A young international student in Melbourne is “so tired” of how she has been treated in Australia — a sentiment “commonly” echoed by other visiting students.
Originally from Singapore, Jamie Wu always raves about “how good Australia is”. However this week she bravely decided to “shed light” on her gripes of being an international student in Australia, and how she is treated when looking for work.
“I am so sick and tired of universities treating us like cash cows,” the University of Melbourne commerce undergraduate said on TikTok. Ms Wu pays around $20,000 to $25,000 per semester for her bachelor’s degree. International education adds $29 billion to the country’s economy, according to new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
“We are not just our money, we are actual students who want to learn,” she said on TikTok.
“I feel like the school doesn’t care if international students graduate or not,” Ms Wu told Yahoo News. “Local students can extend their uni degree, but we can’t as our visa would have expired and we will need to pay additional costs to extend it.”
In the now viral video, Ms Wu explains how paid internships are difficult to secure.
“I get it that in a country you go to prioritise your own citizens first… but I would really appreciate if you could just say ‘just looking for local students’ on your job applications because I do not want to spend an hour trying to write one, only for me to submit and never hear back,” she said in the video.
“[And then] I hear from someone else that they’re only hiring local students. You [employers] need to do better.”
Ms Wu told Yahoo News the period of looking for internships has been “very rough” for her.
“I’ve been trying my best to get internships, which is part of a module to be able to graduate,” she said. “I did raise it a lot of times in a student survey but nothing has changed.”
‘International students already at a disadvantage’
Ms Wu’s gripes are ones that are all too common, according to the President of Council of International Students Australia (CISA), Yeganeh Soltanpour.
“As an international student you already have that disadvantage of not being seen to have any Australian experience,” she told Yahoo. Which then forces students to undertake unpaid experience — amid the county’s “high cost of living”.
“You will see a large majority of international students volunteering at universities,” Ms Soltanpour said. “The whole reason behind that is that we understand to be considered, we need to have perfect grades, perfect volunteering, perfect experience. Everything needs to be a ticked box.”
Some workplaces still ‘prejudiced’ in how they hire
While things have “gotten better,” she agreed discrimination remains a struggle for international students when applying for paid opportunities.
“There is a lot of existing prejudices in workplaces and within hiring bodies, and a lot of fear surrounding student visa status’ which is a really big one,” Ms Soltanpour said. “One of the most common excuses I’ve heard is, ‘We don’t want to train you only for you to leave’, or the potential of a visa not being approved for a graduate role.
“They’ll never say they’re only hiring local students openly because they don’t want to get that backlash, so workplaces just ghosting international students is a big struggle.”
What can be done about it?
A key issue Ms Wu raised was a lack of support and information online — the reason she started creating content for international students on her own social media platforms.
“I feel that career expos would be beneficial but also social platforms to help guide us with our applications and help connect us with employers who do want international students,” she said. “I wish I could see those companies much clearer. There needs to be dialogue about it.”
She did however still encourage others to take the leap and “still try”. “After a while it can get frustrating and its tempting to give up and go back to your home country, and that’s not a good mindset to have,” she said.
CISA is one of the organisations international students can get in touch with for support.
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