A Story from New Zealand during COVID-19: Yuri’s Resilience in Dealing with Homesickness

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Yuri, her classmates, and lecturer in a classroom at Victoria University of Wellington. Source: Personal documentation
Yuri, her classmates, and lecturer in a classroom at Victoria University of Wellington. Source: Personal documentation

Pursuing a master’s degree abroad is indeed an incredible journey. Besides studying, there are so many activities to do, such as volunteering and making new friends with different nationalities. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant challenge to conduct face-to-face activities. In this article, Yurieke Nadiya Rahmat (Master of Arts in TESOL from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) shares her experience adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when dealing with homesickness.

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Kia Ora Koutou Katoa (Maori Greeting from NZ)!

I am Yuri, who just graduated from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, in December 2020. I completed my Master’s degree in Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) funded by the LPDP Scholarship. This journey has been a remarkable opportunity for me to pursue further education overseas.  I would like to tell you about my journey and how COVID-19 has affected me as an international student in New Zealand.

Victoria University of Wellington. Source: Nelson Perez at Wikimedia Commons
Victoria University of Wellington. Source: Nelson Perez at Wikimedia Commons

Pandemic and Yuri’s journey in New Zealand

This all started in March 2019 as my first trimester to be a Master’s student. I was so excited with all the courses I took to meet my professors and classmates to discuss some relevant topics in my major. Also, I could experience what it felt like to meet many people from different nationalities and speak English every day (well, I am really into people and languages). Then, I could participate in campus activities (e.g., promoting Indonesian culture to other students and doing volunteer activities). I realized that I got used to my routine as a student and enjoyed it so much. Then, everything suddenly changed drastically.

The City of Wellington. Source: Sanjeev Bothra at Unsplash
The City of Wellington. Source: Sanjeev Bothra at Unsplash

As COVID-19 happened at the beginning of 2020, it has affected New Zealand in many aspects, especially the school systems. Students, including me, were obligated to study remotely due to the lockdown policy by the NZ Government for almost two months. It was a sudden change for me because I could not spend my time in the library, meet my classmates, and be involved in voluntary activities until further notice.

At that time, I was in the middle of doing my research project, and I needed to adapt to the new conditions. For instance, when I had meetings with my supervisor, I could only see her from the screen because we could no longer meet in person. Despite all this situation, she always checked whether I was okay or not, and she encouraged me to take my own time when doing the research -“Yuri, no need to be in a hurry, you can do this!”- that is what she always said to me. Of course, this support meant a lot to me to keep myself sane.

Continuous supports to cope with homesickness

During the pandemic, I also received various supports from the University. For example, I talked to one of the counselors from Maori Ora via an online meeting, and they checked my mental well-being and discussed things that made me anxious during my study. They gave me some advice that I could apply during that situation so that I could stay healthy mentally and physically. Also, VUWSA (Victoria University of Wellington Students Association) arranged weekly packages and mails for students who got impacts from COVID-19. I received those things and felt tremendously happy to read the note that said, “Dear Yuri, we hope you are doing great with your study. We are in this together, and this shall pass soon. Take care & stay healthy!”. That is so sweet, isn’t it?

Kumutoto volunteering activity with International students in New Zealand. Source: Personal documentation
Kumutoto volunteering activity with International students in New Zealand. Source: Personal documentation

However, this situation affected my anxiety when I was thinking about my family in Indonesia. I felt so worried about their condition because I saw in the news that the number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia had significantly increased. I felt like I missed my family so much more than before because I called my family more often than I used to, and so did they. When talking, we always encouraged each other to stay at home and be more vigilant (e.g., wearing masks and practicing social distancing). I also told my family, especially my mom, that I had some friends who always helped me with many things during the lockdown and my supervisor, who always motivated me to finish my research. I then learned how to bake some cookies with my flatmates to feel joyful even though we could not do outdoor activities due to the lockdown.  I knew my mom was at ease when I told her about my life during the pandemic. I had a lot of supportive people around me who always made sure that I was doing fine. 

Concluding the conversation

Yuri on her graduation day at University of Wellington, December 2020. Source: Personal documentation
Yuri on her graduation day at University of Wellington, December 2020. Source: Personal documentation

Time has passed! New Zealand has become one of the safest countries from COVID-19 where the number of cases keep decreasing. What I could simply conclude from what the government did in New Zealand was absolutely great! For example, when the government announced rules and regulations to the people not to go out for a while, wear masks, do social distancing and many others, People here were so keen on obeying the rules. They did what the government asked them to do because they realized that they could not pass this challenging moment if they did not trust the government. I then realize that this is what it’s like to be “a team of 5 million: together, we can pass this” said NZ Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.  Finally, I was able to graduate and meet my professor and classmates in person (really, no mask & no social distancing). A good thing about this condition is that it was great to know that I made the right decision to keep going and not give up on my study despite all the challenges. What a life!

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Yurieke Nadiya Rahmat’s profile: Yurieke Nadiya Rahmat (Yuri) graduated with a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Currently. Her passion is to do research in the area of vocabulary acquisition and corpus-based linguistics. Also, she finds herself really keen on sharing her knowledge by teaching English to students of various age groups. Yuri can be contacted by email at yuriekenadiya@gmail.com

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