Often when viewing international students, it is thought that they are granted the opportunity to explore a culture and country different to their own as a ‘holiday’. But often it is forgotten that these students face the most difficulty, whether it is the language barrier, a full understanding of the opposite culture and in some cases themselves.
Australia last year saw just under 600,00 international school enrolments, the largest portions being in higher school education. When we compare and contrast 2014 to 1994, we need to examine the mentality of not only the Australian society but also the rest of the world. This increasing number of international student enrolments can be identified as a reflection of globalisation, and its tendencies to create ties and intertwine the world.
In order to embark on a cultural exchange the student is required to learn the language, and have a general understandings of the customs and culture of the country. Although what is sometimes forgotten by the country these exchange students are visiting, is the struggle to adapt to a new country and their language. Kell and Vogl state “international students prior to coming to Australia have spent many years learning to speak English and thus enter the country. Lack of intercultural encounters due to: unaware of the extent to which local accents, fast speech and Australian colloquialisms are going to reduce their ability to speak and understand English in Australia”.
Having a language as a barrier between your host friends or family and yourself can become quite daunting and intimidating. Ultimately your ability to communicate with others, has effects on determining your sense of place within the given society. Often it is notice that this language barrier creates distress and anxiety amongst international students, where they become intimidated when interacting with locals. This is something I have witnessed, during my last years of high school we had an exchange student from Germany. Myself and the rest of the grade wondered why he spent lunch with support staff, became excluded and shortened his stay in Australia; although we were then informed by another exchange student that he found being in Australia very intimidating. The way Australians speak, our colloquialism and mannerisms often can appear intimidating. and He misunderstood our humour as if he was being mocked by students.
Serious cases of exchange students leaving Australia can be seen in 2009, where Indian students. An instance we saw citizens of Australia racially attacking Indians, this saw multiple protests in Melbourne and the dramatic loss of jobs and money for Australia. This not only impacted Australia’s relationship with India, but also their trade and tourism rates.
Often what is failed to be recognised is that when international students embark on exchange, the process of self-formation and how commonly these students regulate and try to alter themselves in order to better fit their surrounding society.
It is evident that international students face hardships when embarking on a cultural exchange, and we credit them for their efforts. Although when reflecting on the actions of the host country and examining an international students mind, our government and education system should re-evaluate the way they approach these circumstances.