Studying an MBA in Australia, multiple COVID lockdowns and a 3.5 year separation from her entire family.

“I will always be thankful to Mea and Connected AU”. 

This is just one example of the many beautiful little love notes that we receive on a daily basis. For Lopa, who in 2018 moved to Australia to study an MBA, multiple COVID lockdowns and a 3.5 year separation from her entire family and loved ones living in India, brought on a bout of loneliness and declining mental health that she had never before experienced.

One night during a particularly rough patch she came across Connected AU and reached out to us. Initially Lopa took part in the Letterbox Project but has found most joy and reconnection in the virtual hobby groups.

Lopa has a lovely way with words so we asked if she would mind contributing a little bit about her experiences of Connected AU. 

What has your experience been like moving to another country?

At first, both scared and excited. It wasn’t an easy choice but I was up for the journey and I wanted to explore every challenge & opportunity. I missed home, my family and friends in the beginning because I didn’t know anyone here. It was difficult for the first couple of months to become accustomed to local culture and the way of life. But Australia accepted me wholeheartedly. The warmth I received from people here made me feel like part of a community. There have been some roadblocks, but I have been very fortunate to be around some inspiring, motivating, and friendly people that kept me going. 

What brought you to Australia?

I came to Australia to pursue my higher education. An MBA in International Business at Deakin University, Melbourne. I graduated in February 2020. Iv’e always been interested in Australia and I wanted to explore a culturally diverse country that has quite similar values to my home country, India. 

What you thought it would be like and what that reality has been for you?

To be honest, I had a very open mind. However, loneliness is something I didn’t consider and how difficult this has been to navigate. I am used to some degree of loneliness having lived away from my family from the age of 12. But the feeling of loneliness in Australia is very different to what I experienced at home. The intensity has been much higher. And this has been a hard reality for me. 

The impact of Covid on your mental health. How have you coped?

COVID has been unexpected for everyone. Me personally? I haven’t been home for 3 and half years. My plan was to graduate in February last year and visit my family in May for eight weeks. I had everything planned and was very excited. However, COVID and lockdown changed everything. For the first couple of months it was extremely distressing as I was unsure when or even if I would see my family again and my mental state took a dive. My parents live in regional Eastern India which faces cyclones every year so I was constantly worried for their well-being. With so many uncertainties I began to drift from friends and loved ones and began staying in my head. It was during this exceptionally low period of my life that I decided I needed to take action. So, I started practicing meditation, began reconnecting with family and friends back home, and started a blog page to express some of the things I am passionate about. And then I found a page on Instagram called, Connected AU and The Letterbox Project which made me realise that I was not the only one feeling lonely.

How did Connected AU help you? 

I saw a post of The Letterbox Project on Instagram last year. When I read about it, I was blown away by its simplicity but also its capacity to create such an impact. I am the kind of person who likes to give back to the community, but with purpose. I felt Mea was doing the same with Connected AU. so I approached Mea to see if she would be interested in collaborating with the company I work for i.e, Carnival Homewares which does Post boxes. I hoped the collab might bring help raise awareness. I ended up getting quite personally attached to the message and how so many people are lonely even in this tech connected generation. So I signed myself up to the Letterbox Project and also the virtual hobby groups.• 

What value do you get out of the online hobby groups?

I definitely get a sense of belonging. I joined the book club and social club. As mentioned earlier, I drifted apart from people and was living in my head. I love reading books, but during COVID, I just stopped reading altogether. The virtual clubs allowed me a gateway out of my mental state. Initially it was hard to be social however, I knew I needed to keep pushing myself to be part of something. So, for me the book and social club fits very well into my comfort zone. It has given me back reading and taken away those darker thoughts. The monthly meetings and beautifully crafted newsletters are something I eagerly wait for. I feel that for the first time in a long time, I have something to look forward to and I will always be thankful to Mea and Connected AU for this.

These people are changing our lives. Find out more