I am an international student because I live in Australia on a Permanent Residency Visa.
I am an international student because my nationality is not Australian.
I am an international student because I am a citizen of the United Kingdom.
I am an international student because I have friends from all over the world.
I am an international student because I am taking a class in global media and communications.
I am an international student because I learnt German, French and Spanish at school.
I am an international student because I have travelled the world.
I am an international student!
This opening was inspired by the University of Sheffield’s video on the benefits of being an international student and how essentially we are all international students.
Being an international student has got to be the most life changing experience out there. You get to experience another culture and lifestyle as you’re thrown into the deep and expected to float. But sometimes you can’t float and that’s when being an international student seems bleak.
Marginson states that ‘international education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be’, and though I disagree with this claim I do see where he is coming from. (Marginson 2012, p. 1)
There have been may incidences where international students have been made to feel unwelcome in Australia, not necessarily on purpose but due to the lack of effective communication between different cultures and the inability to communicate in general. In 2009 there were various attacks placed on Indian students who came to Australia, this lead to a decrease in Indian students coming to the land down under to study. These attacks lead to extensive coverage in Indian newspapers, which cause a huge protest in Melbourne consisting of Indian exchange students as well as many other exchange and international students. However, it isn’t just Indian students who are fearful to study in Australia, even those from our neighbouring countries, those who we trade with fear for their lives when they study in Australia.
Though reading these stories of attacks on international students has me on edge, I do not feel that it is due to what Marginson states in this research. I think it has more to do with the hostility that is placed on communication differences, most of which come from the lack of understanding of ‘Aussie slang’.
Coming from an English speaking country myself I did not feel like I had much to worry about, a part from the usual ‘am I going to fit in?’ ‘Will anyone like me?’ Though after reading Marginson’s report on international students I stated to see some similarities between his findings and my own experience. Especially through certain phrases and colloquialisms used in everyday conversation that I just couldn’t get my head around and vice verser.
When I first came to Australia I had this idea that because Australia was colonised by the English there would still be strong roots of that embedded into the language, but boy was I wrong. Trying to follow what was being said all the time took extra focus and time.
Though thats not all that took a bit of getting use to. I did find that at first most people were “stand offish”, the colour of my skin didn’t make it clear where it was I was from, but as soon as I spoke things started to fall into place. Though it still took time for people to come up to me and have a conversation even though most knew I was from an English speaking country.
However, unlike what Marginson mentions, ‘Australians are often too parochial, trapped within an Australian-centred view of a diverse and complex world’ I felt like my experience was more positive and more diverse than what Marginson states. (Marginson 2012, p. 2)
Although most of the friends I made had different heritage they were all born and raised in Australia so that may have had an impact in their communication skills towards me. However those who were purely Anglo though perhaps hostile at first, they were more than nice to me and were willing to learn more and go that extra mile to get to know me and the different cultural aspects that I bought with me.
I believe that though what Marginson wrote could be accounted by the minority of Australians, but the majority are more than hospitable to make connects with those from overseas. Though as in any situation people are shy and prefer not to stray from their existing friends and groups, but shall still go that mile to make those from other countries fell welcome and as if this were their home.
For further thoughts on international life and international students watch these videos:
Sheffield SU, 2013, We Are All International Students, online video, 4 March, Sheffield University, viewed 12 August 2015 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsX_yg6ovoI>
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
Whinnett, E and Hussain T, (2014) ‘Indian student numbers plunge after fresh attack’, Herald Sun, 5 January, viewed 28 August 2015 <http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/indian-student-numbers-plunge-after-fresh-attack/story-fni0fee2-1226795039267>
Dong, S (2012) ‘We Came Here To Learn, But We Live In Fear’, The Age, 11 May, viewed 28 August 2015 <http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/we-came-here-to-learn-but-we-live-in-fear-20120510-1yfhq.html>