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Student’s plan to come home derailed after months in lockdown

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

For 22-year-old university student Courtney Fletcher, 2020 wasn’t the year she had envisioned and now, she may be unable to return home to her family.

For Courtney Fletcher, 2020 wasn't the year she had envisioned.

After the 22-year-old University of Technology Sydney student arrived in France in January for a 12-month exchange, the coronavirus pandemic turned the world upside-down.

What followed was eight months of lockdowns and restrictions - and at the end of it all the prospect of returning home to family, friends, boyfriend and, of course, her two dogs Bobbi and Benson.

Through weeks of being unable to leave her room at student accommodation due to France's harsh COVID-19 lockdown, Ms Fletcher has kept her sights set firmly on completing her study and returning home in January.

But her plans to return were thrown into limbo after receiving an email warning her flight may be pushed back due to ongoing flight caps 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," she told

"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."

Students have been advised to make an insurance claim to cover the costs of upgrading flights but without concrete information, Ms Fletcher says she isn't willing to risk being out of pocket due to her 364-day insurance period.

READ MORE: Aussie student stranded overseas for six months during pandemic

"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?" she said.

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Then there's the problem of hotel quarantine.

The NSW government requires anyone who booked a return flight after July 12 to cover their own hotel quarantine costs – a whopping $3000 per person.

"I booked in May but if I need to change my ticket, that counts as rebooking so I might 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."

Paris, France

The university said it advised students to return home earlier in the year however exchange is a compulsory part of Ms Fletcher's International Studies degree and after three years of study, she said she was determined to finish it, which is why she decided to remain in France.

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

"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."

READ MORE: South Australia accepting hundreds more returned overseas travellers as caps rise

Ms Fletcher said the warning was a slap in the face after what has been a challenging year abroad.

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"I was really disheartened," she said.

"I wanted to feel like I stayed here for a purpose and that it was recognised, and people would be a bit more understanding.

"I also just feel a bit lost … 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.

"I'll probably be living in a hostel because that's all I can afford.

"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."

Currently, around 37,000 people are registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) as being overseas and, of those, around 28,000 have expressed a wish to return.

"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 told

Source: 9News

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