Story of a local community response to International Students’ needs during COVID-19 induced lockdown

Presenter: Ms. Indira Venkatraman
Authors and Affiliations:
Ms. Indira Shantapriyan, Department of Accountancy and Finance, University of Otago
Dr Nicola Beatson, Department of Accountancy and Finance, University of Otago

The COVID-19 pandemic was socially and economically distressing to the international student community in Tasmania. They experienced sudden onset of job loss and subsequent loss of income for food, rent and other essentials. A local community group that was accustomed to running weekly and monthly support groups, for a section of international students, became involved in finding a solution. An ad-hoc charity to connect with local food bank and set up a weekly food parcel distribution was implemented. Furthermore the ad-hoc charity decided to distribute hot cooked meals to students once a week as well.

The charity’s scope and its outreach grew in numbers as the number of weeks in lockdown grew. New and vivid details of services and support needed by the international student community emerge as the charity is now entering a consolidation phase. For example on top of the distribution of food, there was a need for feminine hygiene and health products amongst international students who identified as women. How did the ad-hoc charity respond to this emergent need? What resources and investments were deployed? These are some of the questions this research seeks to address.

This research uses Song (2004) definition of an international student in an Australian context. The main scope of this research is to study using existing data [##] from the ad-hoc charity and purpose-specific gathered data [##] to understand the impact of a pandemic on the welfare and wellbeing of international students. The data allows us to closely observe the ethos, ethics, governance, strategic response and decision making of a community group, when faced with the welfare concerns of international students. Resulting analysis can inform policy and governance on extracting value from transient relocation (Callahan, 2006) and transnational migration (Chang, Gomes & Martin, 2018) of international students and their welfare. 

[## subject to:  Ethics approval from the University of Otago ethics committee]


Callahan, E., 2005. Cultural similarities and differences in the design of university web sites. Journal of computer-mediated communication, 11(1), pp.239-273.

Song, Y.S., 2004. A comparative study on information-seeking behaviours of domestic and international business students. Research Strategies, 20(1-2), pp.23-34. Chang, S., Gomes, C., Martin, F. (2018) ‘Navigating Online Down Under–International Students Digital Journeys in Australia’ in Catherine Gomes & Brenda S.A. Yeoh (ed.)Transnational Migrations in the Asia-pacific: Transformative Experiences in the Age of Digital Media, Rowman & Littlefield, London, United Kingdom

About Authors

Ms Indie Venkatraman

Affiliation/s: Department of Accountancy and Finance, University of Otago

Indie joined the Department of Accountancy and Finance at the University of Otago in 2020. Prior to which she has worked as graduate researcher, at the University of Melbourne and the University of Tasmania. An ‘adopted’ international student herself, Indie brings with her an understanding of the paradigm from both sides of the fence. Currently she is reading for a postgraduate degree in Information Science and works with Accountancy and Finance as a teaching assistant and research assistant.

Dr Nicola Beatson

Affiliation/s: Senior Lecturer, BCom (Otago), MCom (Otago), PhD (Otago)

Nicola joined the Department of Accountancy and Finance at the University of Otago in 2010. Since that time she has had several teaching accolades, including being named in the Otago University Student Association awards (student voted) as the ‘Premier Lecturer, Commerce Division’ in 2017, winning the ‘Overall Premier Lecturer’ in 2018 and most recently receiving a 2019 Otago Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2020, Nicola was elected as a board member for the Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand (AFAANZ). Nicola’s enthusiasm for her research saw her win the PhD Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition in 2017, after winning the same competition for Masters students in 2015. Nicola is an active member of the wider Accounting Education community, and is an Associate Editor for Accounting Education, and on the Editorial Review Board for Journal of Accounting Education.

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