Are you an international student? Do you know an international student? Are you planning on one day becoming an international student by studying abroad? What is the first thing you think of when you hear the term ‘international student?’ Is it foreign, non-english-speaking, outsider, smart, brave, or insane?
“International education is Australia’s third or fourth largest export industry, depending on the price of gold at any one time, and on the Australian dollar and on visa policy… It is more than a profit-making business. It is an educational and social experience.’
Australia is an extremely popular destination for international students and those looking to study elsewhere to experience and different culture, study and travel all at the same time. Each year Australia gains more and more international students, with most of these enrolled in higher education (University and TAFE courses.) In2013, Approximately half a million international students were enrolled in education programs in Australia, with more than half of that figure in in the higher education sector, and these numbers are and will continue to rise.
(Image from studiesinaustralia.com)
As you can see from the graph above, the top ten nationalities of international student enrolments in Australia in 2013, were all of non-english speaking background. According to Marginson, 2012, 80% of our students are from Asia. These students face an array of challenges not only in their studies and understanding the content, but also with trying to fit in with our society. Learning English however, will be one of the most valuable skills for international students, in order to expand their job opportunities and social life.
Peter Kell and Gillian Vogl concluded that while most international students spend a large amount of time learning english before they come to Australia, they are unaware of Australian colloquialism, varying accents and fast speech which make the learning experience even harder.
“A crucial element in the achievement of success for international students is not only their academic adjustment but also their adjustment to the social and cultural environment. While academic success may heighten a student’s confidence, social and cultural adjustment can be important factors that lead to this academic success (Novera 2004, excerpt from Kell, et al 2006)”
This quote suggests that interaction with local students benefits the international student in a number of ways. This interaction also benefits the local student, as learning and experiencing different cultures is invaluable, and further leads to globalisation as discussed in my last blog post.
Marginson 2012 also agrees that these intercultural encounters strengthen the international student’s language proficiency in English, communicative competence, confidence and agency. We as local Australian students need to make an effort to forget the stereotypes we have in our heads of international students and make an effort to become less parochial and reach out and interact with these students. You never know, you may learn something new, teach someone something they didn’t know, or even make a close friend.