I don’t think many students realise just how good we have it. We have the opportunity to go to university, we have our fees subsidized and postponed until we have our life together, we get the support of our government for necessities such as microwaveable pasta, coffees for our 8:30 AM tutes and rent (thanks Centerlink), and many support services at our disposal. For students with a slightly different background, the story is very different.
I work almost every night at a local Thai restaurant, and the people I’ve met there have opened up my eyes to how hard it is for our international students. I’m the only Australian born person there, and many of the people I work with are diligently studying. They face so many obstacles while trying to get an education, such as visa problems, having to pay all the fees up front, job shortages (don’t even get me started on the fact that most international students are earning way less than the minimum wage) and last but not least, discrimination.
‘International education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be’ (Marginson, 2012)
We as a nation believe ourselves to be open to all cultures, to be accepting and inviting to others and to be compassionate. From what I have heard from our fellow international students, this is not always the case. I used to be of the mindset that international students preferred to make friends with other international students, as they would feel a kin ship that they would not feel from me, and of course I felt like the language barrier would keep us from forming a friendship. I admit that this was naive of me, and I have come to know that many international students would love to have more Australian friends, if we would give them a chance.
I have been told that my coworkers would try to make friends with other Australians, but would either be met with discrimination or annoyance. They love to talk with Australians as it helps them improve their English, it helps accustom them to an Australian lifestyle and it overall improves their experiences while studying. But the intimidation of already formed cliques, rebuttals and generally feeling like an outsider gets in their way.
“At best international education becomes intercultural education in which self-forming individuals engage with each other in a cosmopolitan relational space criss-crossed by changing differences. They are open to each other and learn much from each other” (Marginson P.61)
As Marginson states above, we both have so much to learn from each other. The very degree that we are studying is a field which requires us to be open minded and understanding, and improve our knowledge along the way. In the end, we are all striving to the same goal, why can’t we come together and experience it as one?
Let’s throw away our differences and make Australia live up to the the multicultural image of a haven of education that so many people see it to be!
Marginson, S 2012, International education as self -formation, University of Wollongong, Pp 1 – 11.