Education is a term that we all often limit to the idea of books and classrooms. In reality, it involves any situation where we undergo an experience that can be learnt from. With this in mind, we should be more aware of the value of student exchange programs. As well as learning from university classes, students are exposed to a different culture, possibly a new language, and other ways of living.
The domestic students that come into contact with internationals also benefit greatly. While the cross-culture exposure is limited to a singular person (in comparison to complete immersion for the international student), there is still much to be learnt from our international friends.
Simon Marginson (2012), suggests that Australian domestic students are not interested in branching out and making contact with international students that do not natively speak English, any more than necessary. As an Australian domestic student, I would be inclined to agree with this observation, having personally observed it, and admittedly avoided exchange students in the past because I felt as if I ‘didn’t have enough time’ to cross cultural barriers.
The Australian point of view is too parochial, and we need to stop viewing international students (particularly Asian students) as a homogeneous group (Kell & Vogl, 2007). Exchanges with exchange students benefit all parties involved, by increasing mutual understanding and awareness of other cultures. Of course, not all the blame for the communication barriers in place lies with domestic students, but our ethnocentric view of the world is probably one of the easiest ones that could be overcome, especially with a little first-hand experience. Find out how to make first contact here.
Living with international students broadened my horizons, and allowed me to see the world in a different light. Once I started interacting with these exchange students, it dawned upon me that we are all similar on a fundamental level, and sparked my curiosity for other cultures in the world.
Now, thanks to exchange students, I hope to one day go on exchange myself.
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- Kell, P. & Vogl, G., 2007. International Students: Negotiating Life and Study in Australia through Australian Englishes. Sydney, Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, Macquarie University.
- Marginson, S., 2012. Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience: international education as self-formation. Lecture delivered at the University of Wollongong, 21.