Masters student Zarin Yesmin Chaity was in her second year of the climate change course at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, throwing the world into chaos.
The Bangladeshi woman had moved to Canberra with her husband MD Arifur Rahman in 2019, hoping the course would arm her with the skills to develop policy in her home country, the sixth most vulnerable nation to the effects of climate change.
While she focused on study, funded by a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade scholarship, her husband worked in a restaurant on campus to help meet expenses.
He's been out of work for three months since the restaurant shut and the couple have been unable to get a rent reduction for their place at the university residence. She feels the government could have done more to help international students during this tumultuous period.
"We already lost our jobs and studies are going online and we don't know what's going to happen here and we don't know what's going to happen in our own country," Ms Chaity said.
"We don't expect that we will get every opportunity like citizens but at least recognise the contribution we make and don't harm the students."
Policy fellow at the Mitchell Institute Peter Hurley said the pandemic has highlighted the students' vulnerability.
"They're in this temporary, transitional non-citizen space so they can be quite exposed," he said.
"People are having to rely on charity which is just a shocking thing to see."
ANU Postgraduate and Research Students' Association president Utsav Gupta said the organisation has noticed a huge increase in the number of international students asking for help.
"The ANU provided us with $500,000 in funding to distribute to students in the form of one-off grants, to which we have added an additional $100,000, and the applicants are overwhelmingly international students."
He said more should be done at a federal government level to support students.
Mr Hurley said international students could form an important part of Australia's and the ACT's recovery from the pandemic.
His analysis shows many industries outside education rely on this market, with 36 per cent of students' living expenses going towards retail and hospitality with another 36 per cent spent on property. The Australian Bureau of statistics estimates that international students contribute $25 billion to the economy outside tuition fees.
Aside from an economic benefit, Mr Hurley said the students make an important social and cultural contribution.
"I don't thing people understand the nature of international student experiences. A lot will volunteer here or become international student leaders," he said.
"It can be an enormously valuable experience for people to go overseas to study."
This has been the case for Ms Chaity, who would recommend ANU to other prospective students.
"Canberra is one of the most livable cities in the world."