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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 2 International Students in Australia - The Student Experience 15


15 Chapter 2 International Students in Australia - The Student Experience Conversation between Sir Edmund Hillary and Urkien Sherpa: “Tell us, if there were one thing we could do for your village, what would it be?” “With all respect, Sahib, you have little to teach us in strength and toughness. And we don’t envy you your restless spirits. Perhaps we are happier than you? But we would like our children to go to school. Of all the things you have, learning is the one we most desire of our children” (in: Mortenson and Relin 2006 Three Cups of Tea.) This chapter surveys the previous research on the experiences of international students in metropolitan universities. It is divided into three sections using Biggs’ division of international students’ transition issues. These are: social and cultural issues, English language issues, and learning and teaching issues (2003). The chapter initially provides a broad survey of social, cultural, and language issues related to international students’ experiences in Australian universities. The second half of the chapter narrows the focus to teaching and learning issues. Researchers were unanimous that academic issues were connected to social and cultural aspects of students’ experiences on campus (Biggs: 2003). This survey of the literature identifies how cultural issues affect academic experiences. There are three aims to this review of research on student experiences. First, to provide a survey of the research on social and cultural issues, English language issues, and teaching and learning issues related to the experiences of international students...

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