Call for the state government to include international students in travel concessions

I am one of the 300,000 international students who are studying in New South Wales.

Apparently, we international students generated $7.2 billion for NSW in 2016 to 2017, lifting international education to become a major service export and a significant contributor to the state’s knowledge economy.

When I arrived in Newcastle late last year to pursue my dream of higher education, I was overwhelmed by the region’s natural beauty and the high standard of many of the facilities.

The stresses of settling in, finding a home, adjusting to university life and trying to understand social culture, was eased by the friendliness, sense of community and the helpful orientation displayed by so many Hunter people.

One day, after heavy rain, something I was familiar with as a Bangladeshi, I shared with my friends through social media that I had started to love this country.

In my culture, to love a country is equal to loving your mother.

The Australian attitudes of non-discrimination, support for multiculturalism and the commitment to quality education have won my heart.

One of my ongoing challenges, however, has been transport. I don’t drive, and as the university is not within walking distance, I depend on public transport.

I soon realised that transport costs and travelling time were not something I had fully budgeted nor timetabled for.

Recent debates in this paper about public transport consequently caught my attention.

I read that NSW is the only state that does not allow international students access to the Opal concession card.

Furthermore, I was surprised to see that the Fix NSW Transport – City Lantern Walk’ in Sydney on the evening of Saturday August 11 was calling for the NSW government to allow international students access to concessional travel.

I realised that I shouldn’t have been surprised as it is typical of this beautiful, multicultural and non-discriminative society that transport activists would take up this issue.

The state government is keen to attract more international students. If ever there was a win-win opportunity, surely granting all full-time students – be they domestic, international, university or TAFE – access to the Opal travel concession card is it.

For these reasons I support the Fix NSW Transport Walk in Sydney next Saturday.

Sabrina Syed recently arrived from Bangladesh and is a PhD student at The University of Newcastle.