Our names are Jay Ng and Catherine Nguyen and we are international students. Our families gave up a lot so that we could have a great education here in Australia.
We've had to adjust to a new country, enrol in a new school for a new course of study, and find a place to live. Just like every other student, for us every cent counts. We are living on a tight budget, and it was a huge shock when we got here to learn that, unlike local students, international students in Victoria and NSW are not eligible for travel concessions.
For many students finding somewhere to live can be difficult, many of us have moved long distances from where we study because we can't afford to live in the city, and this means our travel costs spiral. It affects the sort of work, study and socialising we can do.
We have been living in Australia for a few years now but have explored very little of the city we live in. Even when thinking about visiting family or friends, cost of travel is always on our mind. The result is that we end up not doing much else than going to class and work for many weeks at a time.
We cannot socialize much with our local friends because, compared to them, we have a lot less money to spend on social activities even if we earn the same amount. They can afford to travel a lot more frequently than we can.
If we could save some money on transport like our domestic student friends, we could afford to look after our nutrition by buying more fruit, meat and vegetables and not relying on instant noodles to get us through the week.
We'd also get out more often for coffee/drinks and attend more of the amazing events that happen around our cities.
We love living in this country and want to learn and explore more. It is very discouraging when we can not experience the unique beauty of the areas around us because we have to make a choice between spending the required amount of money on weekly travel or buying our weekly groceries.
You also probably do not even realise how many students put themselves at risk in an attempt to save money on transport.
Many international students walk to or from home/work in the dark. Spending almost $4 for a 10 minute bus ride does not seem worth it, so we take risks that we know we should not. In comparison, if we had transport concession, most of us would happily spend $2 to take the bus home from the train station instead of walking 20-30 mins in the dark.
All this has a toll on our health and welfare, and impacts on our capacity to achieve results in our studies, the reason that we came here.
Students should have equal rights and opportunities, regardless of where they're from or what they study.
All we ask for is to be treated like all other students. We travel almost every day to class like they do, we pay our taxes diligently like they do, so should our welfare and safety not be just as important?
International students make a massive contribution to the Australian economy, but the Victorian and NSW governments penalise us by not providing concessions and services freely available to domestic students - and to international students in other States. This is having a real impact on where international students choose to study.
Education is one of the biggest export earners of both the Victorian ($5 billion last financial year) and NSW ($6 billion) economies. There’s been a massive drop in the number of international students in the past 2 years. The most significant drops were in Victoria and NSW - the only states where international students don’t get concessions on travel.
The Victorian and NSW governments should acknowledge the significant contribution international students make to the economy of these states, and encourage us to pursue our education here.
NSW and Victoria please provide international students with the same domestic travel concessions that you provide to the Australian students we study alongside.