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Student Stories: How We’re Adjusting to the ‘New Normal’

As COVID-19 has swept across the globe, students everywhere have had to adjust to a completely different way of living, studying and working. To find out how international students in Australia are dealing with the new normal, we reached out to a few Scape (formerly Urbanest) residents to get their take.


Eugenia hails from Mexico City and is currently on exchange in Melbourne, studying various sports science subjects and creative writing at Victoria University. Eugenia says she fell in love with the city for its vibrant cultural scene, proximity to the sea, and the fact that it’s located around a river.

How has your experience been dealing with the impact of COVID-19?

Pretty good, considering the circumstances. Obviously I was a bit discouraged with the fact that I would not be able to experience all that Melbourne has to offer, but I got to experience a crucial turning point that will forever define the course of human history… and from a very privileged position.

Maybe it’s not the exchange semester I was promised – not by anyone in particular, more by unrealistic expectations imposed by society – but it’s the one I got. We are collectively experiencing an event that has made us question all aspects of what we had defined as ‘normal’, and I will have the rare privilege of living it from two perspectives: the first is now in the land Down Under, the second adjustment will come when I go back home to yet another unexpected reality.

Are you still managing to maintain any social activities?

I’ll occasionally have a virtual gathering with friends back in Mexico (they’ll be having a beer while I drink my morning tea) and I’ll often talk to my family as well; from watching a movie with my mum (connected with FaceTime) to chatting with my brother on the phone or organising a family trivia on Zoom. Recently, I’ve found unlikely friends in my building, and have been hanging out with them; getting together to do homework (independently) or to go get lunch or take a coffee break.

What are you most looking forward to when restrictions ease?

I can’t wait for the swimming pools to reopen so I can get back to training – that is one of the things I’ve missed the most during isolation. I would say I’m also looking forward to museums, cinemas, theatres and concert halls reopening, but I’ll probably be going back home soon anyway and will see my friends and family again. I have that to look forward to. And a unique ‘study abroad’ experience to remember in the years to come. Hopefully, this is not the last I’ve seen of Australia… or the last it has seen of me.


Simran grew up in Ludhiana, a city in the state of Punjab located in northern India. She’s now studying a Bachelor of Creative Industries at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, majoring in Media and Communication and Screen Content Production.

Tell us about your experience dealing with COVID-19.

Being an international student I’m used to living alone, yet I miss meeting my friends. Growing up in an Indian joint family, traditions emphasise togetherness and we always greet people with a hug. I miss that aspect of my culture due to social distancing.

The management team is very creative, as they found ways to keep residents busy by moving the uLife events calendar online. The game and movie nights, yoga, cardio sessions and other events are being conducted online now. These events are not only great at keeping you busy, but they also help residents stay healthy – both physically and mentally.

What does a normal day look like for you now?

The pandemic seriously changed my sleeping schedule and I can officially say I’ve become a night owl. During the winter break, I’m trying to keep myself busy attending QUT’s LDI (Leadership & Development) workshops, for personal and professional development. In the evening I just play my favourite BTS songs and dance. In my defence, it’s a good workout! The ULife calendar also does a good job at keeping me busy with competitions and daily activities. Lastly, I try to edit a few of the 10,000 pictures I have and curate content for my Instagram blog.

What are you most looking forward to doing now that restrictions are easing?

I’m looking forward to being a part of the real workforce to gain valuable experience. The creative industries in particular have been impacted deeply by the pandemic since these depend on a lot of face-to-face interactions. I look forward to being on campus again. I would love to meet my international friends again and enjoy a good picnic/hike with them. I also can’t wait to explore more of Australia and share my experience with the world.


Amanpreet has been living in Australia for three years, completing a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Monash University. He first travelled to Australia from his home in New Delhi, India, in 2015 and couldn’t wait to come back to study.

How did you find the transition to online learning?

The transition online wasn’t too difficult. The teachers helped us accommodate our curriculum online and I liked the fact that I don’t have to walk into a classroom and study something. I like studying in confined places, and my study table is the best one for that, so online studies were rather helpful.

What does a typical day look like now?

I usually spend my day doing some meditation, keeping myself busy with university assignments and just grinding on eSports. Being a third-year Biomedical Science student from Monash, you don’t get much time to do lots of other things, but I manage to squeeze in as much as I can in the 24 hours. I also gave a shot to cooking and turns out I’m good at it.

What are you most looking forward to next?

I’m looking forward to meeting my friends and hanging out with them again. I hope the borders open soon so that I can go back and visit my family or call them here for a short visit. I am also excited to go and eat some hotpot, as it has been a long time since I’ve had one.


Originally from Malaysia, Bianca is in the middle of her third year in Australia. She’s studying a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of South Australia in Adelaide.

Tell us about your experience dealing with COVID-19.

It was scary at first. At the beginning of the year, I remember there was a passenger who boarded a Malaysia Airlines [flight] that tested positive for COVID-19. My housemate and I were really stressed out about having to isolate ourselves and informing our lecturers about our situation because it so happened that we were on that same flight. Thankfully, SA health assured us that we were considered at low risk of developing the infection and the self-isolation was not needed.

Despite this, the staff were still very kind and supportive. They gave us an option to isolate ourselves in their specially prepared studios so we would have a peace of mind. They even provided us with face masks, hand sanitisers and toilet rolls. This was extremely helpful as those things were practically sold out at the time.

How are you adjusting to the lifting of restrictions?

I’ve started to go out more often now, instead of doing my shopping online and in the comfort of my home. There are also times when I would walk to the university again to study just for a change of scenery. However, the lifting of restrictions did come at a pretty bad time since it’s the middle of SWOTVAC now, so I don’t have the time to go out even though I want to. But there is a silver lining to this. At least now I could head over to my friend’s place for dinner whenever I am too busy to cook for myself. Even with all this, I’d still take precautions and maintain social distancing. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

What are you most looking forward to doing now that restrictions are easing?

I definitely look forward to having another road trip with friends since the restrictions are easing and we’d be done with finals. There are so many beautiful places here in South Australia that we have yet to explore! Besides that, I also can’t wait to head out to somewhere other than the kitchen for dinner as there are many restaurants and cafes that are adapting to the easing restrictions and are open to indoor dining.


Kaustubh moved from his home in Pune, India, to Brisbane in 2018. He’s now completing a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) with a dual major in Electrical and Computer at the University of Queensland.

How have you dealt with the impact of COVID-19?

It took me 3-4 weeks to adapt to this new situation. It’s really difficult to sit at your home the whole day, not meet anyone and keep focusing on your work. The problem was that everything was so depressing and dull that there was no motivation or energy to focus on my studies. With the help of my parents, I kept myself motivated to complete all my work on time. I can feel that I’ve become a stronger person now, and I guess that everyone will come out as a stronger person after this pandemic.

How are you adjusting to the lifting of restrictions?

After staying at my home for such a long time, I had become a lazy person, and after the restrictions were lifted, it took me some time to get out of that lazy attitude. It felt really good to see so many people outside; I remember looking out of the window during lockdown – it felt like I’m the only person left in the world. Also, the university will be starting the on-campus study from next semester. Feels amazing to see life getting back on track.

What are you most looking forward to next?

Once I’m done with my final exams, I would love to go for a trip with my friends for a few days, because the last few months have been really difficult, and a good break would really help us to clear up our mind and also would recharge our batteries for the next semester which will be starting in a month.