They say you learn something new everyday. And, with such an international mix of students in our universities and higher educations today, we really meet someone new from somewhere different everyday. Thus, the true definition of an Australian student these days is a constantly changing complexion. The engagement of our international seekers has influenced the ‘student identity’ as Australia is one of the most popular destinations for international students.
Despite being one of the most popular education destination it still has its challenges: social, financial, racial and communication barriers have meant the international student has a lot more stress than finishing that assignment on time.
Vogl and Kell (2007) claim that some international students feel intimidated from aspects of Australian life, most predominantly the language and knowing what to talk about. With over 200 languages spoken in Australia, the lack of communication strips confidence from foreigners. Yet the language that most causes trouble for students is the Australian vernacular.
So it is no surprise that Marginson (2012) the achievement of success for international students is not only their academic adjustment, but also their adjustment to the social and cultural environment.In my experience students around the university seem to hold a conversation quite well over a coffee or drink at the UniBar. Aussies however certainly have a distinct way of communicating with each other, with a quick tongue and greetings which may seem derogatory to international students however perfectly friendly to locals. A lack of adjustment to the Australian social language and environment can definitely lead to an international student feeling uncomfortable. Carl Barron demonstrates our off-putting way with words.
This lack of adjustment is most commonly not to the lack of effort of the international student either, as a study by Kell and Vogl (2007) found that local students have become disinterested in bridging the gaps between them and their international counterparts, putting it down to that the local student is just ‘too busy’.
Australians can often come across as too parochial, trapped within an Australia-centred view of a diverse and complex world. Kell and Vogl (2007) suggest that particularly Asian students in this matter express disappointment from a lack of connection with Australian society and students. This seems to be an important issue as 80% of international students are from Asia (Marginson 2012). If local students were to have a greater engagement and interest with the international students simply by saying hi or giving a smile, this sense of parochialism could be diminished.
Education allows for personal growth through two main avenues: multiplicity and hybridity. Described by Simon Marginson multiplicity is the process of ‘living more than one life’; essentially that a student creates a new life to fit into the proximities of the country that they are studying in. Now this doesn’t sound ideal but it just shows that international students learn the capabilities of adapting to different situations and in that they show higher levels of motivation and determination. I’m not saying that those that don’t have to travel aren’t motivated or determined, just that international students are essentially ‘thrown into the deep end’ and have to learn to adapt maybe more quickly than those that don’t.
Hybridity on the other hand seems like the more culturally complex option and ties in with globalisation, as it involves the integration of the new culture with their own, original one. This essentially creates a citizen of the world or cosmopolitanism rather than a citizen of, or belonging to, a particular nation-state.
In the end it all comes down to feeling like that you are at home- like you belong. So I think it is important to remember as we study our courses, we should not just accept different cultures but go a little extra and perhaps start a conversation with the people you see in your class. It is the little things like talking about the weather or asking what their favourite subject is at the moment that could really help a student feel more at home and plus you get to make new friends too and maybe a couch to sleep on when you backpack around their country, now how is that for a worldly citizen.
Kell, P and Vogl, G, 2007 ‘International students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’, Everyday Multicultralis Conference Proceedings, Maquarie University 28-29 September 2006
Marginson, S, 2012 ‘International education as self-formation’, Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’, Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne