Off to Australia… Finally After A 2 Year Wait

My Experience Flying to Australia After 2 Years of Lockdown

No one told me how difficult it would be to adjust to online classes.

Finding out while I was in Dubai that there was a pandemic came as a traumatic bombshell to me because it felt unbelievable to my eyes and my mind. I didn’t know how to react when I learned that I might have to graduate online. At first, it was just a 2-week lockdown. Nothing important. Then those two weeks turned to a month, then that month increased to 2 months. And then with the snap of a finger, a year had passed. It felt like my life went upside down more and more as the pandemic progressed daily. However, I did understand the necessary precautions and new rules as this was an unknown danger that no one is familiar with. I remember having to adjust to the new always-online and stuck-at-home normal. It was exacting because the previous normal in my life where I would go around from country to country for SP Jain had been forcefully changed to one where I couldn’t even go across the street. 

Studying in a university that prides itself in offering students a fresh start every year by travelling to a different country, it was difficult to accept that they had to close because of the pandemic and were unable to come to a compromise in even one of its 4 countries. As a student in my senior year, it was quite disappointing to learn that the Australian borders may not open in time for my graduation. As a college student, I am told that my years there with my fellow classmates studying and graduating with them are supposed to be the best years of my whole life. But if this is what is considered to be the best, then I am afraid of what the worst could be. It had also made it difficult to communicate with my friends and classmates due to the varying time zones we all have all around the world. We had to compromise, especially when it came to group work, to ensure that we can all get our work done and avoid complications/misunderstandings and not stay up till 3 AM in our respective time zones.

I found myself refreshing the Australian government’s website multiple times a day to keep track of any updates or changes that were being made. If not for my strong aspirations of entering the country and the goals I had for my future anchoring me to sanity, I would have given up any hopes that I had. Thankfully, I didn’t. I kept remembering my dreams for the future I wanted for myself, which were thankfully enough to keep me sane during my online Zoom classes and the paranoia of the pandemic.  

The things that kept  me sane waiting for Australia to open up: 

It was the dream of seeing all my friends one last time, in person, before we all separated ways to fulfil our dreams and goals and become adults. It was the feeling that we chased for when we would throw our caps into the air and celebrate because we were closing another chapter in our lives. It was the opportunity that we could find an internship or even a job for a company that we dreamed of applying to. It were dreams like these that kept me persevering no matter what life had in store for me. 

One day, while checking my phone for its usual news alerts like clockwork, I saw that there was an update about Australia’s borders opening to international students and the scrapping of its pilot program. I immediately got up out of my room and ran to inform my family and friends of the news and desperately hoped and prayed that there would be no additional changes that would destroy my steadily increasing hopes. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity as soon as I could because one can never tell what other changes may be made tomorrow. I knew that it was my chance to finally enter the country and spend my final semester immersing myself in a new culture and country while studying, after being stuck at home with online classes for two years. I finally had hope, hope that the graduation I dreamt of with my friends, and the dream I dreamt of for the last 4 years of my life, would finally happen. Things would be okay now. I would finally get to go, study, and work in Australia.

I distinctly remember calling my best friend up and letting her know that both our visa subclasses were included in the list. We were both ecstatic to have the opportunity to see each other again in person after more than two and a half years of calling each other online on Zoom and dealing with our six-to-seven-hour time difference. We tried our hardest in searching and hoped that we would be on the same flight to Sydney, or at least land in the Sydney airport around the same time. It took a few trials and errors until we booked the same flight going from Singapore to Sydney. I remember being so frenzied that the experience of the flight is just a blur in my mind now, despite it happening just a few days before I wrote this article.

At this point, I was constantly checking the Australian government’s website and 9News every hour in case of any other changes. I dearly hoped and prayed that there were no new variants of the virus as it made me worried for my family, friends, and myself. 

As my flight date came closer, I got more and more anxious because travelling seemed like a whole new experience for me. You could say I was out of practice in the sport of flying. There are new changes to the rules and regulations that I would have to follow alongside whole new rules that I didn’t fully understand and, like anyone who’s travelling during the pandemic, I would have to adjust to these changes and follow them to the best of my ability. Before the pandemic, it was just a quick in-and-out experience at the airport where you didn’t have to worry too much about anything going too wrong. Now, the process is much, much longer and there is an increased time and effort spent in the airport. You now have to mind what you touch and are required to present more documents that prove your identity, your reason for travelling, PCR test, etc. Packing all of these in my backpack made me feel like I was carrying a boulder on my shoulders that determined my future and whether I would actually meet my dreams or not. 

The journey that I took from my home to the Sydney Airport felt surreal because of all the times I’ve been let down due to the pandemic. A part of me was afraid that I might be stopped halfway through my journey and be sent back home. However, I inherently knew that this was real. I am a person living in a time of increased risks and I don’t have the time to think about what could go wrong, I only have the time to focus on what I can actually do if something does go wrong. There is no point to me panicking and being anxious while travelling. It will bring me nothing but despair, so I had to look at it optimistically. Whatever happens, will happen. The most I could do is hope for the best.

It was a relief when I finally landed at the Sydney airport and got into my accommodation because I managed to make it without any complications. It was amazing to see the cloudy blue sky and feel the wind breeze in my face after being cooped up in aeroplanes and airports for more than 24 hours and in my house for more than 2 years. It was amazing to feel the sun on my face, breathe in the sweet aroma of flowers at the small gardens in front of the airport arrival gate and relish in the presence of being reunited with my best friend again. That feeling of being in a different climate was amazing. It was a new, different, and refreshing experience all at once. It all felt so surreal I felt I might break down. 

The journey is not quite done yet, but I am grateful to have had the opportunity to fly to Sydney without experiencing any complications. To the students who will be flying out soon, I hope that you won’t experience any problems in your journey either. 

This trip was eye-opening for me, and one of the biggest reliefs of my life. It is something that I will remember for the rest of my life as it is the very delayed beginning of a new chapter of my life. The worst is over now. I can begin anew again… 

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