International Education | Building Foundational Bridges

With diversity, problems can arise. WIth ignorance, these problems are fueled. But is it fair to suggest our educational system, particularly tertiary education, is not as welcoming and considerate of foreign students as it should be? Marginson suggests that “International education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be’’ despite the fact that international education accounts for being Australia’s fourth largest export. (Marginson 2012)

The influx of international students in the last two decades is a reflection of how communication is becoming more globalised and readily available, allowing students to travel abroad whilst still immersing themselves in a somewhat familiar and welcoming culture. Despite this, Marginson suggests that whilst most international students are willing to communicate, interact and learn from local students, local students ‘are not interested’ further proving his aforementioned theory that international education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be (Marginson 2012). The most obvious reason for this lack of communication can be attributed to the language barrier that exists. Kell and Vogel suggest that international students may lack confidence and find it difficult to understand the local students (Kell and Vogel 2006). Despite this there is interesting evidence to suggest that more focus is necessary when analysing the way local students initiate communication with international students, as there is often an expectation that it is the duty of the international student to “assimilate into our very ethnocentric culture” (Marginson 2012).

A sample of international students in a focus group study conducted by Kell and Vogel identified that international students “felt that Australians did not want to get to know them” and that the Australian students who were indeed the ones who struggled with the communicative processes. (Kell and Vogel 2006)

Marginson argues that a profound ignorance is displayed towards international students, and that we as a country hold ethnocentric views towards international students (Marginson 2012). These views primarily consist of a misunderstanding of why it is foreign students travel to Australia for study. The most common misconception comes through the belief they want to be ‘more Australian’ or more ‘like us’ whereas the most logical reason for traveling for education is to create new opportunities and challenges whilst still embracing and retaining a sense of culture and identity in a newly establish environment. An argument Marginson argues for this point of view, stating that “International students are not merely motivated by self interest, but a desire for the collective and individual good” (Marginson 2012).

Universities tend to embrace international students by ensuring there is adequate support for foreign students in regards to effective language and communication skills. It is these programs which are designed to lessen the burden on international students by providing them with skills to allow them to thrive in an at times intimidating environment. If local students are able to embrace similar principles and learn how to accept different cultures and communicate with foreign students, it ultimately leads to a healthier environment for all students within the tertiary education system.

References:

1) Marginson, Simon. ‘International Education As Self-Formation’. 2012. Lecture.

2) Kell, P., & Vogl, G. (2006). International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes. In Everyday Multiculturalism Conference Proceedings Sydney: Centre for Research and Social Inclusion.

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About alexdebs

Second year Bachelor of Communications and Media studies student at the University of Wollongong. I am an aspiring journalist with a passion for sport, music and travel.
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