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Renalu: Lockdown hairstyles and family times

After visiting Australia in July 2019, Renalu was excited to be joining her brother as a student in Adelaide in 2020. As a hairdresser back home in India, Renalu was looking to further her knowledge by studying for a Certificate III in Hairdressing at TAFE SA. Little did she know, she’d soon be swapping in-class practicals for practising her hairstyling skills on her family during a global pandemic lockdown. We spoke to Renalu to find out more about her life in Adelaide during the COVID-19 crisis.

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How did you come to study in Adelaide?

I visited Australia in 2019 and went to Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide. I’m a hairdresser in India, so I wanted to see what the industry was like here. I went to TAFE SA to check it out and get my hair done. I liked the way they worked, so I decided to pursue further studies in hairdressing to learn Australian standards and techniques. I came back here in December 2019 and started my course at TAFE SA in February 2020.

What was it like for you as the COVID-19 crisis began?

I’d just come from Mumbai which is such a busy place and was getting adjusted to Adelaide, going out and making friends. I’d become an ambassador for StudyAdelaide and was looking forward to the welcome dinner and other activities, but then it all happened, and things changed.

Tell us how your living situation impacted your experience during the lockdown restrictions.

I was living at my aunty’s house with my cousins and my brother, who also studies in Adelaide. Our grandma lived with us, so we didn’t want to risk passing the virus on to her. All of us, my aunty and cousins and everyone decided to quarantine ourselves. We stopped going to the gym and going out to meet friends.

It was good to have more family time. Every day one of the cousins would cook different things. I think it definitely helped to get through the lockdown restrictions. We are blessed with an aunty and uncle who opened their doors for us to live with them, so we didn’t have to do it by ourselves.

How did your studies change during the initial lockdown restrictions?

We shut down about a week or two before the regular Easter break. I had to take my hairdressing kit home and practice hairstyles on my mannequin. Even though it was online learning, our educators gave us tasks to do every day. It was both theory and practical work.

I wasn’t a big fan of learning online because, in our industry, everything is hands-on. But the lecturers were really good. They never took a step back and would teach us and help us to the full potential. I was lucky to have my aunt and cousins with me because I could practice on them and send pictures into TAFE. It was fun to do different styles for them as well as practice on my mannequins.

How are you studying now?

We’re going back to campus in semester two. I think hairdressing students are the first group to go back. We were able to go to campus for some practicals in semester one, but we had fewer students in the class and had to socially distance ourselves. They had marked pathways for how to enter and exit the room and kept note of who attended for any contact tracing. In our industry, we’re used to cleaning before and after a client and sanitising brushes and combs, but we’re learning to be more aware of social distancing and keeping as much space as we can as we work.

How do you feel about being in Adelaide during the pandemic?

I’m so happy that I’m in Adelaide. It was like I had to be here. Everything happens for a reason, and I think I came to Australia for a reason. Back home, everything is in lockdown with no work and no income. If I were there, it would be a really big task. We pray every day for the cases.

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