Life’s tough at the best of times for university students. Not only do they contend with the burgeoning costs of their education and the long-lasting debt that hangs as a millstone around their necks but often their day to day living is a difficult one.
The Salvation Army in Melbourne has reported an increase in international students showing up at their free soup-kitchens to capitalise on the offerings of free meals to the needy.
Major Brendan Nottle recognises about 50 familiar faces showing at their drop-in centre most weeknights for dinner whilst another 20 will show for breakfast.
“They have real difficulty making ends meet, many are exploited in the workforce and are getting paid $7 an hour, gambling is also an issue for some international students.”
Major Nottle said that most of the students reign from South American and Asian countries and are living in unsustainable accommodation whilst studying at private colleges.
Although he anticipates a public backlash from people asking why they help the students, the Army won’t turn the needy away not matter who they are or what demographic they belong to.
One particular Colombian student who studies English at a private college and works as a casual cleaner said that he ate at the drop-in centre simply to pay the rent.
“The agencies said everything here is going to be ok. But here it is different,” he said.
The Army opened an international student centre, The Couch, six years ago and has received a steady stream of students since then. Not only does the centre offer meals but also links students to mental health, legal services and housing and employment services.
Thomson Ch’ng from the Council on International Students Australia said that Australia was the most expensive place to study in the world and sometimes the students weren’t getting the full picture of employment and economical numbers before embarking on their study journey.
“It’s important for students to consult widely before coming to Australia to study. The information being presented to international students needs to be accurate so they are prepared with the cost of studying here,” he said.