Australians are the best, right?

Since my first year of study at UOW in 2011 I have always held a romanticised notion of international exchange. Seeing two of my close friends take on the college life, one in Colorado, USA and the other in Exeter, UK sparked a lot of (polite) jealousy. For me, international exchange is probably never going to happen: Reason 1 being my absolutely inability to save any of the money that I earn on a weekly basis. Reason 2 being the lack of international universities that will allow me to study law. Studying a double degree in Law/Communications here at UOW, deciding to study overseas would probably mean having to defer my Law degree for 6 months, which will ultimately extend my time here at university to 6 whole years. No thank you, 5.5 is time enough. So what is it that makes internationalising education, not only appealing, but important in our global context?

  • Along with globalisation comes what is termed ‘Globalised Industry’. In order for Australia to compete in a global market, we must think and operate in with a more global mindset which can be helped along through internationalising education.
  • As the world become connected, so too do our workforces. Learning to become global citizens in an international workforce is so important not only due to the many multi-national companies that offer employment within Australia, but for the sharing of knowledge and skills between countries.
  • International education is so important as we come to understand global issues as they are represented in the media and the world around us. It promotes cross-cultural thinking and understanding.
  • The rise of the ‘Asian Century’ and BRICS economies, makes it more important than ever for Australians to learn to be global citizens, not only economically but in other facets of our lives as well.

Despite my desire to travel overseas, I believe that its not just be travelling to other countries that we receive the richest intercultural experiences, but also by sharing experiences of international students within Australia universities.  Unfortunately  for us, as well as our international compatriots,  Australian universities aren’t renowned for our welcoming attitude, especially in light of the 2009-2010 attacks on Indian students in Melbourne.

Kell & Vogl note that there is an interconnection between English language proficiency of international students and social interaction. Earlier in he article that pair notes that  “a crucial element in the achievement of success for international students is not only their academic adjustment but also their adjustment to the social and cultural environment”. So why is it so hard for international students to adjust? Why do they need to develop cultural plurality, multiplicity and hybridity in order to feel at home within our Australian cultural setting?

I believe the answer to that is the ethnocentric culture that forms the values and attitudes ‘ordinary Australians’ (however you may define them) have towards different cultures and traditions. For such a multi-cultural society it’s not uncommon, even at university, to hear the odd racist quip or parochial remark from our peers. To think that, as dicussed by Kell & Vogl ‘Australians can appear ambivalent, distant and disinterested in international students are foreigners in general’, is both distasteful and worrying.  In an effort not to pigeon-hole all Australians, it does still seem to me that we share in a culture that boasts a pinch of arrogance. As if we have something to teach foreign students-  they should learn off us. Whereas the reality is so very different. As we being to operate as global citizens in our rapidly changing world especially. We, as Australian domestic students, have so much to learn from the tenacity, self motivation, independence and direction of international students.  If only everyone could recognise that, we could make university life a little more culturally enriching for all.


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