Some international students stuck in Dunedin for lockdown are frustrated by the lack of Covid-19 communication from the University.
Anthony is a dentistry student from Canada. He lives in a Uni Flat with two other international students. Their Kiwi Host left for the lockdown. In the week of the lockdown, Anthony said “we spent the past three days trying to email the international student office” about Covid-19, but the International Office wouldn’t meet with anybody in person due to Covid-19. “Then we went into lockdown.”
“We said ‘okay guys, but this is kinda your job’.” Anthony and his flatmates were given almost no information, and fired off a list of questions to their lecturer. They asked “are we going online for the rest of the semester?” and “is there anything being done to accommodate us if we do go home?” They claim that no one told them whether they would be able to access lectures if they went home.
“I am a paying international student and if I’m learning everything off a computer, I might as well have the comfort of my home.” He continued, “I think the University just wanted to guarantee that they’re getting their tuition.”
Fatemah is a second year dental student from Kuwait. She said that “I think they were just really kinda ignoring the very very clear signs and by doing so they were putting us and everyone, not just international students, under pressure.”
She said that, as dental students, she and her peers were anxious about continuing their study, due to the nature of their work. “As second year dental students we work with people, we spend a lot of hours together in labs and we are really exposed to whatever is there.” She continued that “it was quite clear, you know, what’s coming”.
“It’s not really fun to be an international student alone here, isolated for four weeks.” Fatemah said that it is a particularly hard time for international students because they don’t have a solid support network set up yet. “It’s just casual friends and classmates, we haven't really got to the point where you have developed a strong relationship with someone to just phone them and say I’m really feeling bad.”
“It is quite possible that some people are completely alone right now.”
She said that “we do understand that it’s a tricky scenario or situation [for the University] to be put in. I know that it’s unprecedented and no one really has a manual or an agenda to do it, but again, I really do think that the signs were clear.”
OUSA International Students' Representative, Arina Aizal, said “even before [the] announcement of the Alert Level 3 change, students were already feeling unsettled with the first Covid-19 case in Dunedin.”
Arina wishes the University acted sooner. “If only the University communicated with us of their future steps ahead, we would have known that all classes were going fully online earlier. It would have given more time for international students to make a choice whether or not to go home, plan their trips and be with their families.”
“There wouldn’t be international students who are left feeling alone because they don’t have a nearby whanau like other students here.”
The University did not comment on these claims, but said that there is now a daily “cafe” Zoom session for international students where they can speak with the International Student Support Team.
If you’re an international student in need of support you can access the following services:
For financial support, the OUSA Hardship Fund from OUSA Student Support.
For advocacy support and resources, New Zealand International Students’ Association (NZISA), available at nzisa.co.nz/guidance.
For individual issues or advice, please contact International Representative, Arina at email@example.com