International students, where is the issue?

Nearly everybody wants to travel at some point in his or her life, so who wouldn’t take up an opportunity to study abroad? This is something that is done by thousands of students across the globe that move to Australia in order to undertake in their university studies. Though, with this emergence of other cultures into one brings about its own issues, such as cultural incompetence and lack of social literacy. Racism is a prominent issue among foreign students in Australia, which I personally find disappointing. Anecdotally, I have seen this racism for myself in the classroom at University – so I understand how it can be a predominant issue.

Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s culture is superior to another, (Marginson, S 2012) while people are still pertaining an ethnocentric attitude toward other cultures, these issues in Australian universities will still exist. According to Simon Marginson (2012), “80 per cent of our students are from Asia, which is becoming the gravitational centre of the world.” These students have the potential to engage in institutional activities and share their beliefs in a judgement atmosphere, however due to the presence of racism, these students are more likely to be found left out of these activities.

Though this can be improved, research has proven that the issue lies in the lack of integration between local students and international students. “Lifting this interaction can reduce the lack of cultural communication in universities,” says Simon Marginson. (Marginson, S 2012) It is crucial for international students in order to obtain their degree to interact and adjust within their social and cultural environment, according to Gillian Vogl. While these students who come to Australia have spent years studying the ‘English’ language, they are not all prepared for the Australian colloquialism, fast pace and accent of Australian locals. (Kell, P and Vogl, G 2007)

Australian universities’ tend to concentrate on written and vocal communication skills, however some students from Iran and Asia are more predominantly taught to write in English, and the communication done verbally isn’t as important – this results in miscommunication and high stress for the international students when they encounter verbal assignments at University. According to Peter Kell and Gillian Vogel, students lacked confidence when speaking to local Australians; “They found it difficult to understand however they wanted to hear what the locals were saying.” (Kell, P and Vogl, G 2007)

So where have we gone wrong? Research done has revealed that most host-countries believe that the students should make a swift and easy transition from their home country to the new one, and it is their issue if they struggle. This is where barriers are formed and reveals a strong lack of cultural sensitivity amongst most Australian societies. The students are still trying to shape themselves in a foreign society. Not all of these international students embrace change so easily, though they set to reach for a new-formed ‘identity.’ (Kell, P and Vogl, G  2007)

I personally believe that local Australian students as well as international students can help each other by being more patient together, as in unity, we are all hoping for a similar goal. Many international students travel to find self-formation, and this is similar to what locals attend university for, to better themselves. International students have just taken a different approach. It is important to be culturally aware and literate, I believe.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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

Marginson, S (2012) ‘International education as self-formation: Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’, Lecture delivered at the University of Wollongong, 21 February 2012, available online at http://focusonteaching.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@cedir/documents/doc/uow119828.pdf

Enrolment Australia Graph. 2015. Web. 29 Aug. 2015.

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