Most international students prefer to stay within their own circles but becoming too settled in your own group can put students at a disadvantage. Trinity College Foundation Studies students Keshia Laisina and Alice (Gaofei) Xue speak to educators about how students can benefit once they cross that cultural barrier.

 

As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, it should come as no surprise that Melbourne is teeming with people of diverse cultures and backgrounds. This diversity also includes the many international students this city welcomes every year. However, not all students mingle with one another; many international students, when they first arrive, choose to stay in a group with people from the same countries as them.

This phenomena is not new and, in some respects, can be considered understandable for many international students as Alison Hemsley, Associate Dean of Student Services at Trinity College Foundation Studies (TCFS), shared.

“[To] cope with those stresses [of being an international student], students need some familiarities,” Ms Hemsley said.

“Only when they are settled and feel safe, they can start interacting with others” she continued.

Jack Migdalek, drama teacher at Trinity College of Foundation Studies for twenty years, expanded on Ms Hemsley’s statements, adding that cultural differences as one of the biggest reasons as to why students tend to stay in their comfort group.

“For example,” Jack explained, “[in] southeast Asian culture, to be polite is not to be noisy or assertive. However in many western cultures, [people expect] young people to have a voice and stand.”

These cultural barriers can suddenly be compounded by the feeling of being an outsider as well, as Mr Migdalek notes.

“It is a big deal to go to a university and suddenly be a minority in class,” he said.

While the benefits of being in a familiar group does help early on, the real problem according to Ms Hemsley is when students feel like they can truly settle and stay in that group.

“If they don’t reach out, they’ll lose opportunities to learn about others, to become more culturally aware, and to personally develop as mature adults,” she said.

“They lose the opportunity [to] potentially enrich their lives.”

 

Source: www.meldmagazine.com.au

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