Due to concerns about the Omicron variant, Australia said last month that it will postpone the reopening of its borders to overseas students from December 1 to December 15. Despite Australia’s border closure, NSW will keep its borders open to overseas students as part of a pilot programme to welcome back 500 international students in December.
On Tuesday, the first group of 250 international students arrived in Sydney. As part of the state government’s International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan, these students arrived from Singapore on Monday morning.
Students who have become stranded have been overseas for more than 20 months. Many people have taken to social media to express their concerns, using the hashtag #LetUSBackToAus on Twitter and Facebook. Those who have been stuck from their education can now finally enjoy the university experience for which they have paid.
Students from over 15 countries participated in the pilot programme, including Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, China, and Canada.
“I’m incredibly happy to be on the inaugural flight of the NSW pilot programme,” said Chloe Zhu, a Chinese science undergraduate at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). “I’m excited to be back in Sydney, catching up with friends, roaming around campus, joining student organisations and clubs, and kicking off my vibrant university life!”
Professor Ian Jacobs, UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor, said the university has been working with government and health authorities for more than 18 months to reintroduce overseas students. “International students are an important part of the UNSW community, and the energy they bring to our campus has been greatly missed,” he said.
“While there is still some doubt about the Covid-19 Omicron variation, we are cautiously optimistic that this cohort will be the first of many to come for the first term next year.”
While just a few students are permitted to return to the state, the University of Sydney advises accepted students to proceed with their student visa application.
“Obtaining a student visa will allow students to travel at a later date, and for those beginning their studies remotely, it will ensure that their offshore study is recognised toward any post-study employment privileges,” according to the university’s website.
“While we recognise that this latest change may be difficult for students who had expected to return immediately, the Australian government has made the short delay in the border re-opening with the health and well being of the population in mind.”