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International Students at University

Understanding the Student Experience

Harshi Gunawardena and Rachel Wilson

Education of international students is central to the aims, orientation and financial viability of many universities. However, the way that culture impacts on the experiences of international students remains largely unexplored. This may be due to two factors: first, much of the previous research treats the entire international cohort as a homogeneous group without investigating the diversity of cultural backgrounds and; second, the research methods used to investigate student ‘experiences’ in universities are dominated by quantitative surveys that leave little room for exploring personal perspectives and new issues. This book higlights the cultural issues that emerge in the experiences of international students. The authors explore the Australian international tertiary education sector and focus on one cultural group. Through a culturally-sensitive theoretical framework, the experiences of students from the Indian subcontinent are given voice. The resulting personal accounts provide a platform upon which more appropriate policy, marketing, pedagogy and future research can develop to provide tertiary systems that are more responsive to the needs of students.


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Chapter 1 International Students in Australia - The Historical Context 1


1Chapter 1 International Students in Australia - The Historical Context They marketed Australia as if, my gosh, it is something incredible. In India we believed everything they said. We believed them when they said that Australia is the land of opportunity. They marketed it so well – we have to give them credit for that. They said once you graduate; you will straight away walk into a minimum $45,000-package. But when we actually come here, we come to know that things are different…. There are students who just can’t even support themselves. It is, I will do this, I will do that, I will get a job, earn a nice salary and pay off the loan. They are given such a rosy picture. Then you come here and then you realize, I have made a mistake. But it is too late by then. (Student: ‘Mahendra’) International education in Australian was a multi-billion dollar industry. In fact it was Australia’s third largest export until recently. When international students buy into this dream, however, they encounter a plethora of misadventures related to cultural adjustment, language use and academic issues. Much of the literature (Ballard and Clanchy 1991; Barker et al. 1991; Biggs 2003) points to the difficulties students face as being broadly due to ‘cultural differences’, yet the way that culture impacts on the experiences of international students remains largely unexplored. This is often due to the kind of instruments used to investigate both ‘culture’ and ‘student ex- periences’. By proposing an...

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