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Show me the money: how students are coping with the higher exchange rate

Karen Poh

Wed May 04 2011

money matters

INTERNATIONAL students are becoming more cautious about their spending as the Australian dollar’s appreciation outpaces the growth of many Asian currencies.

Almost all the students Meld spoke to say they have tightened their belts, with some considering taking on extra work.

Nicolas Adrianto Soputro, 17, from Indonesia, has been hit by the high exchange rate since the first day he arrived in Melbourne earlier this year.

He thinks about his parents when he spends money on non-essential items.

“I’ll feel uncomfortable if I lead an expensive lifestyle,” the science student at Melbourne University says.

“For example, if I could go to the cinema every week back home, I would go to the cinema every month in Melbourne. Also, I’ve had to spend less money on food so I could accommodate other expenses, such as books and stationeries.”

Malaysian student Ji Hong Chan, says international students now have to put more thought into stretching whatever pocket money they receive from their parents, and he would consider finding a part-time job if the going got tough.

“It’s important that you know what you need instead of what you want… you have to plan more on your financial use, such as how you use your money on groceries, entertainment and academic needs,” he says.

Rong Zhi Zhao, a media and communications student from China and who works part time, says the cost of living is more expensive now with the higher exchange rate.

“I go to restaurants less and there’s less entertainment as well,” she says.

“And if I want to travel, I may not choose Australian cities. I may choose Hong Kong or cities in China instead.”

Many of Boun Bounxana Southidara’s friends already have a part-time job, and the commerce student from Laos is looking to find one too.

“But if I can’t find one, I’d have to be strict and have a great plan about how I spend my money,” he says.

“While in Australian dollar, groceries, tuition fees may be the same, but when you convert it to your home currency, it’s getting more expensive… and it means I’ll have to earn more money.”

But there was at least one person Meld spoke to was upbeat about the strong Aussie dollar.

“If you make money here, it’s a positive thing for you,” says Zaki Arif from Pakistan.

“And if you want to travel, you can earn a fair bit of money here and once you go abroad, the moment you convert it to the local currencies, it makes you seem so rich,” he says.