Whenever one thinks of international exchange students and programs you think of the excitement of entering and experiencing a new culture, mingling with different people and making new friends and hopefully learning a thing or two about the world outside your home country. But what lies behind this image and idea we have? Is it all as it seems?
With the growing influence of globalization international education and exchange programs have become increasingly popular and as such has become one of Australia’s leading industries. Being one of Australia’s largest industries we tend to view exchange students as a source of income rather than students, so when an article surfaced reporting violent attack on Indian students in Australia the media immediately emphasizes the money lost and damage done to our reputation rather than focusing on the real issues, “The crisis has cost Australia billions of dollars and thousands of jobs”.
Aside from this as Marginson (2012) has said, “International education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be”. Australia constantly prides itself on its multicultural society and is often seen as one of the friendliest countries, so why is it that we as the locals are so reluctant to mingle with exchange students? Personally I have found that apart from being willing to make friends with exchange students I often become worried when it comes to group work, thinking they may not know the language well enough and leave me to do all the work.
In order for exchange students to feel more welcomed, accepted and enjoy their experience we must show cultural competence not only when in foreign countries but also when engaging with foreigners. We must be able to empathise, understand the difference in cultures and refrain from stereotyping and be willing to interact with foreign students.
Marginson, S. 2012. ‘Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience: International education as self-formation’. Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne.