When you think about your future roommates, you don’t imagine living in squalor, squished with eight others in a rundown room with only cardboard and curtains dividing the beds.
But this is the reality for many international students who chose sun-soaked Australia for their degree.
Australia has become a hotspot for international students in the past year, with international enrollments increasing 12.6 percent in one year alone. While the number of international students can fluctuate, safe and affordable housing for these people to live in is not quite as free.
Overcrowding is rife in Australia's competitive rental housing markets, and in many cases it's international students who are sacrificing space for affordability. https://t.co/ISC7fxvYG1
— SBS Punjabi (@SBSPunjabi) March 23, 2018
In the five years prior to 2016, the number of people living in severely crowded dwellings jumped to 74 percent, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Visa restrictions on employment and a desperate need to find somewhere to call home are forcing international students into overcrowded and sometimes illegal housing options, according to The Guardian Australia.
“Students only have a limited budget. They can’t stop eating, they can’t stop paying their tuition. The only thing they can compromise on is their accommodation and the only option they are left with is to just get a place that is enough to sleep and keep their luggage,” said Pratik Ambani, the president of the Australian Federation of International Students.
Students are living everywhere from rusty caravans to unused garages, just to have somewhere to lay their head while they study.
This is causing students additional stress on top of their university work. Properties advertised online can be sometimes misleading, making house-searching unnecessarily tedious.
Divya Bhusal told The Guardian Australia she failed two classes in her first semester at the University of Sydney partly due to housing stress.
“The photos on Gumtree are not very accurate. They’re not clear about how many people live there,” she said.
“But, by the time you get there, you just take it because you’re desperate and don’t want to waste more time.”
On top of this, the Australian student visa only allows students to work 40 hours a week, and companies often exploit international students by paying them almost half of Australia’s minimum wage, reported Little India.
This leaves international students with no choice but to settle for low-cost accommodation.
“There aren’t individual rooms that are affordable to students and that means they often accept substandard or different kind of living arrangements to be able to afford homes close to their uni or near their work,” Leo Patterson Ross from the Tenants Union NSW told SBS News.
“There isn’t necessarily information that’s being given to them before they come to Sydney. And they are relying on information shared by friends, or on the internet,” he added.