Gamble pays off for S'porean students who chose to stay in Australia to ride out pandemic

Mr Y. Sathisswaran (left), a fourth-year veterinary medicine student at the University of Sydney, and Queensland University of Technology student Joel Ng. PHOTOS: AKSHIL NATHU, GWYN LIM

SINGAPORE - A small number of Singaporean students chose to ride out the pandemic in Australia, but it was a gamble that paid off as they were able to stay on and finish their studies uninterrupted.

Those who remained told The Straits Times that they did not want to risk placing their studies on hold.

Mr Joel Ng, 23, a student at Queensland University of Technology, said: "I never once doubted my decision to stay because I could see the situation in Singapore from social media, and the situation (in Brisbane) was a lot better... We didn't really experience lockdown here the way my friends and family did in Singapore."

Mr Ng, who is a second-year screen content production student, stayed in Brisbane as his course involved hands-on work in class. He said that having served two years of national service, he did not want to put his plans on hold any further.

Having been away for about a year, he said he is excited to travel home to see his family and friends should the Singapore-Australia travel bubble announced on March 14 materialise, but is still wary of it for now.

"My concern is that if something goes wrong, like a Covid-19 case pops up again in Queensland, and Australia closes its borders again.

"What if I choose to go home and while I'm in Singapore, Australia closes the borders again? Then I'll be the one stuck there," he said.

Others who stayed, like Mr Y. Sathisswaran, 24, a fourth-year veterinary medicine student at the University of Sydney, said he had stayed put as his course required him to attend practical handling lessons and placements, which are mandatory for progression.

He said: "I'm quite relieved I didn't return home. Otherwise, I would have to worry about my course progression, my belongings, rent and other arrangements that I would have had to make. Many of my friends are actually in this current predicament, unfortunately."

But his decision to stay came with sacrifices.

Mr Sathisswaran said: "It has been over a year since I've been home and this is the longest I've ever been away from my family and friends. I'm really looking forward to the travel bubble being possibly established, so I can be reunited with them."

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