Sunny Liu is studying to be a teacher and made it back to Darwin just in time — some of her friends were not so fortunate.
Ms Liu was spending time with family for Chinese New Year just before Australia banned travel from mainland China in February.
“Luckily I was able to get in and and start back at my course on time,” Ms Liu said.
“A lot of my friends are stuck in China or overseas and they are very anxious.”
“They don’t know when they can be back and how they’re going to finish their studies.”
An NT pilot program for international student arrivals has been agreed on
Students would like more details about the cost and timing
If successful, the NT pilot program will be Australia’s first
The Northern Territory Government confirmed on Monday it was working with Charles Darwin University [CDU] to fly 70 international students to Darwin from Singapore next month.
A spokesman from Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s office said an agreement for a pilot program in late October was now in place with the Federal Government.
Other states have negotiated international student pilot programs, but so far they have failed to get off the ground.
It is still unclear who will foot the bill for the students’ arrival — if students will pay for their flights and CDU will cover the $2,500 per student Howard Springs quarantine cost.
Ms Liu’s friend Maxine Li planned further study in Darwin but had to cancel her flights in February.
She would like more information about the deal, especially given the current semester is almost over.
“The two things; confirm information about the date and also the cost,” Ms Li said.
Ms Li said she was no longer in a huge hurry to return to Australia, after spending almost a year in China with family.
“I found a job in my home town as an English teacher here, so I’ve been working for one year since I came back,” Ms Li said.
“But I still want to try to finish my masters degree in Darwin.”
For Ms Li, the extra time in China has also been a chance to reconnect after six years away.
“I was living away from my parents and now there is an opportunity for me to stay a long time with them so I feel quite happy,” Ms Li said.
“They are happy too — sometimes they are surprised and amazed that I am staying home still.”
Ms Liu and Sri Lankan student Nilesh Dilusan said support for international students returning to Darwin would need to be assured.
Scholarships for disadvantaged students could be one way to help, Ms Liu said.
“We are paying a lot of money and spending a lot of money while studying in Australia but we’re not entitled to a lot of the support from the Government and the university,” she said.
“So if there’s more support in that way that would be great.”
The pair were part of a student group that helped provide food to other international students during the pandemic’s peak, and they are now focused on financial help.
“Students are facing financial hardships and lack of support from their family members, as their family members at home are also affected by the crisis,” Mr Dilusan said.
Last July, 410 international students arrived in the NT in time for the second semester of study, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
This July, there were none.
Before the pandemic, the NT Government announced an international education strategy it hoped would lift international student numbers from 2,600 to 10,000 by 2025.