Honi Advocates: international students’ rights

Honi Advocates aims to shed light on a particular policy or problem that we believe has been under-examined by the mainstream media. The first issue we would like to explore is international students’ rights.

When international students move to Australia to study they face a range of disadvantages. Those who receive only limited monetary assistance from home are left to finance their upfront fees, rent, and living expenses while studying. It is these unsubsidised fees that help pay for the rest of us to study. One of the greatest problems they face is finding affordable and appropriate accommodation.
Colleges remain woefully unaffordable for such students. After hundreds of dollars of application fees, membership, and bonds, the University of Sydney’s International House still charges $425 a week for its cheapest rooms. Because of visa restrictions, international students cannot work more than 20 hours a week, rent of that magnitude is often far beyond their means.
Locked out of the colleges and the other accommodation universities offer, students are forced to enter a rental market they have no experience with, in a city they don’t know. Most end up taking this plunge.
Overcrowding and negligent (or outright abusive) landlords are a common problem. When Stephen moved from Indonesia to study in Sydney at ACL College, he couldn’t afford the accommodation the college offered. Instead, he was forced to move into a two-bedroom apartment crowded with eight students. Research done on international students living conditions indicates Stephen’s is a common experience. According to a study of Chinese international students studying at UNSW: “[a] common experience was living in a partitioned space or common area rather than a proper bedroom….More than half (55%) of survey respondents self-reported having lived in accommodation in Sydney that they perceived to be shared by too many people.”
For others, affordable accommodation comes in the form of homestays. According to Jay Ng, University of Sydney SRC International Student Officer, this option is problematic. “Some families don’t really care about the student, they just want the money,” she said. On top of this, Jay said, cultural misunderstandings can cause tensions and homestayers often complain of intolerance on the part of their hosts.
With universities struggling to provide enough affordable accommodation for domestic students, it’s a problem that will need serious time and resources to solve.

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