From my desk to yours: Gayatri Pande from India
Posted: 3 June 2020
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 Gayatri Pande from India.
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 pursuing a Master of Environmental and Resource Economics from the Crawford School of Public Policy, which is part of the Australian National University in Canberra. The course is highly relevant to contemporary existence given that the world is experiencing the direct impacts of climate change, which is disrupting our everyday lives. My goal from this course is to gain a deeper understanding of environmental problems and provide tangible solutions by integrating them with the economy. One of the major impacts of this current disruption is its effect on the economy. India, being exceptionally populated, feels the issue more deeply, because when a calamity occurs, the livelihoods of the majority of communities are disrupted. My choice of coursework is focused on assessing various mitigation strategies, which I would like to implement upon my return home. I hope to apply my idea of setting up my own non-governmental organisation, which will seek to deliver policy solutions to the current crisis.”
“I have always had a certain degree of fascination with studying in Australia. My goal from this course is to gain a deeper understanding of environmental problems and provide tangible solutions by integrating them with the economy.”
Why did you decide to undertake an Australia Awards Scholarship? What attracted you to the idea of studying in Australia?
“More than 20 years ago, my father accepted a scholarship to study in Australia, the experience of which has stayed with him after all these years. As a result, I have always had a certain degree of fascination with studying in Australia. Upon learning about the Australia Awards Scholarship, and the level of engagement it offers both in Australia and in my home country, I was eager to apply for it. Additionally, the choice of courses that existed in Australia was truly impressive. There is a course catering to any of your interests; you just need to look for it.”
How are you finding the ‘studying from home’ experience?
“Being self-isolated in Canberra has been challenging but also rewarding. Our professors make sure that they are providing us with every bit of help that we need. There is always help available, for any issue that you may be facing. Initially, it took me some time to adjust to the new lifestyle, but I have grown to like it.
“Canberra has so much to offer in terms of nature. My experience of working from home has been rewarding because it has allowed me to connect more deeply with nature and my surroundings. People have shown support to me in every possible way. The way the Australian community is engaging with us makes me feel so grateful. A few weeks ago, I observed my first Anzac Day on a Zoom call with some of my Australian friends, who organised it to make sure that I was aware of the historical context. The way everyone makes you feel included is genuinely wonderful.”
What are you doing (outside of your study) to look after yourself and keep your mind active?
“An advantage of living on the Australian National University campus for me has been its proximity to Lake Burley Griffin and Black Mountain. I have been going on hikes and have been cycling around the lake to keep myself active. Since I live in a residential college, we have frequent Zoom meetings to catch up with our friends.”
“I have also started gardening, which I didn’t expect to be such an enjoyable pastime. Additionally, the Australian National University is organising many sessions on a number of topics for us students. Last week, I attended a meditation session, and before that we had online cooking sessions, which were a lot of fun.”
“People have shown support to me in every possible way. The way the Australian community is engaging with us makes me feel so grateful… the way everyone makes you feel included is genuinely wonderful.”
Is there anything new you are hoping to learn while you are required to stay at home?
“Apart from gardening, I am learning how to cook new cuisines. Before coming to Australia, I never had such a diverse set of friends. This week, I am trying to learn how to cook Korean dishes from my friend from South Korea. Each week I hope to learn to cook foods from a different cuisine with help from my friends, who are teaching me all of this through Zoom. I have also taught my Australian flatmate how to cook some Indian dishes, which has been quite fun.”
Do you have any tips to offer fellow scholars on studying remotely and living well during these uncertain times?
“My tips to fellow scholars would be: make sure that you are connected to your family and friends. Help is available in many forms. If you feel that your mental wellbeing is at stake, talk to your lecturers, classmates, counsellors or anyone that you feel comfortable with. They are always there to help you work out your situation. Try to set up a routine, exercise daily and look after your health. Self-care is essential in times like these.”
What is something you hope to achieve either professionally or personally when the COVID-19 crisis subsides?
“There are a couple of things that I hope to do once the COVID-19 crisis is over. Firstly, I want to work with the Crawford School of Public Policy, which has some journals of its own that are known to publish articles related to public policy. This will help enhance my critical thinking skills. Secondly, I would like to participate in several volunteering opportunities that have been unavailable during the crisis. Lastly, I wish to learn rugby as a part of my personal development. I have attended a few games, and the sport has been fascinating me for a while.”
“To my fellow scholars… help is available in many forms. If you feel that your mental wellbeing is at stake, talk to your lecturers, classmates, counsellors or anyone that you feel comfortable with. Self-care is essential in times like these.”