Freo comes up trumps

FREO locals have raised over $10,000 in tuition fees for Mexican student Mariela Espino so she can continue studying in Australia.

Following the election of US president Donald Trump last year, Mexico’s fragile economy tanked, and Ms Espino’s family were unable to provide her with their usual financial support.

“This semester, it sounds ridiculous to say, the Trump administration has been affecting the economy generally,” she says.

“The value of the peso has really dropped since last year.”

A hard grafter, Ms Espino juggles three jobs at Little Creatures, Flipside and tutoring Spanish, but that barely covers her rent and living expenses.

• The irrepressible Mariela Espino would have had to return to Mexico, if it weren’t for the support of her friends and workmates. Photo
by Charlie Smith

When her friend Maggie Bochat heard Ms Espino had to pay $15,000 in tuition fees upfront or leave the country, she shaved her head and organised a gig at Mojo’s to raise funds.

“She has this out-of-this-world smile that we just had to keep around,” Bochat says.

Some big names from the local music scene, including the Southern River Band and San Cisco’s Jordi James played and along with the head shave and a GoFundMe page, more than $10,000 was raised, covering Ms Espino’s costs for this semester.

She says that going to America is now off the table for many Mexican students and they are choosing Australia instead.

In a submission made last month to the federal government, Universities Australia stated: “[with] the election of US president Trump, Latin America nations may find Australia even more attractive as a safe, high-quality study destination for their students.”

Curtin’s deputy international vice-chancellor Seth Kunin says they offer counselling, welfare and academic services for international students.

“These students can also leave behind their family and other support networks, therefore it is important to help students settle in and become part of the Curtin community,” Prof Kunin says.

In terms of financial support, Curtin has scholarships open to all students but none specifically for internationals.

The Australian government also offers Endeavour scholarships to the highest achieving international students.


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