While COVID-19 has affected all of us to varying degrees, spare a thought for a group of Blackfriars boys who have been separated from loved ones for more than 12 months.
Not that any of the 11 international students, in Years 7 to 12, are complaining.
“It is kind of sad and I miss my family,” says Year 10 student Tin, 16.
“But I want to stay here and live here. I came here to get a good job.”
Tin came to Blackfriars in Year 7 and lives with his older sister, who is studying medicine. Their parents remain in Vietnam.
While Tin doesn’t know when he will see his parents again, he hopes they will soon have the opportunity to travel to Adelaide.
“If it’s possible, they will come,” he says.
At 13, Jason is the youngest of the international student cohort currently at Blackfriars.
It is the first year in Adelaide for the Year 7 student, who lives with older brother Eric, also a Blackfriars student, and their mum. Their dad, a pilot, remains in Vietnam.
The highly talented artist says it’s “a bit sad” he can’t see his dad, but he is happy to call Adelaide home.
“I want to stay here,” says Jason, who, despite his young age, has eyes firmly on the future.
“Maybe I want to be a doctor or maybe a designer, an architect, because I can draw. The thing I like best is to do art.
Jason says the opportunities to play sport and the teachers are the best things about being a student at Blackfriars.
“The teachers here are very good; they are kind and they like to help me,” says Jason, who spent a year at a school in Melbourne before coming to Blackfriars.
Many of the boys say, in comparison to their home country, the Australian education system gives them more time to enjoy their teen years.
“In China, they always stay at school until 8pm, 9pm. I like finishing earlier,” says Kevin, a Year 10 student who lives with a homestay family in Kilburn.
Fellow Year 10 student Peter, from Vietnam, agrees: “(School in Adelaide) is not too much pressure. In Vietnam … we go to school 7am to 5pm and then extra learning to 9pm or 10pm. I have more freedom here.”
Keen soccer player Tri, 16, has also come to Australia from Vietnam and lives with a family friend in Gepps Cross.
“It’s a good environment, education,” says Tri, who plans to one day become a nurse.
“They (my parents) wanted me to have a good education, they wanted me to live here and they will come here later.”
Isaac, 17, is a Year 10 student from Hong Kong. He lives with his brother, 24, who is also studying in Adelaide.
“My mum wanted me to learn more English … so I came to Australia,” he says.
He says his fellow Blackfriars students are much more open than his classmates back home.
“Here, people will share about themselves much more than in Hong Kong,” he says. “It’s good. I think I will go to uni here.”
The relationships with fellow students is something also appreciated by Year 9 student Jacky: “I think here, they (my classmates) are more friendly than in Chinese school.”
Jacky, 16, arrived at Blackfriars towards the end of last year. He lives with him mum, but his dad remains in China.
“I miss him,” he says of his dad.
Blackfriars International Students Program Officer Angela Honner describes the boys as a “modest group”.
“Some of them are finding it difficult to make ‘local’ friends,” she says.
“They believe it is because their spoken English is not so good and they may be laughed at. I encourage them to get involved in the life of the school – where they will mix with the ‘local’ boys, improve their English, make more friends and, consequently, their experience at Blackfriars will be memorable.”
She says the boys describe the teachers at Blackfriars as “very helpful” and more approachable than their teachers back home.