Magic tricks and Netflix - Life under lockdown for Canadian teaching students

27 May 2020

Canadian students have been coming to the University of Canterbury (UC) to complete their teaching qualifications for some 15 years. This year the experience was quite different, but the Canadians chose to stay at UC through lockdown say they’re glad they did.

  • Jake Galasso

    Canadian UC student Jake Galasso, pictured longboarding through UC's campus, felt safer staying in New Zealand during the recent lockdown.

Canadian students have been coming to UC to complete their teaching qualifications for some 15 years. This year the experience was quite different, but the Canadians chose to stay at UC through lockdown say they’re glad they did. Not only did they feel safer than being anywhere else in the world, but they bonded as a group in their residential hall bubbles and received amazing support from their lecturers and student care teams.

Canadians Emma Postons and Jake Galasso (Graduate Diploma of Teaching and Learning) felt safer staying in New Zealand.

While there were ups and down to bubble life with four other roommates each at the Hayashi halls of residence, Emma and Jake both said they have formed tight-knit groups - good routines, ‘family’ nights to look forward to and the willingness to talk through any issues all helped.

A highlight has been the support from UC, with science education lecturer Dr David Winter coming in for special mention and thanks.

“I cannot thank my professors enough for their non-stop support and love to us Canadians,” Jake says. “Dr Dave Winter inspires me to become a better teacher, learner and human as a whole. I couldn’t thank him enough.”

Emma says, “I was very impressed with the amount of consistent and positive support that we received throughout the lockdown. I strongly believe that UC truly looks after each of their students.”

And now? Emma and Jake can’t wait to catch up with their kiwi friends and experience more of what New Zealand has to offer. 

Q&A with Emma and Jake:

Why did you stay at UC for lockdown? What did your families think of your decision to stay?

Emma: There was a window of time to return home but ultimately, I felt that staying in New Zealand would be the best option for me. I didn’t feel comfortable booking a flight home, as it wouldn’t be a simple, short flight back to Canada. There would also be significant exposure to bacteria in the airports and airplanes. At this time, Canada had a lot more cases of Covid-19 than New Zealand, and community transmission levels were increasing at consistent rates. For my health and safety, I knew that New Zealand would be the safest and best option for me. And I was also worried about the unknown possibility of returning to New Zealand to finish my program if I chose to leave. My family also supported this decision.

Jake: I stayed at UC during the lockdown because of the fear of me not being able to return back to NZ and finish my GradDip Program.  Dave Winter made us feel very comfortable with the idea that if we stay and stick it out, UC will do everything they can to make us feel like were at home, and to accommodate us in finishing our program. My family wanted me to stay. When I decided to come out here, my family and I were comfortable with the idea that I was going to stick it out for the entire year. I miss them a lot but they are just one FaceTime call away.

How was life in the halls? What did you do to entertain yourselves?

 Emma: I feel very grateful for my bubble, as we were all very supportive of each other during these uncertain times. There is always a degree of nervousness when being placed in a bubble with people that I had only met a few months prior. However, we all had the same goal of making the best of the situation we were given. We established a solid and healthy routine that gave us a good combination of family bonding nights, as well as time individually to have our own schedule. For example, Thursday nights were for family meetings, to check in on each other and communicate any issues we had. Sunday nights were family dinners, which were often followed by a movie or game night. These nights gave us something to look forward to throughout the week and helped keep our spirits up in the challenging times.

The rest of the time, we had our own individual schedules. I filled this time with walks, reading, colouring, chats with friends, family and roommates, and Netflix of course. The time gave me the opportunity to learn some card magic tricks, which I was excited to perform on my roommates. It will also be a cool skill to use as a teacher and integrate into my future classroom. Online learning also resumed on April 20th, so I also had modules and assignments to work on throughout lockdown.

Jake: Student accommodation has been good. Since we live in the Hayashi units, I was around the same four people every day. As a unit we planned workout sessions, dinner nights, and game nights. We also had weekly team meetings. These meetings were built on the idea that we all wanted to be on the same page during these tough times.

Do you think it has made you closer as a group?

Emma: Yes, we got significantly closer during this lockdown. We were able to spend more time together, away from our previously busy schedules. Lockdown gave us the opportunity to strengthen our communication with one another, in order to support each other effectively, while creating a healthy and positive bubble. Discrepancies are inevitable and it is important to handle them productively, especially in a situation like lockdown.

Jake: Yes I do believe it has made our group closer. Living in a small bubble for seven weeks creates the opportunity to get to know your flatmates on a deeper level. Obviously there were ups and downs throughout the process, but at the end of it we’ve became closer than ever. 

What support have you had from UC and from your lecturers or other staff?

Emma: I was very impressed with the amount of consistent and positive support that we received throughout the lockdown. I strongly believe that UC truly looks after each of their students. As an international student, I felt like I was fully supported through thoughtful check-ins from the Accommodation Services team, as well as from professors and fellow classmates. UC also communicated with my family at home, to give them consistent updates of the ongoing situation and details of how we, as students, were being supported. There were challenging days during lockdown, however, with my bubble’s support, as well as the amazing support networks from UC, I felt confident and capable of navigating through difficult situations.

Jake: The support we had from UC was great. I cannot thank my professors enough for their non-stop support and love to us Canadians. I have never been around professors like the ones here in the Secondary Teaching GradDip program. They are so thoughtful and caring, and I am going to remember them for a very long time.  Dave Winter inspires me to become a better teacher, learner, and human as a whole. I couldn’t thank him enough.

Have you been able to continue your studies online?

Emma: Yes, we were able to resume our studies online and continue our program. At the beginning of the lockdown a term break was issued. There was time to work through assignments that were due following the break and courses began on April 20th.

Jake: Yes we have, after the break we started back up on the website learn and zoom. It was an easy adjustment for us due to the fact that everything was laid out in such an organized way. 

Any lockdown highlights or lowlights?!

Emma: The most unforeseen was contracting a severe case of tonsillitis days before shifting to Alert Level 4. I was sick for the better part of lockdown! Consequently, I made three trips to the clinic and during one of which, I was tested for Covid-19 (fortunately a negative test result). It was not how I thought lockdown would go but I am grateful to be healthy as we move out of lockdown and into Alert Level 2.

The highlights involved fun family bonding nights, ample opportunities to chat with family and friends and time to just be present and enjoy the little moments.

Jake: My lockdown highlight was my birthday. My flatmates went out of their way to make me feel pretty special that day. It is one of those birthdays that I will remember forever. My lowlight was just my mental health as a whole. I feel a lot of people struggle with this subject, and when you’re locked down in a brand new country with no family around, your mental health definitely takes a hit. In the end it made me stronger though, you can always find a positive in any situation.

What are you most looking forward to when you get out of lockdown?

Emma: Lockdown gave me the opportunity to reflect on my first few months in New Zealand and choose how I want to move forward with the rest of my time here. Following lockdown, I want to maximize the time I have left. My friends and I started a list of all the experiences we want to have following lockdown. It has gotten fairly long at this point and, is still being added to. I’m very excited to start crossing some of those items off and reunite with my amazing friends.

Jake: Seeing my wonderful kiwi friends that I made over the first three months of being here. They are truly great people and made me smile every time I was with them.

  • Canada

    Canadian students felt safe staying at UC during the recent lockdown - pictured (from left) are Hayashi flatmates Emily, Daniella, Jake, and Agri.

For further information please contact:

UC Communications team, media@canterbury.ac.nz, Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168

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