As Australia’s domestic student debts soar to colossal heights, the AU$20 billion international student market consistently boosts education economies in the country’s most influential cities.

In Brisbane alone, Australia’s third-largest city, the international student population contributes in excess of AU$3.8 billion to the local economy every year through 75,000 foreign student enrolments. The sector forms a key part of Brisbane’s competitive platform through skills, research and global connections.

In a bid to attract talented international applicants to Brisbane’s top universities, students like Colombian-born Juliana Medina-Tobar have become the face of the region’s global education market, using their social media expertise to lure students from overseas.

While the annual cost of Brisbane’s student debt is expected to reach more than AU$11 billion in the coming decade, the region’s thriving international education sector is set to uphold tertiary budgets.

Ms Medina-Tobar, who ventured to Brisbane to pursue language studies, told The Australian that she made a very early decision to remain in Australia so she could finish her commerce degree and expand her online business.

Last week, Medina-Tobar was named one of 40 international students recruited by the economic development board, Brisbane Marketing, to use their social media know-how to promote Brisbane as a desirable study destination for students in their home countries, via the #studyBrisbane campaign.

The initiative, which is currently running for the seventh consecutive year, draws on the passion of ‘Student Ambassadors’ from 29 different countries, using their social media reach to expand Brisbane’s largest single services export.

Ms Medina-Tobar even hosts her own YouTube channel, which has so far attracted 300,000 views and 500 followers, and an Instagram page that currently hosts 2,311 followers.

Designed to give Latin American students a better understanding of what it means to work, live and study in Brisbane, Ms ­Medina-Tobar’s channel — Aca En Australia (which translates to, Here in Australia) — includes video clips and a travel blog with links to other social media platforms.

Monique Skidmore, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Queensland (UQ), says Brisbane’s foreign student market has never been more important.

According to Skidmore, UQ’s CBD Brisbane campus alone makes up 12,000 of the city’s international student population, which currently amounts to 52,000. She claims most of these students are required to pay their fees up-front, which allows the region’s universities to make a greater number of courses available to domestic students, on top of providing a sustainable source of academic funding.

“There is no doubt that under their current revenue structure, Australian universities would not survive without international students…they make it possible for our domestic students to go to university,” Professor Skidmore told The Australian.

“To have students out there saying ‘Australia is the place to study’, that is worth its weight in gold.”

Ms Medina-Tobar told The Australian that trying to find the funds to cover her tuition fees had been a major challenge, but that she is incredibly grateful to be offered the position of Student Ambassador for Brisbane.

“For me, it is all worth every cent in the end,” she said.

“I guess I was already an unofficial ambassador but it’s an honour to be able to have the official title now and I can’t wait to do Brisbane proud…it’s done so much for me.”

As a city, Brisbane continues to stand out as one of the world’s most desirable study abroad destinations. In the most recent QS ranking for the best international student cities, Brisbane ranked 18th out of 74 global cities and had one of the highest student ratios of any featured city.

Additional reporting by The Australian.

Image via YouTube/Aca en Australia.

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