Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Homestay horror for one of my friends

In 2004 in the same year that I arrived my friend from China also arrived. Not on the same day as me and she still remembers the homestay horrors that she had. Here's her story.
Finding the place
"I found the place on the Internet for $500 a month. And this wasn't through the RMIT site, it was advertised on Gumtree.com. The place was pretty close to RMIT in the city. In fact it was about 15 mins walk to Uni. I thought great!!! I'll just accept the offer nevertheless. I didn't really find out much about the couple except that they are Australian and work in big corporations. They didn't have any children. But they did have a dog and I love dogs". she recalled.

Going to the place.... its a different story
" I finally went to the place to live. Here the couple was not so nice to me wanting all my money, laptop and wanting me to wait on them. When I questioned them they said that it was quite normal in Australia to do everyone else's work and wait on them a bit".
"I also had to cook for them and they didn't leave me any money to go out and buy food needed. So I had to survive on one dollar meals and their food which was not fun. I also had to survive on canned fruit and veg. They often asked me to cook enough food for them for lunch each night. The cooking took up a bit of study time. My workload at uni suffered because of this"
'I also had to walk and feed and care for the dog which is a golden retriver frequently and it took up a bit of my time for study. The dog also disturbed my study by coming into my room and peeing in there and the owners didn't care"
" I did remember them coming home at 3am most Thursday and Friday nights drunk and waking me up in my sleep. Also the dog woke me up with its continual barking at night and the owners didn't care. I remembered the neighbours visiting and complaining about the barking. This affected me as I could not sleep".
 They also took my only one means of study... my laptop to play poker games the other days. And because of that my laptop broke down frequently. One time I decided that I had enough and I refused to give them my laptop. When I did they took all my money and the house key so that I couldn't go to uni. In the end I failed a lot of subjects at uni and had an "At risk" meeting".
"If I reported them to the Tribunal, they threated to cancel my visa"
" I was spending about 10 days in the library just to avoid them. I'd only come home just to clean up. I got yelled at for wasting their food. I also spent a lot of time in the womyns room at the university but then security kicked me out quite a few times. In the end I suffered a bit from homelessness."

The next steps.
"In the end I moved out and found a better place in the suburbs. I learnt that it is so much wiser to look for housing on RMIT's database."
"I really wanted the money back. I realised that it would take up a lot of time and energy to get the money back and go to court. So in the end I didn't. There is a few lessons to be learnt here". she recalls sadly.

Lessons learned
* If something is too good to be true then it usually is.
* Its a better idea to look for housing on the RMIT database and not at home, but in Melbourne
* If you can't ask your mentor (if you have one through the MATES program) where they lived
* I'd try and secure a place at RMIT Village or one of Victoria, Melbourne and Swinburne university's residental colleges for the first year
* If you are in a shared or private accomodation make sure that you get a proper contract. It has to be written
* Know your rights.
* Speak up if something is not right for you. Many international students don't speak up because they are afraid that their visa will be cancelled or are too shy. If you don't speak up nothing will be right for you.  Your visa will not be cancelled and the owners will be fined even if they threaten you with cancellation of your visa.


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