The idea of the rich international student stereotype is not new. As long as studying internationally has been an option, students all over the world have generalised those who pay that bit extra to study away from home as being so rich they live for expensive branded items.
But many international students are keen to dispel this myth, to show domestic students they are not all from wealthy backgrounds and do not all buy into the designer brand culture.
The internet meme ‘rich international student’ cropped up at the beginning of this month after one Twitter user posted a photo of a box of ramen noodles. The twist? The box was branded with the Chanel logo and full of designer branded necklaces, being picked at with gold chopsticks. The meme took off after another Twitter user retweeted it with the caption ‘What international students have for lunch.’
— femme fatale (@eliesaaab) March 31, 2018
What international students have for lunch https://t.co/yYR0UahvLv
— فطوبى للغرباء (@bengalitrash) April 1, 2018
Over the course of the next few days a flurry of similar tweets cropped up:
Yummy designer branded eggs
International students at breakfast pic.twitter.com/kPMfT6gT3K
— HP (@hasanp__) April 3, 2018
Forget Shreddies or Cheerios – these students eat Gucci and Louis Vuitton
rise and shine, international students pic.twitter.com/WFU5rJOwMm
— andy (@arrystyle) April 3, 2018
Even designer fruit
Fruits for international Students 🍌 pic.twitter.com/BFpv8qZtb9
— Mariam. (@Maryftaddoh) April 4, 2018
Only drink water from a designer bottle
International students water bottle pic.twitter.com/MsNvBhjAYG
— dj❄️ (@DJ_InSanity) April 4, 2018
However, many international students have responded in frustration, claiming they go through the exact same struggles as any other student.
Gotta say, I can't relate to these international student memes as a non-rich international student. THIS IS POOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ERASURE.
— La Rainne (@larainnepasion) April 4, 2018
Others pointed out international students often pay much higher fees than domestic students, do not tend to benefit from the same student loans system and are not able to work as many – if any – hours to support their studies.
While students from a well-off families may have their studies and living costs funded by their parents, many students and their families worked incredibly hard to get them an education abroad, with many of them spending their entire life savings on their child’s education.
Other students may have only been able to afford to study abroad through securing a funded university place through a scholarship, meaning while their tuition and perhaps some of their living costs were taken care of, they still need to fund the rest of their stay. With extra hurdles regarding working, this can be tricky.
I personally think the memes are funny but as an international student myself the struggle is real:
– no loans
– ridiculously high conversion rates
– not being able to work for more than 20hrs/week if outside EU https://t.co/jc3nyN2DVF
— Laura Yoshimoto Turpin (@itslauraturpin) April 7, 2018
Not only do international students face these financial hurdles, they are often expected to show they have all of their tuition money and enough money for living costs – and a return plane ticket – in the bank before they are awarded their visa.
“We can’t disguise the fact that kids need a lot of money to come and study [abroad],” CEO of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) Dominic Scott told BBC Three. “There is always going to be a small, possibly loud minority who are going to drive their Lamborghinis through Mayfair, and they’re going to be highly visible.
“But the truth is that the vast majority of the 400,000 international students in the UK struggle to get enough money to come and fulfil their dreams. Usually, it’s the ‘bank of mum and dad’ who are paying – and sometimes it’s the whole family’s life savings that are put into it.”
Numerous international students told Twitter they seldom could afford ‘proper’ meals at university.
as an international student i can say with 100% certainty that these "what international students eat" memes are a lie. I've literally just had donuts for dinner the past two nights in a row…..
— maria (@MARIAMIKXO) April 4, 2018
Find it so funny when I see tweets about rich international students, cause when I was studying abroad I was probs the only one living off bread and water lool
— NICS (@nicss_lm) April 3, 2018
“If you popped into any campus you would find one student in a Lamborghini, 50 on the bus, and 20 cooking baked beans over a cheap stove,” Scott said.
One Twitter user pointed out that the lucky few international students who are able to afford luxury brands have no doubt had their tuition and living costs paid for already… So while domestic students can laugh at memes and poke fun at them, international students can laugh at their debt.
us: laughs at memes about rich international students
international students: laughs at our student debt
— sara (@sagwah) April 5, 2018
Whether you find the viral memes funny or not, international students everywhere want you to know they’re not all sipping $30 cocktails, buying Gucci handbags on a whim and eating gold chains (okay – we’re pretty sure that one isn’t accurate for anyone).