A Sydney student, who has spent almost a year in France under a strict lockdown, fears she’ll be one of the many Aussies stranded overseas and “forgotten”.
A Sydney student, who has spent almost a year in France under a strict lockdown, fears she’ll be one of the many Aussies stranded overseas and “forgotten”.

Aussie student ‘forgotten’ in Europe

A Sydney student admits she feels "forgotten" about as her year in France comes to a close.

University of Technology Sydney student Courtney Fletcher touched down in Paris in January to study abroad for a year but, as the world and Ms Fletcher quickly found it, she wasn't going to have the year she hoped.

Coronavirus swept through Europe, triggering lockdowns across the continent in March and infecting hundreds of thousands of people.

Ms Fletcher, 22, decided to stay in France and survived through the country's months-long lockdown.

But now her January return date is looming and Ms Fletcher fears she'll likely be another Aussie "forgotten" overseas.

"No one can help you, it's just a waiting game which is also a very uneasy feeling because money is tight, you're wondering if you can get home, wherever I live I'll be living out of suitcase," she told nine.com.au.

"Even as someone who can usually cope it is taking a toll on me. It's like I'm forgotten … and that's a little bit distressing.

"No one wanted to be stuck overseas when you're meant to be home with your family."

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Courtney Fletcher in France.
Courtney Fletcher in France.

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Her anxiety was compounded when Ms Fletcher received an email from her airline warning her flight could be pushed back due to Australia's current cap on international arrivals.

"Basically, I was told I could try to guarantee a flight home but I'd have to pay thousands of dollars to upgrade it, which I definitely do not have,"

"But if I was to keep my economy tickets and my flight gets pushed back, I would have to deal with my visa and my visa is only one year."

"How do I know if I need to extend my visa if I don't know if I'm going to able to get on my flight?"
More than 25,000 Australians are stranded overseas however each state and territory recently lifted its cap on international arrivals to help clear the backlog.

NSW, where Ms Fletcher plans on landing, will accept an additional 500 Aussies per week, on top of its daily cap of 350 people.

Ms Fletcher said UTS students had been told to file an insurance claim for the upgraded tickets but she feared being out of pocket.

The 22-year-old also fears rebooking the flight because she made the booking in May. The government advised any returning traveller to book their return flight before July 12 to avoid paying for hotel quarantine - at a cost of $3000.

"I booked in May but if I need to change my ticket, that counts as rebooking so I'll need to pay for hotel quarantine costs and UTS won't cover that," Ms Fletcher said.

"For a student overseas trying to get home for the Christmas, New Year period it really depends how many flights Australia takes in and if they don't take us because we have economy tickets, that messes up your visa, your flights costs and your quarantine costs for something you're not in control of.

"I do not have a spare $8000 to cover costs of something that I wasn't expected to do before I left."

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Ms Fletcher with her parents.
Ms Fletcher with her parents.


While the Australian government and UTS advised Ms Fletcher to come home earlier this year, a requirement of her degree was to complete a year overseas.

"The main reason why I stayed was because if I came home, my degree would have gone down the drain," she said.

"It's not my fault all these things are happening … I'm just trying to do the best I can and trying to fulfil the requirements of my study.

"No one said it would require tonnes more money."

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it was working with thousands of Aussies to try and get them home.

"DFAT is providing every assistance it can to Australians who are currently unable to return from overseas. They are able to contact our consular assistance line at any time," a spokesperson said.




Originally published as Aussie student 'forgotten' in Europe