Samoan students challenged by virus experience

By Maggie Kelekolio 30 March 2020, 1:00PM

The coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic has added a new dimension to the learning experiences of a group of Samoan students.

Angela Hezalman, Romario Pose, Joycelila Toafa are currently studying at the Monash University in Melbourne, Victoria.

They said their university went into lockdown on March 17, two days before the Australian federal government announced the closure of the border.

Currently, there are 13 Samoan students studying at Monash University and they’ve been advised that their scholarship will be cancelled if they choose to return home.

" Yep, there's like 13 of us here and we're all doing fine. Some wanted to come home and work online from there, but we received an email from our sponsor that we aren't allowed to do so unless we suspend our scholarship for the whole year," said Ms Hezalman.

Shops have been closed and the university has imposed strict conditions on the students leaving campus on certain days of the week. All lectures, workshops, tutorials are cancelled and all events for 500-plus people are cancelled, though libraries remain open until midnight for research. 

According to Ms Hezalman, any medical costs related to COVID-19 are covered under the students’ medical insurance cover.

"All university lectures and tutorials have been moved to be online so we can all study from home,” she added. 

For Mr Pose, he is of the view that the virus is a global issue and should be everyone’s responsibility.

“COVID-19 is a serious global issue and it should be everyone’s responsibility to take care of themselves and others around them to prevent the spread of the virus,” he said.

"During these challenging times, everyone has been notified to stay in their homes and self-isolate. 

He said he currently lives with three other Samoan students and they are all safe, and he appreciates having familiar faces around in these difficult times.

"I currently live with three other Samoan students and we are all safe. It's great to have familiar faces around at times like these when we start to miss home, it helps to combat being homesick.”

The students then spoke of the university's effort to keep them safe, for which they are grateful and also acknowledge the support of the Australian government.

But the COVID-19 lockdown is proving to be a challenge for Ms Toafa, who is missing face to face interaction with her peers as well as lecturers.

She said studying at home and not on campus is good but has its challenges.

“It's a self-learning and directing kind of experience going on. Staying at home is a dream come true but studying from home is a different story. The lockdown has affected my university experience as I am now unable to have face to face conversations with my peers and teachers.”

Ms Toafa said they have to be cautious every time they go out in order to avoid getting infected with coronavirus.

"We had recently gone shopping together yesterday and were very cautious of what we touch and eat because of cases whereby affected people are now trying to spread the virus through licking trolleys and food,” she said. 

“Even when we arrived home, we made sure to shower again and wash out clothes. I reckon the virus encourages good hygiene so everything and everyone has to adhere.”

By Maggie Kelekolio 30 March 2020, 1:00PM

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