As the presence of globalisation continues to grow throughout the world and more international job opportunities become available it is extremely valuable to have international connections. This can be said to be one of the many reasons that international students chose to undertake their tertiary education in Australia. However along with this seemingly benefitting notion that increases multiculturalism and diversity within our nation and offers international student’s great experiences on a cultural and educational level, also comes some harsh challenges that reveal a lot about our nation.
Australia is an extremely multicultural country with an estimated 25% of our population being born overseas (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012). We like to advertise ourselves as a welcoming nation, as seen in the video above, however there is some hard evidence to suggest that we did not only forget to throw a shrimp on the barby for our international students, we have also been uninviting, ethnocentric and parochial. The Australian community has been criticised for not wanting to pursue friendships with international exchange students which results in international students feeling ostracised. This can be blamed for the development of the stereotype of international students grouping together instead of branching out.
Apart from out ethnocentric views there are many other barriers in place effecting the assimilation of international students into Australian culture. With 80% of our international students coming from Asian countries (Marginson, 2012), one of the biggest barriers with assimilating into Australian culture has been language.
Kell and Vogl’s paper ‘International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’ explores the relationship between international students assimilating into Australian society and the Australian English. “The internationalisation of the university had included the increased use and reliance on English as the lingua franca of higher education.” (Kell & Vogl, 2007) Although many non-English speaking countries still study English in primary and high schools, they are mainly written based curriculums and barely equip them with the communication skills necessary. Along with this challenge is the uniqueness of the Australian accent and colloquialisms, which are often hard to interpret. Abbreviations also play a big role in shaping our language and are often misinterpreted and not understood by international students.
When conducting their research Kell and Vogl’s “…focus groups included students from Indonesian, Indian, Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic backgrounds.” I believe that a more rounded representation of how our international students are connecting to Australian society may have been achieved by also including students from English speaking countries such as America and European countries. Even though the majority of international students are from Eastern countries, it would have been interesting to see if students from English speaking nations had the same difficulties with Australian English. This may also have uncovered other variables that effect successful assimilation, such as the effects of commonalities when forming friendships. For example American exchange students may have still grouped together rather than interspersing with Australian’s as they would have a lot in common with others from the same nation.
Language is one of the biggest barriers in the way of international students assimilating into our nation, however if Australian’s dropped their parochial values and took the time to explain our idiosyncrasies we could become a more inviting nation which embraces our international students.
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011, ‘2011 Census reveals one in four Australians is born overseas’, CO/59, viewed 1 September 2015, < http://abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/CO-59>
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