International Education, a fulfilling, rich intercultural experience?

According to Marginson (2012), International education is Australia’s third or fourth largest export industry, allowing students all around the world to experience both educational and social practices of Australia. Although there are many positives to both the individual and Australia, as a profit-making business; it also includes the negatives and insecurities of international studies, which is outlined in both readings by Marginson and Kell and Vogl.

Kell and Vogl identifies the challenges faced by international students to adjust both academically and socially in Australia. Issues such as homesickness, financial difficulties, language barriers, loneliness and isolation could heavily impact on the overall experience. As outlined in both readings, a particular challenge for international students is the evident language difficulties. Prior to coming to Australia, most students would have spent many years learning to speak English, however they are unaware of the various English spoken language evident because they would have learnt American or British English. The Australian accent and colloquialism proves to be hard to understand and can create confusion, particularly through the shortened words and basic conversational slang which is completely different to the ‘proper English’ international students would have learnt.

Another issue would simply be the fact that international students weren’t ‘fitting in’ with the locals, either because they weren’t confident enough to make conversation or they felt as if Australians didn’t want to form relationships with them because they weren’t bothered or too busy. ‘Australians are often too parochial, trapped within an Australia- centred view of a diverse and complex world’ (Marginson 2012).

Although I haven’t been on student exchange before, I regularly meet international students through my part-time job as a waitress at a Vietnamese Restaurant. Usually, of Vietnamese or Chinese background; the international students I meet seem to seek their own cultures when finding building relationships to find comfort and find a sense of similarity and belonging, which could be the main reason why they don’t open up to local Australians. I also find that not only do they struggle to understand my fast-paced conversational language; I also struggle to understand their English with their thick accents. Although they go through English tests that assess their English ability, those with high marks still struggle with their ‘proper English’. I once asked my work colleague if he liked living in Wollongong, rather than Vietnam, and I was shocked to hear that he disliked it because he felt so uncomfortable and out of place. From my knowledge, most of the international students I’ve met from Vietnam come to Australia to acquire new information, develop their knowledge and enhance their future options and mobility; not for the social, enriching experience; so it seemed like my work colleague was pressured to study and do well.

After evaluating I find the common question asking if Australia is an ethnocentric culture. Although there may be much debate about it, I think no, simply because it’s difficult to escape other cultures, and being ethnocentric would be a big social barrier for many.

Resources:

Kell P & Vogl, G 2007, ‘International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’ in Everyday Multiculturalism Conference Proceedings, Macquarie University, 28-29 September 2006, pp1-10.

Marginson, S 2012, ‘International Education as Self-Formation’ Morphing a Profit-Making Business in an Intercultural Experience, Powerpoint Slides, University of Wollongong, delivered 21 February

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