“International education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be” (Marginson 2012).
Lack of interaction between international and local students, cultural misunderstandings and communication difficulties contribute greatly to this. Australian colloquialisms, for instance, often exclude international students accustomed to formal English (Kell and Vogl 2006, p.5). Furthermore, the Australian drinking culture makes interaction difficult for international students who have cultural or religious beliefs against drinking.
However, many local students have ethnocentric views, expecting international students to progress “from home identity to host country identity” (Marginson 2012). Despite the general stigma that “local students are not interested” (Marginson 2012), Vogl and Kell state that local students, like international students, merely don’t know how to initiate a conversation either (2006, p.5). This is a misunderstanding which is not helped by the tendency to label international students as only socialising with each other or students of the same background (Kell and Vogl 2006, p.7).
Steps must be taken to resolve this. Mihaela Jarcău states intercultural competence is a main goal of intercultural education (Jarcău 2014, p. 423). Ethnocentricity and ethnocentric stigmas such as the ‘deficit model’ (assumes that international students are lacking and weak) must be abandoned. Local students must exercise empathy, and we must learn from international students who they are (Marginson 2012). This empathetic understanding is a major reason why international students in Kell and Vogl’s studies (2006, p.5) found interactions with students who had travelled far easier. Pairing of international and local students in room assignments (Kell and Vogl 2006, p.7), or a ‘buddy system’ is a further solution. Even these steps would ease social interaction and enrich international education for international students, whilst encouraging cultural competence.
- Centre for Research on Social Inclusion 2007, International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes, Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, viewed 20 August 2016 <crsi.mq.edu.au/public/download.jsp?id=10585 >
- Jarcău, M 2014, ‘intercultural Education Important Component of Lifelong Learning’, – Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences, vol.142, no. The Fourth International Conference on Adult Education, pp 421-426, viewed 20 August 2016.
- Marginson, S 2012, ‘International education as self-formation’, PowerPoint slides, Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience, 21 February 2012, viewed 20 August 2016