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From my desk to yours: Tshering Sydon from Bhutan

Posted: 10 July 2020

Bhutan, COVID-19, Experience, In Australia, Scholar,

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are sharing the experiences of Australia Awards alumni and scholars while they navigate a new normal.

Whether working or studying from home, schooling children while also juggling professional duties, or providing frontline COVID-19 support, these scholars and alumni open up about their struggles, silver linings and dreams for the future.

The reflections below come from scholar Tshering Sydon from Bhutan.

Can you tell us about what you are studying, why, and how you hope to contribute to your country’s development upon returning home?

“I am undertaking a Master of Education (Early Childhood) at the Queensland University of Technology to inform my practices as a primary school teacher and as an educator. Early childhood education and care is a new program in Bhutan, and I intend to strengthen it by applying the knowledge and skills that I will gain from this course. The theories and pedagogies that enrich children’s learning from birth to eight years can be developed in the Bhutanese context. This will assist teachers and facilitators in Bhutan in providing active learning for our children. Upon returning home, I will conduct professional development programs for primary school teachers and Early Childhood Care and Development facilitators.”

Australia Awards scholar Tshering Sydon of Bhutan with her classmates at the Queensland University of Technology campus before COVID-19

Australia Awards scholar Tshering Sydon from Bhutan (sixth from the right, middle row) with her classmates at the Queensland University of Technology campus before COVID-19

Why did you decide to undertake an Australia Awards Scholarship? What attracted you to the idea of studying in Australia?

“The idea of studying in Australia was fascinating, and it had been my dream for a long time. This led me to search for an opportunity like the Australia Awards Scholarships. I wanted to experience Australian life, education and culture. I chose to apply for an Australia Awards Scholarship because it is a highly prestigious award and sought after by many for its benefits for scholars.

“Australia Awards takes excellent care of their scholars, starting from pre-departure briefings in their home country. They provide an academic introductory program once scholars come to Australia to help them be in good stead to start the course.”

“Australia Awards also continues to collaborate with scholars after completion of their studies, connecting them to alumni associations for more professional development. The most attractive part of this Scholarship was the opportunity for my family to accompany me to Australia and for my children to experience the schooling here. Unfortunately, the Australia Awards Scholarship recipients commencing in 2020 were not as fortunate, because conditions changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. I pray and hope that everything will turn out fine in the end.”

How are you finding the ‘studying from home’ experience?

“Due to the pandemic, our courses have gone online through Zoom sessions, and it has been a new experience for me. The virtual classes are convenient—especially for classes that are scheduled late in the evening—because we can attend the class from the comfort of our homes without any need to commute. On the other hand, classroom-based sessions are livelier, with more interaction and active discussions. It also feels good to meet your classmates face-to-face. Studying from home can be stressful at times, feeling like you need to be constantly in front of your computer screen to check emails or do extensive online reading. However, it is a good experience to learn through online classes because you get to explore the wonders of technology and its use in everyday life. Technical issues and disruptions from the home environment at times can affect the learning. Still, regular correspondence with lecturers through emails can sort out any problems or queries.”

Tshering is completing her coursework remotely from home

Tshering is completing her coursework remotely from home

What are you doing (outside of your study) to look after yourself and keep your mind active?

“The pandemic has changed our lives in many unexpected ways, but we have found ways to keep moving and doing things at home. During lock down, along with my own study, I helped my oldest son with his online lessons and kept the younger one engaged. We were also playing with blocks, drawing, reading and watching movies together. Sometimes we played in the backyard, or went out for a walk in the evening to get some fresh air. Having some family members here has been a great blessing, as we get to visit them, or they visit us to catch up or have meals together. I have been praying and chanting prayers more, which has helped me to deal with the stress of assignments and the pandemic. Talking and chatting with friends over the phone has also helped me ease my anxiety and unsettled feelings. Watching Netflix movies has also been a good way for me to escape from boredom.”

Tshering is taking this opportunity to spend quality time playing and learning with her children, which aligns with her passion for early childhood education

Do you have any tips to offer fellow scholars on studying remotely and living well during these uncertain times?

“As a student, you face lots of academic stress from assignments and readings that you must complete. Having to study in a new place, using a new system, in a new situation such as a pandemic can be overwhelming. There will be times when you will feel low about many things in a new surrounding, but it is part of the journey. To fellow scholars, I would like to say that focusing is important and starting early can put you in good stead to tackle problems along the way. Collaboration and getting support from people around you can be a big help. The university provides many forms of online academic support, so explore and use these facilities. I would also advise you to seek help from your university counselling services to talk about anything that affects your mental or emotional wellbeing.”

“Remember to look after your health needs; eating healthy and sleeping enough is equally as important as your academic studies. Lastly, hope and pray for the best.”

What is something you are hoping for, either professionally or personally, when the COVID-19 crisis subsides?

“I am always praying that COVID-19 will be over soon so that things become easier for everyone. On a personal note, I wish that my family and friends could go back to their jobs, as it pains me to see them without work and money. I also hope that a second wave will not occur and close schools or I will have a tough time studying with kids to look after. As for my professional goal, I hope I will finish all my coursework with help from tutors, friends and online academic support. I hope to learn as much as I can so that I can contribute to my country effectively.”