“International education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be” (Marginson, 2012:1)
When presented with this argument at the beginning of the BCM111 Lecture I was intrigued. I always believed, like many others that international education was an enriching experience on all parts for both the exchange student and the institution that houses these students. However, only after being exposed to a completely different perspective, I would otherwise never have considered the realities of International education.
From the conversations I have had with fellow UOW students, everyone is interested in experiencing student life abroad. Much like myself, students are instilled with the idea that it will be a rewarding experience that can completely widen our perspective. And while this may be the case for some, the students that are arriving on Australian borders are not experiencing the full potential the exchange program has to offer and the rich cultural experience that it should be.
For the students who come to Australia to study, 80% of these students come from the Asia pacific Region and have to experience the common difficulties that come with exchange such as the language barrier, academic adjustment and social interaction (Marginson, 2012, p.1). However, for most students there is a major emphasis placed on language as they are led to believe that the English language has assumed an important status in providing access to economic, educational and immigration opportunities (Kell & Vogl, 2007, p.1), thus there is added pressure for International students to surpass this. According to a Study by Kell and Vogl, the language barrier, being the most obvious barrier becomes difficult when English in other countries is focusing on grammar and vocabulary rather than spoken English (Kell & Vogl, 2007, p.4).
However, I don’t think we should be placing weight solely on the language barrier as the main determinant for a rich intercultural experience. I think that no matter the language proficiency students are still able to enjoy the experience. From personal experience, my family is very much involved in International education as we house exchange students all year round and despite some of them not being fluent in English or at the very least only being able to articulate ‘yes or no’ it still becomes an enriching experience for the student as well as the host. With studies and peoples perceptions depicting the language barrier as a major reason for the success of the exchange experience it becomes somewhat of an issue of contention, where it is up to Universities to provide further support for these students.
Similarly, the same study found that international students believed that local students weren’t necessarily unfriendly but rather didn’t know how to initiate a conversation with International students (Kell & Vogl, 2007, p.5). In order to make International education a more enriching experience, Australia needs to abandon its preconceived parochial view that we have seen in past instances such as the 2009 attack on Indian students. An incident that was racially motivated and saw the international student number plunge, particularly the Indian intake and fracture the pristine image the Australian education system once had. And rather instill a more cosmopolitan view that can improve the interactions between International students, domestic students and host countries.
ABC News, 2009, ‘Thousands protest against Indian student attacks’, ABC News, viewed 28 August 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2009-05-31/thousands-protest-against-indian-student-attacks/1699888
Kell, P & G, Vogl, 2007, ‘International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’, Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, pp 1-10.
Marginson, S, 2012, ‘International education as self-formation’, University of Wollongong, pp1-11.