Giving an Australian welcome?

Travelling to a new country to study can be a daunting task for any student. Many different cultures, religions, and languages are some of the barriers that await new students. The scenarios of these international students I found relative to a cross-cultural relations in my own life. In 2005, a Sudanese refugee family of 8 members made the trip over to Australia, and started a new life in my small hometown. These people were in a foreign environment and had to learn all aspects of Australian culture. The struggles the family faced are quite comparative to that of an international student, in that barriers had to be broken down in order to achieve the ‘cultural fit.’

The biggest struggles when moving to another country are the difficulties in adapting to the local language. Most foreigners find the English slang language of Australians very hard to adapt to; a major source of negative cross-cultural relations. ‘International students: negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’, makes note of this saying, “The possession of an understanding and ability to use colloquial and non-formal English is a key to initiating and maintaining social interactions within and outside the academy.” This was also evident with the refugee family, however, the lack of articulation tested other ways in which they communicated, and somewhat heightened them. “As long as you make yourself understood. That is all that matters.” Their rapid improvement in English fluency was also largely due to the effect of numerous hours they watched Australian television. Even viewing cartoons on ABC led to improvement from all members of the family.

Many international students that come to Australia find themselves with little involvement in Australian life outside of their education. Vogl and Kell elude that many international students find it hard to meet Australians due to the “pub and club culture of many Australians.” Many of these international students who come from Asian countries cannot drink alcohol due to “cultural and religious reasons.” International students can find conformity in social and sporting groups. In the case of the Sudanese family, they were involved in the local church, community English classes, and the kids were involved in football teams, as well as attending the local youth group. I believe that this involvement was crucial for them finding belonging in this small Australian town.

International education is a great experience for all students. Some may find this experience more positive than others and there are many factors that can influence the time they spend in the foreign country. The major blame seems to stem from the language barrier, however as noted in my examples there are lots of ways the Sudanese refugee family participated and interacted with Australian culture with only little knowledge of the English language. I understand it can be difficult for international students to associate with local students, however, if the international students make an effort to develop relations with locals, the favour will surely be reciprocated.

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