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He has an Australian study visa but hasn’t been able to attend a single class since 2020

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"I hold an Australian visa but I am stuck doing online classes," Veer says. Source: Veer

New South Wales will see about 500 students returning to the state this December. Another 120 international students are set to return to Victoria by the end of 2021 under a pilot plan. For Veer (name changed upon request), however, this is not the case, despite holding an Australian visa.

He’s not alone. There are thousands of international students that have taken their frustrations to Twitter, filling the hashtags #letusbacktoaus and #internationalstudentsaustralia. Below, Veer, a postgraduate IT student at Deakin University, shares his desperation.

Why did you choose to study in Australia? 

I was interested in computers since my childhood days. In the past few years, I’ve been into cybercrime and learning all about it which is what made me choose to pursue an IT degree. 

When I started planning to go abroad for my higher studies, I had various options like Canada, the US, the UK, and Germany. I chose Australia because of its diversity and how I can learn about different cultures there.

At first, people warned me about Australia being a racist country. I ignored them, headed there in 2017 and had a good life until February 2020.

You’re an Australian visa holder. Yet, you’re facing numerous obstacles to enter the country at the moment. Why is this so?

I’ve been stranded in India since day one. The biggest obstacle is not getting enough exposure through Zoom meetings. I hold an Australian visa but I am stuck doing online classes. 

Another big factor is the timezone difference. Once I got my timetable, there were some classes at 4.30 a.m. which simply wasn’t sustainable.

Furthermore, when I had doubts and had to email my lecturer about it, I had to wait days to get an answer. The worst thing is watching my friends enjoy their lives in Australia but I’m sitting behind a laptop screen although we pay the same fee and hold the same Australian visa.

What more do you think should be done to support stranded students?

It’s way too late as it’s been 20 months since students have been stranded from their studies and still nothing has been done. Pilot plans are always being made before an intake and then scrapped once that intake is gone.

In fact, the national plan that was announced was a fake promise. According to that, they were supposed to start letting people in once Australia was 70% vaccinated. It’s now at 84% and there is still no news — even for the students who are fully vaccinated.

It seems that they are happy to allow tourists from Singapore (because of the basis of their nationality) but students (like me) who have invested their lives, can’t travel back. More should be done for the fully vaccinated as we are also Australian visa holders and have human rights.

Is your uni doing enough to support you?

To be honest, not enough. In my opinion, if our unis fought for us since day one then more international students would be back in Australia by now.

However, since the majority of students are paying for online classes, unis are getting their share of the money. 

What backup plan do you have if this continues?

Quite frankly, I don’t have a backup plan. I have invested four years of my life to pursue studies and get an Australian visa.

I never imagined this country, which used to be famous as a multicultural one, would be so discriminatory towards its students.  Whereas, all the other countries are welcome their visa holders with open arms.