Ashrika Paruthi 

Amidst the relentless tempest of the COVID-19 pandemic, my personal odyssey as an Indian international student unfolded, laying bare the awe-inspiring resilience and unwavering determination that courses through the veins of every global scholar confronting concurrent trials and tribulations. 

As the world locked down and borders shut tight in 2020, I found myself back in India – far from the campus I was still getting used to calling ‘home’ – I was left to adapt to remote learning, akin to a lone traveler wandering through an unfamiliar, digital wilderness. Online lectures and assignments became my constant companions, their pixels flickering like distant stars in an electronic cosmos.

It was a steep learning curve, but it also presented a unique opportunity for personal and academic growth. In the face of remote learning’s challenges, I sought opportunities to make a positive impact on the world. Remote volunteering opportunities, internships and research projects provided me with the chance to delve into critical global issues. 

However, the most significant chapter of my journey unfolded in 2022 when I finally returned to Sydney. Stepping onto Australian soil was an emotional moment, filled with joy and relief. Yet, amidst the excitement of reuniting with my University I began to feel an unexpected pang of loneliness. The bustling campus, once a hub of connection and camaraderie, now felt strangely quiet. The social connections I longed for seemed elusive, and I grappled with a profound sense of isolation, like a lone lighthouse keeper surrounded by an endless sea. While I was back in Sydney, my heart ached (still aches) for the warmth of family – my source of constant support and comfort. 

Still, determined to not only adapt but to thrive, I started setting up in-person meetings with professional connections I made while I was offshore to avail more work-related opportunities, and actively initiated conversations with my classmates in the hopes of having friends that felt like family. In hindsight, convincing myself to step out of my comfort zone helped me evolve into the confident, get-goer I am today. 

My narrative resonates as a heartfelt reminder to my fellow international students, highlighting that we all partake in the intricate tapestry of this journey’s highs and lows. Loneliness, though it may seem like a fleeting companion, can be transcended through the enduring qualities of resilience and purpose. Together, we possess the capacity to rise above adversity, forging connections that enrich our lives and persisting unwaveringly in our pursuit of knowledge and personal evolution. Within each of us resides an indomitable strength, a mighty river carving its path through the toughest of terrain, enabling transformative change even in the midst of our deepest yearnings for the comforting presence of family.

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