Australia wooed hundreds of thousands of international students to its shores with the promise of a first-class education and fun-kissed adventure, but the coronavirus crisis has left many jobless and depending on food handouts.
Each day up to 100 students from Asia, Latin America and beyond stand on carefully spaced fluro-pink crosses outside a Melbourne cooking school, waiting to pick up free freshly prepared meals.
The students — just the tip of the iceberg — pay several thousands of US dollars each year to study Down Under but, like Colombian student Santiago Castillo, now find themselves counting cents to survive.
Castillo, 26, worked at a cafe before the pandemic broke out — one of the almost one million jobs that have been lost in Australia because of lockdown measures.
After paying his rent and borrowing money from friends, he now counts less than US$66 in his savings account — a meagre amount to get by in one of the world’s most expensive cities.