“I want to leave Australia. I think that before all this happened, I used to see Australia as a country of opportunity and I saw it as ‘yes, I can stay’. My partner is from the United States, so we always had the discussion of, when I graduated, would we stay here or go to the United States. But now I want to leave, I don’t want to stay here because I feel that there is no future, economically speaking. I want to finish what I started here and leave,” says the Venezuelan Daniella Reina, holding back her tears.
An engineering student, Daniella moved to Australia nearly two years ago so she could finish university after facing problems completing her degree in Venezuela due to the country’s humanitarian crisis. But in the midst of the pandemic, she now questions if the investment is worth it. With classes being held online in a course that requires practice, she feels she is not learning enough.
“Since I’m not at home, I don’t have the tools to study here. I need special programs for engineering and my computer goes crazy with the program. And also part of what you learn is from the labs because you see the process. In engineering, many processes are abstract and the only way to see it is the physical. Now the labs are nothing, so I think at least we should have the option to watch it next semester,” she says, trying to give a solution to the problem.
For her, keeping the focus on studies at home is another obstacle. “It took a long time for me to see my home as a place to study or work. You know those people who say they can study at home? I’m not one of them. I need to finish my assignments at uni and I can’t do that anymore. It’s frustrating, I take a lot longer to do things. I feel slow, unfocused, like seeing birds in the sky,” she says with the sadness of those who lost the comfort of having their home as a place for rest.
Photo credit: Daniella Reina
She also talks about the additional challenge of having to deal with a second language in non-presential classes. “As an international student, English is my second language and it is much easier to communicate in person because you can explain what you want. When you’re behind a camera or an email, sometimes saying what you want is much harder,” she says.
“So I’m not getting the education I was getting before and I’m not learning like before. The truth is that I learn, but not from classes. In the end, I’m not getting the education I’m paying for,” she says with the frustration of those who crossed an ocean to be where they are but don’t feel they are living the experience to the most.
Daniella also comments on the situation of being an immigrant during this time. “I think it’s much harder because you don’t get any help from the government. And, in the end, you’re alone. You have to fight to keep what you have and there’s no option B of staying with a relative or a friend. Because sometimes for an immigrant it’s very difficult to have that friend that you can say, ‘Oh, can I stay at your house?’ or something.”
As for her family, she feels more at ease. She says that being a migrant helped her to get through this situation better. “Well, it’s still the same thing, isn’t it? I’ve been seeing them from afar for so long that it doesn’t make much difference. I got separated from my twin sister when I was 18, now I’m 25. It’s part of my life, so it doesn’t affect me in that respect,” she explains with the expertise of those who have been dealing with crisis situations for too long.
“If I was in Venezuela, I would go every Sunday to my grandmother’s house. So yes, it would impact me, but now I don’t visit my grandmother anymore, so it’s okay. There’s nothing different about my Sundays,” she adds.
Today, with all her family living in Europe, Venezuela is something that is left behind. “I have no contact with Venezuela now. I think that when you decide to migrate for good, to feel better about yourself, you have to close all your doors. Because those memories of ‘ah, if I was in Venezuela, I would be doing this,’ that thinking too much about the past, it doesn’t let you move forward from my point of view,” Daniella says.
When I ask her what makes her feel at home now, she tells me about her future husband. “I think it’s my boyfriend now, we’re together and we’re getting married…so I think he makes me feel at home,” she concludes with a smiley face.