Ukulele and case which was given to international student Pranaya Lohani by a fellow student at Federation University Berwick Campus in 2019. Pranaya arrived in Melbourne in 2019 from Nepal to undertake a post-graduate degree in social work.

Pranaya had wanted to learn the guitar when he was younger, but had little success. He met Anush Poudel, a younger, fellow student from Nepal who was studying Information Technology. Anush had brought in his suitcase a ukulele from Nepal which he played but he decided to take up the guitar and offered Pranaya his ukulele as a gift. Pranaya describes the ukulele as being 'like a friend to me' during the dark days of lockdown and isolation in 2020. Learning to play acted as a form of therapy for him and he continues to teach himself songs. This ukulele appears in photographs taken of Pranaya by Catherine Forge, also held in the museum's collection.

Pranaya was drawn to Federation University due to its relevance to his further studies, its relative affordability and its location in Australia which was an attractive destination for him with a small but growing Nepalese student community. When COVID-19 arrived in Australia in early 2020, Pranaya became heavily involved in supporting his fellow international students through volunteering at the university's food bank, providing relief work and becoming a key point of contact between staff and students. Pranaya's desire to give back to the community was motivated by his earlier experience of living through the 2015 Gorkha earthquake, and assisting survivors of this devastating natural disaster.


Statement of Historical Significance:
This collection provides an in-depth exploration of the lived experience of a Nepalese international student in Melbourne, acquired as part of the Museum Victoria Collecting the Curve Collection. The material provides lasting documentation of the international student experience in Victoria during COVID-19, and highlights the challenges, financial difficulties and loneliness that international students experienced, as well as the camaraderie, resilience and community support activities that emerged during this challenging time. The international student community in Melbourne, with its diversity and magnitude, represents an important part of the city's cultural identity. As Federation University's Kathy Racunica acknowledged in late 2020, 'We have hundreds of thousands of international students in Victoria and their contribution on many fronts is significant and extraordinarily positive year in year out. Reflecting their experience during COVID is very important.'

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