Noah Ryll of Williams Lake is on a student exchange at the University of Auckland, NZ, through his home University of British Columbia Okanagan. (Photo submitted)

In times of COVID-19: Williams Lake university student studying in New Zealand

A Canadian student studying in New Zealand is in his second week of a country-wide lockdown imposed last week for all residents.

Noah Ryll of Williams Lake arrived in Auckland on Feb. 19, and started classes on March 2.

“One thing that’s stood out to me here is that the NZ government has been taking massive action in the name of prevention as ahead of the game as they can,” the 21-year-old told the Tribune. “Border closures, travel restrictions, and self isolation mandates have all been made pro-actively, which is something that I think would have served countries who have been much more drastically impacted well.”

At 11:59 p.m. March 25, the government moved to COVID-19 Alert Level 4, sending out a text message to residents telling them to follow the rules, stay home and act as if they have the virus because it will save lives.

“Where you are tonight is where YOU MUST stay from now on. You can only be in physical contact with those you are living with. It is likely Level 4 measures will stay in place for a number of weeks. Let’s all do our bit to unite against COVID-19. Kia Kaha,” the text message stated.

As of Tuesday, March 31, the New Zealand Ministry of Health website noted there were 647 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, and one death from the virus.

Read more: B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Ryll said they can only leave home for essential services like grocery shopping and hospital visits.

It applies to everyone within the country’s borders, no matter what their citizenship or circumstances.

He is staying in a student dorm several minutes away from downtown Auckland.

When asked if he is doing okay with social isolation, he said he’s made friends at the university.

Moving to a new city and new environment always brings lots of opportunity to meet new people, and everyone there has been extremely supportive of each other both before and after self-isolation was mandatory, he said.

“Many students have returned to their home countries or cities so I’ve had to say goodbye to many friends here, but even in the short time I’ve been here those relationships became very strong.”

He does plan to see his exchange through to the end, which is scheduled to be finished on July 3, 2020.

The university has moved all of its courses online, so his studies can still continue, and the support for students there has been phenomenal, he added.

“I feel optimistic about New Zealand’s future in handling the spread of COVID-19, and I feel safer staying here than travelling through potentially crowded airports.”

Aside from schoolwork, he has been doing his best to maintain the social relationships he has there by eating meals with friends, playing board games with others in the dorm, playing computer games with friends back home, and calling and Facetiming his family back in Williams Lake.

He also exercises, does yoga, and gets outside for a walk every now and then through a park or by the ocean.

“I’d like to add that the situation here in New Zealand is not bad or dire, and that the precautions the government is taking by locking down the country are largely preventative,” he added. “For anyone who may have family or friends in New Zealand, I’d like to reassure them that it is actually very safe here, safer than most places in the world right now.”

“Everything will improve with time, no matter where in the world we are, but we can all shorten that time by following the directives of our respective governments calmly and rationally. This pandemic is worth taking seriously, but it is not worth panicking over.”

The exchange program Ryll is on is called ‘Go Global’ and is delivered through the University of British Columbia-Okanagan.

It’s a program that enables students to study at universities around the world that UBCO has research partnerships with without having to pay large amounts of international student fees.

He chose to study in Auckland, he added.

Ryll studies health and exercise science, and is currently in his third year of a bachelor’s degree in that field.

Read more: In times of COVID-19: Williams Lake woman shares experiences from South Korea

If you know someone who might like to share an experience of living away from the Cariboo-Chilcotin during the COVID-19 pandemic, please e-mail news@wltribune.com.

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