Xiaotian Liu is happy to have left the big city busyness of Beijing behind and returned to quieter Canberra. Here, he is planning to focus on completing a Master of Science at The Australian National University (ANU), meet the classmates he now calls friends in person, enjoy the beautiful campus and maybe even take a road trip.
Liu was among the first group of international students to return home to Canberra over the weekend - 17 from ANU and six from the University of Canberra. The cohort arrived from China via Sydney airport, completed a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) in line with ACT Health advice, and then travelled by charter bus to their final destination - student accommodation in the capital.
"I am excited to be back in Canberra and eager to take in-person classes at ANU," Liu says.
"I like the feeling of being challenged by my study and look forward to continuing my Master program at the ANU College of Science.
"My advice to other international students is to come back to Canberra as soon as possible to have the best experience of university life."
Liu was invited to finish his undergraduate research at ANU in semester one 2020 and planned to jump right into a two-year Master of Science in Precision Instrumentation and Measurement. Then COVID-19 hit, and he was unable to travel to Australia. Given circumstances, he completed his Bachelor degree online, and after deferring a year in the hope of returning to Canberra, commenced the Master program remotely in semester two 2021.
While Liu longed to get back to Canberra, where he had a taste of "a brand new learning style and exciting lab work" during an academic visit in 2019, the ANU student centre in China provided important support through the challenges of remote study.
"Not only did ANU provide several study centres where Chinese students could be supported with our online learning, they also organised social activities so we could hang out and make new friends," Liu says.
"Nancy, Sunny and other ANU China office staff did their best to show the University really cares for us. They also prepared many supplies so we could safely travel from China to Canberra and stay healthy.
"It was sometimes difficult to talk with classmates through Zoom, and because some of my courses require a lab, online learning was not always convenient. But all lecturers and tutors were patient and kind to us, and I was still able to experience a wonderful time getting to know classmates and discussing our coursework. Now I cannot wait to meet my classmates in person!"
ANU welcomed the news that Australia's international borders were open to fully vaccinated students from overseas in December 2021, and the return of the first group to Canberra this week is a very exciting milestone.
"We've missed our international students and they've missed us," Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International Strategy) Professor Sally Wheeler says.
"International students bring many talents and ideas to our classrooms, and make a substantial contribution to our campus, our community and Canberra. It's really promising to see strong application numbers for 2022, coming from students from 131 countries.
"We are all looking forward to a much better 2022, with our staff and student community safely back together and making the most of the vibrant campus experience."
While Liu likes the slower paced, quieter lifestyle in Canberra, he's also looking forward to having fun with friends on campus. He might even make some noise by joining an orchestra, "although I left my tuba in China", he says.