Australia because my family felt it was safer for me to stay,” she says.

Instead, she spoke to an ACU international student adviser who told her the university was planning to move all their courses online during the shutdown and to allow international students to continue their studies from overseas if necessary. For Anqi, that decision made the difference between being able to continue her studies and falling behind.

The shift to online study took some getting used to, but thanks to the dedication of teaching staff and the ACU technical teams that supported the move to digital learning, it was a fairly straightforward transition.

“The quality of the course content is high. They put a lot of effort into preparing and delivering classes online, and we’re given plenty of readings, websites and other resources to help us,” she says.

Practical placements – a core component of the Bachelor of Teaching – are currently on hold, but Anqi says there are already plans in place to help students make up missed hours once the situation returns to normal.

In the meantime, international students remain in close contact with ACU International. The student advisers are reaching out to individual students to check in with them, keep them updated on the situation in Australia, and connect them to a wealth of academic, social and financial services at ACU if students find themselves in need of support.

“I’ve been in contact with the advisers through Wechat. I know the International Office staff were trying to contact those who were in Australia by phone to make sure we were safe, and they worked with the IT department for days to make sure we can access LEO, the ACU student system, from overseas,” she says.

“They also supported us financially by providing loans and a hardship fund for international students impacted by COVID-19.”

It’s been a unique semester for Anqi, who has spent the last three years building a life in Sydney, but she’s already making plans to return to Australia as soon as the borders re-open.

“Definitely,” she says.

“I miss my friends, miss my old homestay family, miss the BBQ at the beaches. I miss having classes face-to-face, miss the campus, miss the teachers who used to teach us, miss having lunch at the café with my friends.”

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