There is a mismatch in perceptions between international and local students both in and outside the classroom, a survey conducted by the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) discovered.
Presenting their findings at the Australian International Education Conference 2016 held last week in Melbourne, CISA found that on a scale of one to 10, when international respondents were asked to rate their level of interest in making friends with domestic students, the average was 8.1, whereas domestic students rated their level of interest in forming friendships with international students at 7.6.
Despite this high level of interest from both sides to befriend one another, 33 percent of international respondents also reported that they found it difficult to form friendships with their Australian peers.
Part of it likely stems from foreign students thinking that local students were not aware or couldn’t relate to the issues and problems faced by those from overseas, as two-thirds said.
— CISA (@CISA_National) October 20, 2016
As for the length of friendships formed, while 26 percent of international students who took part in the survey said their friendships with domestic students have lasted over 12 months, an equivalent amount of international respondents said their friendships with domestic students only lasted up to three months.
Dion Jeremy Lee, national postgraduate officer at CISA, said the reason that some friendships formed on campus don’t last beyond three months was probably due to the fact that when a collaborative project has finished, the students don’t see the need to maintain the friendship.
However, he said that universities could do more to bridge social and cultural gaps between local and foreign students.
“We need to look at examples where there is a more international focus as well as assessments and projects that actually encourage, or have an element of requirement for international and domestic students to work together,” said Lee, as reported by The PIE News.
— The PIE News (@ThePIENews) October 25, 2016
“We can certainly do more to try and take the friendships out of the classroom, to a level that’s beyond supervision,” he added.
According to domestic respondents, over half of them said they were more likely to make friends with international students outside the classroom, at social events, while nearly 30 percent said they were likely to strike up a friendship with foreign students in a tutorial setting.
Both international and domestic respondents said that lectures were the least likely place for them to make friends.
— IEAA (@IEAAustralia) October 27, 2016
Based on its research, CISA recommended that institutions help foster student interactions on campus by helping the international student voice be heard on campus and promoting collaboration through university projects.
It also suggested that universities ensure that student unions and societies use their funds wisely.
“A lot of instances, the funds are not used in the right way that will actually create opportunities for international and domestic students to interact,” said Lee.
In one example, Lee said that student groups organising alcohol-related activities “can be a major turn off” for international students.
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