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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 5 Colonial Knowledge - Post-colonial Identities 141

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141 Chapter 5 Colonial Knowledge - Post-colonial Identities For the first four days it rained. I could hardy see where I was….I saw what I saw very clearly. But I didn’t know what I was looking at. I had nothing to fit it into…. So I was used to living in a world where the signs were without meaning, or without the meaning intended by their makers. It was of a piece with the abstract, arbitrary nature of my education, like my ability to “study” French or Russian cinema without seeing a film, an ability which was, as I have said, like a man trying to get to know a city from its street map alone. (Naipaul 1961 The Enigma of Arrival.) The experience above describes Naipaul’s engagement with colonial knowledge in the metropolitan center. The previous chapter outlined the issues related to the international student’s immediate needs once they arrive at the metropolitan center for their study. This chapter explores the international student’s encounter with metropolitan knowledge and how their cultural history impacts on their learning experiences. We begin with an investigation of the attitudes and values placed on Western education and the sacrifices that international students make to obtain it. There is a comparison between the academic environment in the home country and the Australian academic environment. The second half of this chapter focuses on academic practices including the international students’ engagement with the dominant language, and the use of critical analysis in academic writing. 142 Seeking...

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