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Confusion and stress growing for international student body

Anxious students: Queensland Filipino Youth Association mentoring officer Seb Narciso.

WHILE COVID-19 restrictions have eased, uncertainty facing university students had not, and a Queensland student mentor said supporting them was all about meeting the essentials.

Queensland Filipino Youth Association mentoring officer Seb Narciso, who graduated from the University of Queensland in December, said students were anxious about a combination of “long-term and short-term financial complications”.

Day-to-day cost of living was the immediate concern.

While domestic students could receive welfare payments and work as much as they wanted, international students relied on money from home for expenses like rent and food.

Student visas also heavily limited the amount of hours they could work.

Mr Narciso said he had been in contact with people across Australia and support for international students had varied from region to region.

Community spirit played a significant role.

Mr Narciso said there had been success in gathering communities to launch initiatives like “adopt a student” to get people into housing in New South Wales and food support going to the Northern Territory.

But the need was overwhelming.

Mr Narciso said the Queensland Filipino Youth Association was only a few years old and was not set up to deal with the amount of students reaching out for help.

Partnering up with other organisations had helped share the load but the problem was more than the current set-up could handle.

The Australian Government’s travel ban, enacted in March, remained intact for international students.

This left thousands of students stranded in their home countries with many unable to progress in their education.

Australia had about 700,000 international students and the university sector had built its economic base on exporting education to them.

It was unclear yet how much economic damage had been done.

What was clear was that international students in Australia would be relying heavily on community support programs for some time to come.

Mr Narciso said he would welcome any support from the government to help international students particularly.

He said a personal privilege working with international students had been to hear their stories and that alone was a “rewarding experience”.

He said when you could bring people together there were “a lot of powerful things you can do with that”.

“Politics is everywhere… there’s so much polarisation… when you can find that link between people, there are things you can really achieve,” he said.

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