Diary of an international student during lockdown
How do you feel now that the year 2020 has come to an end?
Before I share my reflections with you, it’s a good idea to introduce myself. I am Avinash or Avi (whichever you prefer) and I hail from the land of Tandoori Chicken aka India.
A fresh migrant to New Zealand is a novel experience, but being one during COVID-19 is a completely different kettle of fish! So, I figured there’s a lot to share… of course, if you are interested.
I arrived in New Zealand as a student, in February 2020. My journey actually started in Malaysia, where I had been living for a few years by then. I remember the stress and the tension of applying to uni with no idea whether I’d be accepted. After months of waiting to hear back, I was finally accepted by the University of Waikato. But the struggle had only just begun.
I had to go through the entire process of getting a visa, which involved putting together a lot of documents, getting them
approved and even having to go to Singapore for a day, as it was the nearest place with an office to apply for a New Zealand visa. But I got it done.
Finally, I had everything ready to start my journey. I hopped on the plane and was on my way to New Zealand.
When I arrived at the airport, I remember seeing the warning sign of coronavirus. Those were still early days, so I didn’t think much of it. I was more concerned with getting through customs and getting to bed so I could sleep off my jet lag.
Besides I had other things on my mind, like finishing my registration with the university and finding a place to stay. Thankfully, I have family over here who welcomed me to stay with them. It was such a frantic time searching for a place to stay, that I lost count of the number of residences I viewed. Soon things fell into place and I found an accommodation close to the university. Next was orientation week.
It was a lot of fun, meeting different people who I got along with quite well, some of whom I would be studying with. The first set of classes had begun, the people were nice and the subjects were interesting.
I was ready to start my student life head on, or so I thought.
Looking back at it now, I have to say I was extremely lucky to have been able to get into the country a few weeks before everything was locked down.
When my first classes started, I had heard rumours about New Zealand going into lockdown. But when the nationwide emergency message showed up on my phone, it spooked the daylights out of me.
I had only been in the country for a few weeks and was already confined to my room. There was absolutely no way of meeting people, except for a few trips to the supermarket.
I’m an introvert by nature, so when the lockdown happened, I thought, “I’ll be fine. I’m inside most of the time anyway.” Oh, what a naive thought that was!
I was a stranger in a foreign land and now I had no opportunities to make any significant connections with others. I thought I was okay with being mostly alone, but that turned out to be a nightmare. I was homesick, I was sad and had no way to even try and get myself out of this situation. I tried looking for game clubs I could join so I could meet new people. But obviously that was a no go. Everything was closed.
College continued and we had our lectures via video conferencing, which just wasn’t the same. I hadn’t even gotten the time to bond with my classmates or make any meaningful friends.
I have to thank the miracle of technology to help me get through these trying times. The ability to communicate with friends and family back home through messaging and video calls helped me retain my sanity. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing.
As time passed, things went back to normal and I could actually go out again. I was able to rejoin my classes and meet my classmates in person again. I even joined a board-gaming club (something I was interested in) and met people who weren’t just pixels on the screen. The feeling of relief was so profound. It was as if I was out of the water and could breathe again.
I have been able to make meaningful connections and even met people who I think of as friends. I don’t know what the future holds for me, or for any of us. Yet, I have hope for something better, now that the sky is sunnier.