Me, an international student?

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Recent studies have announced that Australia is one of the most expensive countries students can take exchange in and makes up a total of one third of our export industry.

Before this week I had never really considered life as an international student or the notion that I could be considered an international student.

I have never travelled much and have never been out of the country at all, I transitioned straight from high school, a place with so few different nationalities to university one of many. Despite this I felt no real shock; I have always found such interest in cultural studies and want very much to travel to many countries. The shock was in a statement that Sukhmani made during a discussion about our interaction with exchange students. Never before had I considered myself as an international student. In my short time at university I have been exposed to many new things, during my first semester I lived with two initial strangers. One of the women was part Turkish and part Chinese, the other was from Pakistan.

International education as self-formation by Simon Marginson outlined what it means to be an international student and details some of the struggles that students face in Australia. Marginson provides insight into how we as Australians can contribute to an exchange students time in Australia and similarly what the student expects from Australia.

Marginson begins his article with statistics including my opening statement, he moves to a discussion about the educational and social experience of exchange, stating that exchange is more than a profit-making business rather it is an extremely enriching experience, potentially altering the perspectives of the students that undertake the exchange.

Marginson explores the lengths exchange students will go to in order to gain greater interactions with Australians, stating that many are willing to take risks to do so. Furthering this he explores Australia’s expectation that exchange students should adjust and acculturate themselves to their host country. It is expected that the student will alter from their home countries identity to their hosts. Marginson suggests that this is because Australia as do many other western countries assume they are superior to the home countries of the international exchange students.

Marginson compares the psychological definition of human identity to his own, determining that they are opposing as psychology states that human identity is fixed, while Marginson contradictorily defines human identity as ‘open, fluid and in motion’. In conjunction with this he states that identity is ambiguous, it is both how we see ourselves and how others see us, and just as we do international students shape their own identity.

Marginson emphasises that we as a host country must be aware of who these international students are and who they may become, we should treat each other with cultural negotiation rather than cultural conformity, and we need to give international students dignity as people, equal in standing and in rights with us.

I will leave you now with a quote from the reading, that I feel summarises the concept; “I want to emphasize that this idea of international education as self-formation markedly changes the way international students are seen and the way they are treated.”

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