Although Australia has a long history of a society built on multiculturalism, those who are too busy patting themselves on the back for living in a more forward-thinking and inclusive nation tend to ignore the barriers that still exist. I love living and studying in Australia, and there are many benefits to living here but I have no idea how it feels to be an international student, who may not speak the language, or understand our societal do’s and don’ts. Understandably, for international students, it can be difficult to integrate into Australian culture and the experience is often diminished by the closed mindsets of the locals. However, I can try my best to make international students feel welcome enough to enjoy the experience of living in Australia.
The language barrier alone proves to be very difficult for those who are trying to study in Australia. Along with the already very confusing grammar and rules for national language of English, there are also Australian colloquialisms that an international student may find difficult to get their head around (Vogl & Kell, 2012). Additionally, studying in today’s society, an international student also may need to decipher millennial slang which only makes that language gap a little bit bigger.
Along with language barriers, there are many obstacles that international students face which may hinder their potentially rich intercultural experience (Marginson, 2012). Cultural conflicts and racism also play a huge part in hindering the experience of their intercultural and potentially fulfilling experience. While Australia and more specifically Sydney is generally deemed as a desirable and safe location to study in, a minority of students report exploitation by employers and landlords, discrimination and isolation (Munro and Ng, 2017).
Small minded locals often make being an international student much more difficult than it needs to be and internalised hatred towards other cultures often result in racism fuelled attacks on international students. In 2009, there was a series of violent attacks on Indian students in Australia which was kept very quiet with police and policy makers initially denying that these attacks were racially motivated. This damaged Australia’s relationship with India as the safety of International students was jeopardised which subsequently plunged Australia’s education into turmoil. This video shows the full strain in the relationship between cultures this violence caused. Less violent forms of racism are most prominent when most international students want and prepared to take risks to achieve closer connections with local students but locals are often uninterested and are likely to avoid interacting with international students (Vogl & Kell, 2012).
This issue of discrimination and exploitation does not assist in making a safe community for all. If you are a domestic student, try to understand where an international student is coming from and help in any way possible to make the global education experience as rich and fulfilling as it can possibly be. You may even gain some new friends along the way.
Marginson, S. (2012). International education as self-formation. 1st ed. [ebook] Wollongong: University of Wollongong.
Kell, P. and Vogl, G. (2007). International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes. Sydney: Macquarie University.
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