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2020 Special Commendation Award

2020 has been a challenging year for many, but international students have particularly felt the impacts of COVID-19. For some, the spread of coronavirus meant they had to start their university studies offshore as they couldn’t get to Adelaide for the start of the academic year.

Our offshore students have found ways to connect with their Adelaide community while studying from their homes around the world. To recognise these extraordinary circumstances, we’ve introduced a special commendation award to acknowledge the incredible achievements of our offshore students.

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Winner: Xinyi Xu from China

Studying: Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting), Bachelor of Business (Finance) at the University of South Australia

After getting excellent grades in high school and receiving an offer from one of the top-ranking universities in China, Xinyi instead decided to study abroad with a Vice Chancellor’s International Excellence Scholarship from the University of South Australia. However, her excitement at moving to Adelaide to study soon turned to despair as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of borders, shattering Xinyi’s study abroad dreams. Happily, universities moved swiftly to open external study options to students caught offshore, and Xinyi was able to begin her Adelaide study journey, from her hometown in China. We asked Xinyi to share her story.

How did you feel when you realise you would have to start your university studies while still home in China?

When I heard the Australian government announce a travel ban, I was so depressed. My expectations about university life were extinguished. However, the external study option allowed me to commence my degree. I was nervous about online learning at first, but I got used to this new normal because I can access everything online. I contacted my course coordinators before we started, so I knew what to expect from external study.

You’ve achieved a perfect GPA of 7/7.  How did you manage it?

As soon as they released our course material, I downloaded and read through it carefully. I got busy every day with a full schedule which helped me to discipline myself while studying from home. I listened to the lecture recordings and attended tutorials to interact with my teachers. I put my study first and focused very hard on my academic work. When I received my GPA of 7/7, it made all my contributions worthwhile.

Were you able to access academic support while studying externally?

I joined the Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) each week to communicate with former successful students and my course peers. I also attended academic workshops to familiarise myself with the assignment tasks and referencing style. I learned how to use the UniSA online library and database, posted questions, booked phone appointments and sent emails to clarify any doubts. I appreciate the staff and teachers who worked hard to make every student count during this period.

Tell us how you’ve connected with your university community even though you’re so far away.

I attended online Zoom information sessions for commencing international students as well as UniMentor sessions. I also attended the 2020 China International Education Exhibition Tour as a student representative to advocate for my university. I’m a member of the Australia China Youth Association and attended their cultural quiz night. I’m also working with UniSA SPICED to hold a virtual tour to show attendees my hometown’s night market and teach them how to cook local dishes.

How would you describe your South Australian journey while you’ve been studying away from South Australia? 

All my connections with Adelaide lie on the internet. However, I’m satisfied and grateful for my unique online study experience. I have access to all the course materials, which allow me to fully prepare for my study.

I have joined in Adelaide life by virtual events of the USASA clubs, and I’ve made friends from the StudyAdelaide Friends of the World events. I’ve also learned about Indigenous culture and traditional Aussie foods through sessions held by StudyAdelaide.

I can feel from here that Adelaide is a friendly city which embraces diversity. The education sector in Adelaide has made sure international students are well prepared, welcomed, connected and supported by the local community. I’m thankful to all the people who helped me.

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