University, once upon a time it was something that wasn’t an essential part in finding a job; but with a shifting society and employers looking for more experience and higher levels of education, it is becoming a must.

With this change, we are seeing more and more internationally students travelling to Australia to complete their studies.  One of the most daunting parts of the experience for students is overcoming the cultural barriers they may face. 

I can only imagine how truly difficult it must be for international students to settle in a country like Australia.  Packing your things and moving to foreign land would be tough, so I have an immense amount of respect for anyone who does take part in international exchange.

As noted by Marginson (2012), “The majority of international students live away from family.  So they must stand on their own feet, in a strange country.  They must acquire new information and new personal attributes very quickly, in their studies, their institutional dealings and their day-to-day lives.”

The most obvious problem in many cases is language, we are “unaware of the extent to which local accents, fast speech and Australian colloquialisms are going to reduce their (international’s) ability to speak and understand English in Australia” (Kell et al., 2007).  Research has found that the main problem that international students found was not their inability to understand written English, but more so when used in conversation.  This was due to Australians tending to mumble and slur their words, while also heavily relying on colloquial language (Kell et al., 2007).

I myself come in contact with international students in all of my lectures and tutorials, and the issue of language is one that has the potential to be easily fixed.  Marginson (2012) remarked that, exchange is an experience with immense potential to enrich the lives of all who are touched by it.  Much research suggests the pathway to improvement is in lifting the interactions between international and domestic students.

Awareness, is what is needed, awareness that International students may require a little help along in understanding the culture they’ve been thrust into.  A few kind words could be all someone needs to feel like they belong a little bit more.  So if you see an international student in your tutorial or just around the campus, introduce yourself and say “Hey!”.  It’s a great chance for you to learn about another culture as well.

Kell P & Vogl, G 2007, ‘International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’ inEveryday Multiculturalism Conference Proceedings, Macquarie University, 28-29 September 2006, pp1-10.

Marginson, S 2012, ‘Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’, powerpoint slides, International education as self-formation, University of Wollongong, viewed 23 August 2014, pp 1-11.


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