One of my favourite aspects of university so far is the sheer amount of diversity around our campus. Overall, international education is Australia’s third-largest export industry, so it comes as no surprise that I have consistently had classes with international students. As such, I think it’s so great that university allows us to be surrounded by individual’s with diverse cultures, creating a rich learning environment different to my own high school experience.
With the concept of international education being surrounded by high levels of hype and enthusiasm, I had never really stopped to consider the many barriers international students could face. This week’s readings really opened my eyes to the issues these students may encounter in Australia including language barriers, culture shock, issues with visa, housing, trouble gaining employment, transport problems and social issues. As Simon Marginson suggests “international education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be”. It is a massive adjustment to relocate to a new country for any period of time, I know I’d feel far too overwhelmed to even consider an international exchange. I learnt this week that a lot of students don’t bother interacting with international students due to their temporariness.
Kell and Vogl’s reading further reinforces this idea, suggesting that students “did not know how to initiate conversations with international students”. I for one can say that breaking the ice and initiating a conversation is the hardest part, especially when trying to find common ground. It was also evident that international students were “not accustomed to the hybridity and colloquialism of the English language”. The unfamiliarity with English accents, slang, fast pace speaking and laid back nature has caused international students to feel uncomfortable and disconnected as they couldn’t understand or fully engage with our conversations.
I believe that all faculties should focus more on the involvement and socialisation of international students, as Marginson states international exchange is an “experience with the immense potential to enrich the lives of all those involved”. By interacting with international students we have a great opportunity to build overseas relationships, enrich our cultural understanding and broaden our perspectives.