‘The Socialist’ speaks to international student Tran Nguyen
What are the costs involved if you’re living and studying as an international student in Australia?
There are many different costs if you decide to go to study in Australia. Everything is more expensive since the Australian dollar is so high compared to our currencies. The crippling day to day expenses include high rents, expensive public transport and up-front university fees.
What’s it like to rent as an international student?
International students look worse on rental applications so finding decent accommodation is impossible. I’ve already moved house six times since I’ve been here. International student share houses are overcrowded and rarely in good condition. My last share house had 20 people in it, each paying hundreds of dollars to share rooms. Some of these shared rooms are basically cupboards! There were even seven people living in the garage. Heaters are luxuries; my last landlord confiscated our heater to keep the electricity bill low.
International students can’t find affordable housing in the inner city so we end up in the outer suburbs but we’re not eligible for public transport concession. This adds more to daily expenses as the price of tickets keeps going up.
Do many international students work to help meet these costs?
Yes we do. But because of the working hour restrictions we mainly work dodgy cash-in-hand jobs in restaurants, car washes, massage parlours and convenience stores. We often get paid less than the minimum wage and get treated very badly. Bosses use the threat of deportation to get us to work longer and for less!
Who’s benefiting from this situation?
I think some people see international students as an easy target to make money. The government, universities, migration agents, landlords and bosses are making a fortune from this terrible situation. It’s fair to say that we are exploited in every aspect of our lives in Australia.
What can international students do to fix this situation?
At the moment, the student unions aren’t really campaigning for international students’ rights. We need to look at examples like the taxi drivers’ protests and the campaign to unionise 7-Eleven international student workers to understand that unless we organise and push for change nothing will happen.
We can’t simply rely on the people who are making money from us to improve our conditions. I think exploitation is not limited to international students. Local students and workers are also dealing with the rising costs of living. We should work together in trade unions and student unions to challenge the idea of profit before people and demand affordable inner city housing, concession cards and decent pay for all.