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When the lockdown hit, the University of Newcastle launched into action to support our international students through a range of initiatives, including a student hardship fund; a food bank for vulnerable students; and an offshore student mentoring program.

Staff also reached out to offer personalised support to students such as providing groceries, clothing and toiletries, and even organising emergency housing and helping students find jobs.

“When the pandemic hit our first question was: who are the most vulnerable and how can we support them?” commented Mrs Taona Afful, Executive Officer of the School of Architecture and Built Environment.

Professor SueAnne Ware from the School of Architecture and Built Environment added:  “We are reaching out at a time when the world is under a crisis. It is about modelling values that we want our students to have after they graduate.”

Staff across the University have responded to ensure every international student receives the support they need during this time – whether they are overseas or here in Australia.

Faculty of Science’s Professor Chris Scarlett noted that staff members personally reached out to each of their international students to check on their wellbeing and to offer guidance.

“We personally contacted students to check in on them and see if they were coping okay. Without their usual support networks, we need to show them we have measures in place,” Professor Scarlett said.

Staff in the Faculty of Business and Law implemented a mentoring program to connect international students with high achieving students from the program. Through WeChat, offshore students could receive peer-to-peer support from students who had successfully completed courses

“The mentoring program helps to build a sense of community among our international students,” Associate Professor Hao Tan from the Faculty of Business and Law explained.

Staff in the Faculty of Health and Medicine also offered individualised support for international students, including face-to-face or Zoom meetings and weekly tutorial sessions. A WhatsApp group was initiated to encourage social interaction during the lockdown.

International student Hsin-Ping Liang appreciated that staff had connected her with the opportunity to receive financial support through the University's hardship fund.

“I was surprised to receive an email from the Faculty at the beginning of the outbreak. It was very kind of them to check up on me,” she said.

Newcastle International College (NIC) identified unique opportunities to support international students who were feeling disconnected from their families. NIC partnered with a community mosque to provide students ending their Ramadan fast with a free meal and helped connect international students with part-time jobs through their Hire Me! Project.

“We are working hard to show our students that we really care about them and to try to create home for students here,” said Associate Professor Sven Schottmann, Director of NIC.

At the University of Newcastle, we are proud that our students represent 113 nations across the globe.  Our international students are an integral part of our University community, and we wanted to be certain that they received the support and guidance they needed during these challenging times.  We look forward to welcoming international students onto our campuses, when the opportunity comes.

We are here for you, more than ever.

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