University Students’ Experiences During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Australia
Background COVID-19 and various preventive public health measures have caused tremendous changes in university students’ lives, with diverse negative impacts worldwide. All these have imposed extra challenges on various determinants of health in this vulnerable group. It is essential to address students’ perspectives on their experiences and needs to identify their priority area to form proper support. This research will add to the growing literature related to COVID-19 in Australia and explore the experiences of diverse Australian university students, including international students. Aim To explore and understand the experiences of university students during the COVID-19 pandemic and evaluate the homesickness level among international students. Methods A mixed method study consists of a quantitative survey and a qualitative study were conducted at Macquarie university. The cross-sectional quantitative study was a part of a larger research study, and homesickness questions were asked only of the international students. A slightly modified version of the Utrecht Homesickness Scale was used to assess homesickness, and statistical software Stata was used to analyse the data. The qualitative study was conducted later and was informed by the larger quantitative survey results. Semistructured interviews were used in this second study and participants were recruited from the initial cohort. In this study the experiences of the university students during COVID-19 were explored, and reflexive thematic analysis was conducted. Results In the quantitative study, among 44 international students, most of the students missed their family very often or always More than half of the students ruminate about their home very often or always. In the qualitative study, 13 university students were recruited. A total of seven themes were identified, comprising learning experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic; the impact of COVID-19 on work-life and financial challenges; COVID-19 and students’ physical health; negative emotions and mental health; COVID-19 and social factors; barriers to seeking help and assistance; and support during COVID-19. Conclusion The study contributes to our understanding of university students’ concerns, needs, and priority areas that require proper support. The first study showed a high level of homesickness among international students studying at an Australian university, which added an extra stressor during COVID-19. The second study captured students’ concerns and challenges that impacted their capability to reach academic goals. Recommendations are drawn from the findings to improve online learning experiences, social connectivity, communication and support which will guide future strategies of universities to maximise support for their students.