Research shows that most International Students interact with co-nationals. Whilst their best friend is also a co-national, they limit interacting with domestic students. This is understandable given that there is a certain level of comfort and commonalities communicating with people from your country. It was found that International Student’s social life play an important role in their academic excellence. International Students are more satisfied with their University life if they have domestic student friends.
Before we go into How to improve interaction, we need to question Why; why most International Students fail at integrating with other domestic students?
As humans we are quick to reach conclusions about other people. Most are driven by the stereotypes received through media and friends. Stereotyping redirects us from value-adding interactions to close-minded conversations. It is like rejecting a delicious cake before trying it because someone else said it doesn’t taste good.
A general perception is that Asian students engage only with other Asian students. According to a research, this is not far from wrong. The Asian students interviewed had said they are friends with few or no domestic students as they feel domestic students are not interested in hanging out with them.
Fear of being misunderstood
Each culture has it own rights and wrong, ways and means and do’s and don’ts. International Students feel it is easier to engage with other students of the same beliefs rather than be misunderstood by another. While many Asian students claim they are interested in hanging out with domestic students, they fear the domestic students feel otherwise. They believe they have nothing in common and possible language barriers. Speaking of language…
Difficulty in communication
This may be a real concern for International Students whose English skills are not top notch. In ability to express themselves to domestic students withdraw their interactions. We see the same applying in a lecture hall setting where the class participation is greater amongst the domestic students as oppose to International Students. Some students are insure about their foreign accents that restrict them to converse with domestic students and limit their interactions to only co-national students.
A recent case study revealed, one of the test subjects (an International Students) said, “If you try to engage with them, you will have to understand the slang, the sense of joke. Sometimes, everybody laughs, I don’t really understand what is funny.” However, it was suggested that academic interactions were easy compared to social interactions.
Sticking to comfort zone
In my opinion, all this leads back to being in the comfort zone. There is always something familiar about being around same nationality as it is the closest thing to home. Most International Students are less involved class activities and spend more time studying in library. They prefer to be alienated as oppose to exposing themselves to active participation at lectures.
Then the question is why is it important integrate with the Australian community. It is said that associating with domestic students lead to psychological, social and academic benefits.
There are many phases of settling overseas as an International Student. One of the earlier stages is culture shock. Research has shown that integration with domestic students makes one happier. The reason being local mates help International Students to cope with culture shock by sharing local knowledge and helping them adapt to local experiences. Hence, being well-adjusted.
Furthermore, International Students can improve their communication and interpersonal skills through these interactions. The same can be extended to classroom participation and build confidence for future work placements and job interviews.
Even from University point of view, International Students are likely to recommend their University if they have had good experience with domestic students.
HOW TO INTEGRATE?
As the Universities recognise the importance of multi-cultural interactions, there are many efforts done in this regard which International Students must take advantage.
Leave stereotypes at home
This is easy, just don’t have any preconceptions about any nationality. A study on preconceptions claimed it is not uncommon for International Students to perceive domestic students as uninformed and disinterested in their culture. Even so, you should not fear and limit your interaction just because you believe other International and domestic students may have stereotypes about your nationality. As far as my experience, I have not had any unfavourable interactions with domestic students. They are welcoming and offers assistance whenever you require.
Participate in University clubs
University clubs are a good way to connect with domestic students with similar interests, and break down any barriers and a great conversation starter. Participation in club activities will improve your interpersonal and communication skills, help you to be updated with world issues and it will also look good in your CV.
Learn about the Australian culture
It doesn’t hurt to learn about the Australian culture, history and other interesting facts. You will then have information to start a conversation with domestic students or be able engage in a conversation with fellow students. Researching is not that difficult as there is plenty of information online and on YouTube.
This not only related to integration but also to improve your overall academic and professional years in Australia. If you believe in the need to improve your communication significantly, you can join English language courses. Speak to your University administration. Otherwise, there is no better way to improve your communication other than by practising. Take conscious effort to participate in classroom activities, engage in conversations in English and read academic literature. Remember, accents don’t matter – be yourself. Ensure your communication is clear, concise and slow paced for better understanding. If you don’t understand what is said by your counterpart, there is no harm / shame asking them to repeat.
Make the first move
You can always make the first move to start a conversation, invite a mate for dinner or grab a drink after class. Sometimes you need to put the extra effort to start a friendship.
Leave a comment down below if there are other ways for International Students to integrate with Australian community.
Until next time…