Like many other students studying in Australia, they needed to quickly navigate ever-changing social and academic changes, without the immediate comfort and safety of family and friends back home.
As universities and students prepare for a semester unlike any other, we asked the pair to reflect on their experience as students during the pandemic, and how being part of the UniLodge on Swanston community helped them feel supported, connected and engaged.
1. Connection and routine are essential to stay motivated
“Staying motivated is quite challenging, I procrastinate a lot!”, Visnu admitted. With most universities transitioning to remote study, students have had to find new ways to stay on track. For Visnu, this was easier said than done.
“For me, transitioning to online learning has been the most challenging aspect of the pandemic as a student, especially since most of my course is based on practical learning and placements.”
Fellow University of Melbourne student, Tim, has found a study routine that helps to set him up for success, everyday. “I put on lo fi music and get dressed as if I am actually going into uni, rather than wearing my pyjamas all day! I’ve learnt that I can actually make time to do the things that I need to do, instead of making excuses.”
Like Visnu, it hasn’t been easy for Tim to get into the groove. “It was quite difficult, especially at first because everyone was confused. We’re not getting as much face to face contact, which means you need to be more proactive.”
2. Weekly activities helped me to stay socially connected
Staying connected and engaged with his UniLodge community is important to Tim, who took the opportunity to get involved in a range of online workshops and games during the pandemic.
“I felt very lucky to participate in online community spirit activities, including gaming sessions and cooking competitions, where I could easily chat with friends and check in. Being an international student, the most important part of my experience is being able to have great connections with other people.”
Like Tim, Visnu has made the most of the activities on offer at UniLodge. “I learnt that I have a lot of creative potential and discovered a love for cooking and expanding my repertoire of recipes during online cooking workshops,” he said.
3. Daily interactions with family and friends help to feel more at home
“I realised that the most important element of my experience is social connection and support. Before the pandemic I would speak to my family once a week, but now I call them much more” says Visnu.
With many UniLodge residents living away from home, making contact with loved ones has become a regular necessity.
“I call my family a lot more than I used to, sometimes for no reason other than to say hello”, Tim agrees. “I’m also spending more time connecting with friends on social media and online video platforms. I even met some new ones, which is something I didn’t expect would happen during the pandemic!”
4. Community environments help you thrive in student life
Living internationally and away from his family, Visnu looked to his UniLodge community for comfort during the pandemic, and as it turns out, it’s the small things that make all the difference.
“Being part of the UniLodge community makes you feel connected and supported, rather than isolated at a time like this. I was grateful for even the small, random interactions I would have day to day in the hallway or outside the building. Being a part of a community is certainly good for all of us and I can’t imagine the student experience without UniLodge.”
Tim also found that there are benefits to living in a community environment during these times, especially when you might need a little extra help.
“International students can get very homesick, especially those who are living on their own, so it was reassuring that UniLodge staff would check if we had enough supplies and that we were coping okay.