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Maggie’s Journey to Australia During COVID-19: Stories From Australia’s First International Student Charter Flight

This article is sponsored by Charles Darwin University

For Shuk Fai Law (who also goes by Maggie), 29 November 2020 was a life-changing day: it was the day she departed her home country of Hong Kong SAR and embarked on a new educational adventure in Australia.

Maggie was one of 63 international students on board the first charter flight coordinated by Charles Darwin University (CDU). Coming from Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia, this cohort is the first group of international students who have been allowed to enter Australia since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the nation to shut its borders in early 2020.

Speaking to Insider Guides, Maggie shares her story of studying online at CDU, applying for the charter flight program, and the journey of her new life in Australia.

Studying from overseas 

In July 2020, Maggie began a Master of Teaching (Primary) at CDU online from Hong Kong. While studying online wasn’t how she expected to study her Australian qualification, she shares that studying online with CDU was a good experience for her.

“Every student logs into a portal called Learnline, which allows students to access the online classroom easily,” she says. “The lecturers can display the learning materials on the screen very clearly. Plus, lecturers and students can communicate very easily through the microphones.”

Another positive aspect of the online learning experience at CDU, she adds, is the fact that all video lectures are recorded. So, if students miss a lecture or need a playback to clarify course content, they can easily go back and watch the videos.

The chance at a charter flight

While Maggie enjoyed her online study experience, she yearned for the chance to begin a new adventure in Darwin, Australia.

“I wanted to study in Australia because it’s a very multicultural country with people from all over the world. I like making friends from different countries.”

Not to mention, certain learning components can only be gained through face-to-face study.

“It was important for me to come to Australia to continue my studies in person because in-person study can allow me to have more direct interactions with lecturers and I can have discussions with my peers. I think this will lead to better academic outcomes and more learning.”

In October 2020, an opportunity arose for her dream to become a reality. Maggie and several other international students received an invitation from CDU to apply for the first-ever charter flight program to Darwin. While she was initially surprised that she would have the chance to enter Australia amid COVID-19, Maggie considers herself extremely lucky for the opportunity.

Preparing for the journey 

Once accepted into the charter flight program, Maggie was required to undertake a thorough preparation process in the weeks leading up to departure. Fortunately, she shares, CDU guided and supported her every step of the way.

“All the instructions provided by CDU were very clear. There were a lot of forms that needed to be filled out as part of the program, but they gave us very clear guidance on how to fill them out and when we should complete them,” says Maggie.

CDU also hosted a virtual student session before departure, giving students the opportunity to answer any last-minute questions they might have had. Finally, CDU reminded students to undergo a COVID-19 test 72 hours before departure to ensure all participants’ health and safety.

From Hong Kong to Darwin

Feeling a mixture of emotions, Maggie headed to the Hong Kong airport on that November day to take the first step in her new educational journey. Upon arrival, she met the other students from Hong Kong who would be travelling to Darwin with her.

“We started our journey as a team. I felt conflicted at the time because I was sad to leave my family but excited to start a new life in Darwin. It was lucky that we had each other to share our feelings.”

CDU also provided exceptional support throughout the journey, adds Maggie. Before boarding the first flight, each student was provided with their own care package, containing a mask, water bottle and extra goods to make the flight more comfortable. CDU staff were even in direct communication with Maggie through WeChat while she was in transit.

“It made me feel so warm and touched,” she shares.

A fresh start in Australia

Now happily settled in Darwin, Maggie is eager to continue her course on-campus while enjoying stunning sunsets and rich culture in her downtime.

Given the success of CDU’s first charter flight, Maggie encourages international students waiting to arrive in Australia to stay updated and promptly apply for the next charter flight once it’s available.

“Don’t worry, and just take action.”

In the meantime, Maggie says that she is “looking forward to seeing more international students coming to Darwin to study together.”

CDU supports all international students throughout their CDU journey, on-campus and online. Learn more about studying with CDU. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.