Many students, when first embarking on their degrees at university, are enthralled by the idea of going on exchange. They want to study abroad in America and experience the “college lifestyle”. Or they want to go to France and improve their language skills. Most students will choose a destination, like the United States for example, because it’s an English speaking country– and that’s fair enough. It makes cultural engagement with other native students much easier to pursue. But, going to a country where they speak a different language and are governed by a completely different culture is often more beneficial in the long run.

However, there are a number of problems with this. Often universities and exchange programs will hook you up with other students embarking on the same journey as you. You have someone by your side to turn to who knows exactly what you’re going through; the homesickness, the language barriers, the fear of being in a new city, etc. As an exchange student, you’re lucky to have these kinds of people nearby for moral support, but this can be quite detrimental to your overall experience. Often exchange students won’t branch out of their comfort zones and spend most of their trip buddying up with people who speak their native tongue. They’re not forced to be immersed in the culture around them, because they’re not properly engaging with local people who are apart of it. The entirety of exchange programs promote this idea of learning and experiencing a different world and culture first hand, but so many people aren’t getting that much out of it; it winds up being a lengthy holiday with some kids from back home.

Knowing that this kind of situation happens often, local students at Australian universities need to be aware of the international students at their school. We need to make the effort to communicate with non-english speakers to help improve their language skills, and we need offer them a view on what the modern Australian lifestyle is all about. (Marginson, p. 1).

Obviously, the government thrives on international students entering the country: they have to pay their tuition fees upfront. There is a lot of information and advice provided for international students looking to study in Australia;

Exploring the benefits of choosing Australia for your exchange destination. But it takes more than these simple guidelines to help international students slot into our society with ease. Fellow students needs to understand that these individuals still have their background– they are not supposed to change their ways and automatically become “Australian” and fit nicely into the categories that we want. Instead, we need to show them the differences of our lifestyle compared to theirs. Not highlight why we think it’s superior or that western culture is better, but allow them to experience it as a whole and not sit back and highlight our differences.

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