International Students in Australia
Paper presented at the 16th Australian International Education
Conference, Hobart, Tasmania
Author: Dr. Meeri Hellstén
Address: School of Education / ACES
Dr. Meeri Hellstén
This seminar presents case studies of international student experiences of Australian higher education. The paper provides insights into ways of understanding various implications of international students’ transition into their new Australian study environment. The paper will explore aspects of enculturation, socio cultural adaptation, adjustment, language, communication and/or any learning difficulties encountered by the students. The seminar explores how students negotiate these aspects into their ethnic and cultural identities as well as their academic learning practices. Finally, the paper will discuss how best to cater for international student needs within the context of cross-cultural sensitivity and academic quality assurance directives. It hopes to raise discussion about curriculum innovation and the implementation of multicultural education principles.
Transition, enculturation, student experiences, internationalisation, reflective teaching and learning
Dr. Meeri Hellstén
The internationalisation of Australian higher education has been one of the most successful initiatives in the implementation of cross-cultural matters. The fact that international students make up a large proportion of Australian universities today is becoming an expectancy rather than an exception. The internationalisation of the academic program has proven so successful that currently 18 % of the student population in Australia consist of international students (IDP Education Australia,
2002). While Australia, as a teaching institution, has a high reputation internationally, calls for maintaining the high quality and levels of services are requested by the international student body. I refer here to discussions raised at the recent IDP student conference held here in Tasmania, 8 August this year. This student request raises the question of quality assurance in educational provisions for international students coming to this country. It seems that there is a need to hear the student voice in discourses that regulate the international program offerings.
This paper is an attempt to contribute qualitatively to this focus of dialogue. By adding to the collection of previous studies (see e.g. Cannon, 2002; Ramburuth &
Mc Cormick, 2001: Sanderson, 2002) this study builds upon the need to explore ongoing developments from the perspective of the student group.
Whilst coming to a new and foreign country is often times an exiting and rich event, the experience can be constrained by uncertainty and disorientation of finding your way around new cultures and social expectations. This paper sets out to explore in particular, some of the constraints within the new and unfamiliar cultural and academic domains that international students may find themselves in, upon enrolment in an Australian international education program.
I refer here to the concept of ‘transition’ in the context of shifting between familiar and unfamiliar learning environments. In other educational discourses this shift is reported on as ‘the first year university experience’. Studies in this area of higher education (McInnis, 2001) have found that learning is most yielding when the transition into a new academic environment incorporates positive and rewarding student experiences that account for the needs of the student (Krause, 2001).
The idea for this paper emanated from conversations with international students and their lecturers of an ‘ill fit’ between expectations before, and the ensuing experiences after the commencement of studies in