‘Crazy’: Queensland student's COVID nightmare
STUCK on the wrong side of the world in the middle of a pandemic, James Cook University student Gabrielle Mea has no idea what is coming next.
The 20-year-old marine biology student from New York has been stuck in Townsville since coronavirus spread across the globe.
As the impacts of the pandemic continue, her student visa is slowly running out.
Ms Mea arrived in Townsville for a semester abroad early last year, but decided to finish her degree after falling in love with Australia.
The virus hit her family at home first and then began to impact life here.
She said it was "crazy" when statewide lockdowns kicked in. "It became real when uni went online," she said.
Once exams finished in July she decided to try to get home before it was too late.
"I really tried to make that work, I called every airline, the US Embassy, the Australian government asking what I needed to do to get home and back," she said. "It was just so expensive.
"I cried a lot knowing that I could not go home." Ms Mea said she struggled to find work and had been dismayed watching her friends lose their jobs.
At one stage, she was commuting an hour and a half to a part-time job to earn money.
"I could not find a job for months, just no one was hiring," she said.
Despite not knowing when things will go back to normal or what she will do when her visa runs out, Ms Mea said she had come to grips with it.
"I tell myself that I can't do anything about it," she said.
"My next biggest fear is leaving Australia to go back home and never being able to come back to Australia."