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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 3 Theoretical Perspectives - Postcolonial Strategies of Intervention 57


57 Chapter 3 Theoretical Perspectives - Postcolonial Strategies of Intervention ‘What lamp has Destiny to guide Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?’ And – ‘A blind Understanding!’ Heav’n replied (Omar Khayyam 1859) As the blind understand their terrain without a lamp to guide them, postcolonial theorists are able to shed light on the experiences of postcolonial identities from the Indian subcontinent because they have experienced the issues that people from the Indian subcontinent face (Gandhi 1998). This includes the history of European colonisation and subsequent migration of people from the Indian subcontinent to a country like Australia, which is a colony with an Indigenous population. This chapter explores the writings of the postcolonial theorists, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Within postcolonial discourse, “Said, Bhabha and Spivak … have to be acknowledged as central to the field” (Young 1995: 163). Their work is a mixture of traditions and contents from both the developed and developing worlds and each contributes a unique viewpoint on the experiences of international students studying in metropolitan universities. Part of this book aims to show how old forms of colonial imperialism continue under new conditions. In returning to some of these older and traditional postcolonial theorists, we focus upon the structure and practices of metropolitan institutions of education as sites upon which old forms of colonisation continue to be practiced through new forms 58 of colonial domination. In so doing, we show the timelessness of the writings of these three traditional postcolonial theorists...

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