Studying overseas in Australia: A bittersweet experience

There are many reasons why students around the world choose Australia as their study abroad destination: Most students want to improve their English language proficiency, some want to gain academic knowledge for future career path and earnings, some looks for an opportunity to migrate and some have to enhance their cultural experience or for something different to the experience at home (Marginson 2012). The majority of international students leave their country and family to change themselves in the new country. However, it is unavoidable that most international students face some problems and barriers when they first find their feet in the new country, including homesickness, financial problems, language barriers, lack of family support, isolation from other classmates and anxiousness about speaking in the classroom in front of classmates and lecturers (Leder & Forgasz 2004, p. 195, Novera 2004, p. 476, Roberstson 2000, p. 94, Scheyvens 2003).
Ideally, international students can blend in the new culture by adjusting from home identity to host country identity. However, it does not seem that easy. Thus, “weak personalities are less likely to try international education, or to survive it”. (Marginson 2012, p. 10). To adapt to the new environment, Marginson (2012) came up with two strategies for international students in the process of self-formation: multiplicity (the ability to move freely between one personality and the other) and hybridity (the ability to blend different cultural and relational elements together into a newly formed self). In other words, international students, particularly non-English speakers, tend to obtain multiple distinct personalities and feelings when they switch between their mother tongue and English. Their manners and mindset also vary depending on the environment and culture they engage in. Simultaneously, they mix different cultural values and change their identity when moving between one life setting and another. Nevertheless, this process of mixing cultures is “rarely balanced and symmetrical” (Marginson 2012, p. 8) and in some cases, the process is not always on the right track.
Speaking of the language, international students found it difficult to interact with what locals were saying. “It is said of Australian English that it has a wide range of inventive and colourful slang and colloquialism” (Angelo 1994). In fact, international students found ‘Australian’ confusing as local accents, fast speech and Australian colloquialisms reduced their ability to speak and understand English in Australia (Scheyvens et al., 2003). As an overseas student in Australia, I really struggled to follow what domestic students were saying when I first came to Australia. They spoke in a rapid pace in Australian accent and sometimes greeted me by saying “G’day!” (which means “Hello” in Australian!). It took me a few months to catch on to what the locals said. The following video is a great illustration of some of many commonly used Australian slangs in daily conversation.
When it comes to Australian culture, some students stated that “it was hard to meet Australians because of the pub and club culture of many Australians” (Kell & Vogl 2006, p. 6). Affordability and religious reasons are the two factors that inhibit international students from enjoying nights out with local friends.
On the other hand, many students succeeded in sustaining conversations with local students as they shared common interests, such as discussing a few popular Australian TV shows or using Australian colloquialisms as a way to start a conversation: “How is it going mate?” (Kell & Vogl 2017, pp. 5-7).
The bottom line is, studying abroad surely causes a lot of troubles. But it also would help us ameliorate ourselves, become more independent and most importantly, expand our perspectives both academically and culturally. One very important thing is, no matter how much we engage in different cultures, we always need to respect the cultural difference, as all of which are distinguished. The following video is an example of cross cultural communication and the importance of each cultural value.
Angelo , D, Coleman, C, Wilkinson, M, Austin, P, Blake, B, Butler, S, Dench, S, & Ober, D 1994, Australian Phrase Book. Hong Kong: Lonely Planet Productions.
Avakian, T 2016, Universal Sounds: Cross Cultural Communication | Teny Avakian | TEDxYSMU, online video, 21 December, TEDx Talks, viewed 18 August 2017, <>.
Josh 2015, How to speak Australian : Abbreviate Everything, online video, 13 July, hijosh, viewed 18 August 2017, <>.
Kell, P & Vogl, G 2006, ‘International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’, Everyday Multiculturalism Conference Proceedings, Macquarie University, 28-29 September.
Leder, GC & Forgasz, HJ 2004, Australian and international and mature age students: the daily challenges, Higher Education Research and Development, 23 February, pp. 184-198.
Marginson, S 2013, Student Self-Formation in International Education, Journal of Studies in International Education, 22 June, p. 18.
Marginson, S 2012, ‘International education as self-formation: Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’, University of Wollongong, 21 February, <>.
Novera, I S 2004, Indonesian Post graduate students studying in Australia: An examination of their Academic, social and cultural experiences, International Education Journal, pp. 475-487.
Robertson, M, Line, M, Jones, S & Thomas, S 2000, International students, learning environments and perceptions: in case study using the Delphi technique, Higher Education Research and Development, 19 January, pp. 89-102.
Scheyvens, R, Wild, K & Overton, J 2003, International students: pursuing postgraduate study in geography: impediments to their learning experiences, Journal of higher Education, pp. 309-323.



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