Unknown expenses: the price of learning

Sherry Fan Bu explores the hidden costs of international study.

Sherry Fan Bu explores the hidden costs of international study.

When international students consider the advantages of overseas study, they usually weigh them up against obvious financial expenses. These might include the cost of tuition fees, housing, commuting and everyday items. Sadly, however, international students often do not realise the many costs of overseas study until they arrive here.

International students face an incredible difficulty in finding a satisfying job after years of hard work at university. Those who choose to study in Australia have literally no chance of being admitted to many large firms since they do not satisfy the requirement that they ‘must be a citizen or permanent resident of Australia or New Zealand’. Until they graduate from university, immigration legislation dictates that no international student can be granted such a permanent residency visa. This is particularly problematic given that Australian companies usually commence their graduate programs in late March through to April, six months before the most common graduation period.

For those who give up their plans to work in Australia, which may be the most important reason for studying here, even the chance to get a comparatively good job back home is significantly hampered. Take the Chinese Job market as an example. The hiring season occurs from August to October, two months prior to Australian graduation. The same case applies to those aiming at the American job market.

Even if an international student is unbelievably lucky and finally gets a job, they can only earn around $30,000 annually in their first job. According to an HSBC Bank report, the average total cost of studying in Australia for international students was $38,516 in 2013, exceeding the US, Britain, Canada, Germany and Hong Kong as the most expensive destination for international students. An international student is only able to pay up his or her debt after years of hard work, living on minimum food and wages.

Another hidden cost is the loss of certain contacts, local networks and relationships. Students from overseas report a range of experiences, from feelings of loneliness to incidents of outright discrimination. Because of language barriers, international students already suffer a separation from their local community. Living in a new country also means that they frequently face problems in maintaining relationships with family members, close friends, or partners. Networking is much more difficult not only with Australian locals, but also with people back home. Without this help, thriving in this estranged community takes more effort and time, and is usually very unlikely to lead success.

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