New partnerships to support international students

Published 01 July 2020

The University of New England has partnered with state government and non-government organisations to provide food relief to international students who had remained in Armidale when travel restrictions were introduced.

UNE International in partnership with SecondBite, Foodbank and the NSW Department of Treasury are providing food packages to students such as Ishaya Gadzama who came to UNE from Nigeria in early February to undertake a PhD in Animal Science.

Ishaya arrived in Australia on his own, having decided to initially leave his wife and children, including a three months old baby daughter, at home in Nigeria while he checked out the new country.

“It was my first visit to Australia and I wanted to see what the country is like and also set up a place for us to live before I ask them to join me,” Ishaya said.

Not everything went according to plan. Just over a month later lockdown began with Ishaya unable to leave Australia while his family remained in Nigeria. Ishaya’s PhD plans were also changed.

“I started looking for support and was fortunate to be awarded an UNE international accommodation scholarship – a residential scholarship which paid for my accommodation in Wright Village. As one of the beneficiaries of the UNE International Postgraduate Research Award (IPRA scholarship), I receive a stipend that is paid fortnightly  which is taking care of some  necessities such as food items.

“I was also worried about my research amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a PhD student, I had to complete my confirmation of candidature within six months of commencing my studies. I was also hoping to secure grants for my PhD project."

Being separated from his family and with his PhD barely begun, Ishaya became homesick and didn’t take time to eat well and look after himself.

“I’m very grateful for the food packages I received from the UNE International Office. They came at a time when I had little motivation to cook for myself. Now it is quick and easy to reheat the frozen meals.”

“I received the hamper with pantry staples on 22 May which was also my birthday. It was like a birthday gift and I was really happy to celebrate my birthday for the very first time at an internationally reputable institution, UNE, even though my family wasn’t with me.

“The University, especially UNE International, has been there for me and other international students. Their support has helped me psychologically by allowing me to concentrate on my studies.”

Ishaya’s initial PhD application fell victim to COVID-19 but he secured another PhD position in Animal Sciences and his studies are back on track again.

Ishaya is just one of some 250 international students hosted on campus in Wright College and Village, and Austin College under strict regulations since the start of COVID-19 restrictions.

UNE International, together with other UNE students support services, has provided extensive practical, financial and mental health support to these students, ensuring that even though they are far from home and family they are not isolated and alone.

To date, over 1,000 frozen meals, sponsored by SecondBite, have been provided to international students based in Armidale campus while 200 food hampers containing 12kg of pantry staples were distributed to students in partnership with Foodbank.

In March, 420 meals were delivered to international students in Armidale as part of a Ramadan initiative in collaboration with the International Students' Muslim Association, local businesses, UNE Life and UNE Colleges.

UNE International will distribute a further 240 hampers fortnightly to students in Armidale and surrounds, which includes a delivery service to Tamworth, through a partnership with Foodbank and the NSW Department of Treasury.

There is no fixed end date for this distribution of hampers and total numbers are expected to exceed 1,000 over the next month.