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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 4 The Enigma of Arrival - Situating the Postcolonial Identity in the Metropolitan Center 89


89 Chapter 4 The Enigma of Arrival - Situating the Postcolonial Identity in the Metropolitan Center In 1950 in London I was at the beginning of that great movement of peoples that was to take place in the second half of the twentieth century … Cities like London were to change. They were to cease being more or less national cities; they were to become cities of the world, modern-day Romes, establishing the pattern of what great cities should be, in the eyes of islanders like people and myself even more remote in language and culture. They were to be cities visited for learning and elegant goods and manners and freedom by all the barbarian people of the globe, people of forest and desert, Arab, Africans, Malays. (Naipaul, 1961, The Enigma of Arrival.) In the fifties, people from the Indian subcontinent and other former British colonies went to England. Today, they also come to Sydney Australia, still seeking metropolitan knowledge, lured by the charm of a better life and freedom. This also marks the arrival of the international student from the Indian subcontinent in the metropolitan center. Through the stories told by international students from the Indian subcontinent, the ways that their cultural backgrounds affected their transition into the Australian tertiary educational environment were explored. In this study, the experiences of this group were compared to the findings in previous research. The most notable finding of this study has been the need to customise pedagogy to the needs of different cultural...

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