I read in an online newsletter this week about an international student's experience in Australia, and it made me reflect on my journey.
I came to Australia for both my Masters and Ph.D. degrees. I remember that, for most of the time as an international student, I was homesick, constantly comparing things here with back home in Mozambique.
I could not fit in or make meaningful connections with the locals. I went through a process, and I am much better now.
My work now focuses on addressing such cultural gaps.
I help permanent or temporary migrants, including international students, rebuild a sense of belonging in a new country.
I want to share some tips that helped make a difference for me as an international student.
International students bring a large economic investment to many Western universities. Not only that, they contribute to the diversity and internationalisation of their classrooms, campuses, and communities. But very few have the opportunity to fully enjoy the community and class experience.
How can universities/tertiary education institutions improve international students' experience?
If universities can provide cross-cultural training support (beyond orientation week), especially to their international students of culturally linguistically and diverse (CALD) backgrounds, it could significantly boost international student experience.
Most international students come from CALD countries, at least in Australia. Examples include China, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil. The cultural differences between Western and CALD nations manifest in various settings. These include academic culture or classroom culture and how they communicate with peers, faculty staff and authorities. These differences can create culture shock, cultural adjustment stress, loneliness, and isolation.
This is where cultural transition training can help. This form of support can be offered throughout the academic semester, particularly in the first year. It commonly focuses on three areas: developing overall cultural awareness in the transition; developing confidence for academic interaction with faculty staff and university system; and promoting social connections with the community.
Given the economic and socio-cultural benefits CALD international students bring to our nation, maybe universities should be doing more to help them adjust and have an amazing experience in the new country.
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