Then, Rogers said he visited the Rotary Club of East Wichita to promote his office’s services, specifically the Unclaimed Property Division. He said he found over $2,000 in unclaimed property for residents in attendance and over $20,000 for associated businesses. He said he also hosted a pop-up event with Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Senator Mary Ware and Representative Stephanie Byers at The Monarch to help residents reunite with their unclaimed property.
For Singaporean students studying in overseas universities, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year meant they had to cut short their experience of life abroad.
As infection rates skyrocketed and international borders began to close, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released an advisory on March 17 last year encouraging Singaporean students to come home.
But some, like Ms Dawn Tan, 26, have chosen to stick it out.
She had rushed back to Japan to finish her studies in February last year, when news broke that the border was going to close. She now works as a game planner in Tokyo, having finished her master's degree in intercultural studies at Kobe University.
Ms Tan said: I wouldn't say choosing to come back to Japan was the best decision of my life. But it was necessary for me to return for my job hunt.
Meanwhile, applications from Singaporeans for student visas to traditional higher education destinations have fallen, reflecting the instability of the situation.
According to the official British government website, the number of student visa applications from Singaporeans to Britain fell from 2,535 new applications in 2019 to 1,421 last year.
For Australia, applications fell from 1,315 in 2019 to 530 last year, a 59 per cent decrease.
The British Council said more than 6,820 Singaporean students (excluding exchange and visiting scholars) chose to study in Britain during the 2019 academic year. The number includes students who had applied for visas earlier.
Responding to queries from The Sunday Times on how universities in Britain plan to support international students, the council said the institutions have implemented several Covid-19 support services that their international students can access.
These include airport pick-up services, support through self-isolation periods and food packages.
Mr Leighton Ernsberger, the council's director of English and education for East Asia, said the universities also have plans in place to support students if they are required to self-isolate or if local lockdowns are introduced.
Last year, many international students were left stranded as university accommodations in the United States and Britain closed.
To address this, Singapore's universities opened up more places to take in students who would otherwise have gone overseas.
Around 2,000 more places in Autonomous Universities were offered last year to accommodate students whose overseas university plans had been disrupted.
Some students, however, have chosen to continue at their overseas institutions through distance learning.
Ms Tan Xiao Xuan, 21, a Chinese language and literature undergraduate at Peking University, decided to remain in Singapore after her winter break in January last year because of the worsening coronavirus situation in China.
An only child, she said: It was pretty shocking at first when Covid-19 was still very serious in China. Real anxiety kicked in when offline school resumed in the second half of 2020.
A Public Service Commission (PSC) Secretariat spokesman told The Sunday Times what while it offered scholarships in different disciplines and countries, it will offer this year's overseas scholarship recipients the concurrent option to pursue their studies at a tertiary institution in Singapore, due to the ongoing pandemic.
The spokesman added: The PSC takes reference from the prevailing national travel advisories. Our scholars' health and safety remain our key priority.
We work closely with our scholars and their families on their decisions to return overseas for their studies or remain in Singapore to study remotely. For those who choose to return overseas for their studies, the PSC provides the relevant support and networks to maintain their well being.
Ms Christa Tay is pursuing a degree in economics at the Australian National University.
While the majority of the drop can be attributed to Covid-19, the data does, however, reveal that even pre-Covid, there were 9% fewer applications than in the same period the year before.
In terms of onshore student visa lodgement, there has been a 10% increase in the number of applications, with Nepal and India seeing increases of 36% and 39% respectively.
In contrast, Australia’s top source of international students, China, has seen a 7% drop in applications. The country’s government has recently warned that Australia is an unsafe destination for its citizens and the relationship between the two nations continues to deteriorate.
Writing for IEAA, IDP Connect CEO Andrew Barkla noted that Australia’s competitors are opening borders for September start dates and signalling a pathway to employment through clear post-study work policies.
While Australia has confirmed that online study will count towards post-study work permit requirements, the announcement came later than countries like the UK and Canada.
However, Barkla remains optimistic about the situation. Our advice for governments and universities is simple. Show students the sector is here to help, he said, advocating greater support for students with regards to organising flights and accommodation, reassuring parents and showing that measures are in place to mitigate safety risks.
Our sector must provide students and their parents with clear, practical and aligned information and support, in market via onshore agents and other key enablers, he continued.
Let’s send a signal to the world Australia will do what it takes to continue to be a leading destination for international education.
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