As a student that was born here in Australia, and has grown up locally to the university, I know how easy it is to forget the struggles that an international student can face.  With most of us deciding to undertake our degrees in our homeland, it can be hard to realise that assimilating into a new culture, or sometimes even having to learn a new language can be quite confronting. Although it wouldn’t be the majority of society’s intention to isolate international students, we are guilty of not making a good enough effort in welcoming them into our culture.

When integrating into another culture, “a crucial element in the achievement for international students is not only their academic adjustment but also their adjustment to the social and cultural environment” (Kell and Vogl 2007, pg. 2-3). Kell and Vogl highlights a key element when it comes to living within a new cultural context. Studies for an international student are merely a small part of the challenge of living within a new country, for it is understanding the cultural norms and traditions that prove to be most difficult.

Nicole Tee describes this sense of isolation that exists for international students as,“in school, I was afraid to voice out my opinions. I felt inferior to my peers. During discussion, my Australian peers would only speak within themselves, leaving me out. I was frustrated by their lack of communication with me, and the rejection I experienced – but I was never willing to participate actively so as to influence their perception of me as an international student” (Tee 2015).


The language barrier that exists can be one of the most challenging parts to integrating within a new culture. Although a student may learn the language of the country they are intending to study within, there is so much more than just the words themselves. Scheyvens encapsulates this struggle when he says “A number of studies suggest that many international students prior to coming to Australia have spent many years learning to speak English and thus enter the country unaware of the extent to which local accents, fast speech and Australian colloquialisms are going to reduce their ability to speak and understand English in Australia (Scheyvens et al., 2003). Novera further explains this when he ads “It is not only English language that prevents students from speaking and mixing with local students but also knowing what to speak about” (Novera,2004: 480).

Another issue that international students can face is financial penalties that Australian citizens do not. Students are forced to pay higher rates than others and are also paid significantly less. This leads to a further gap being made between local and international students, adding to them feeling as if they are not accepted. This video gives an insight into the different standards international students face in terms of their working life within Australia.

High fees, low pay: International students shocked’ by Australian working conditions

As this issue does exist within Australia, and more importantly the university at which we study, our duty to make an effort to accept international students into society is so important.

2 thoughts on “The Struggles of Being an International Student

  1. Hey! I really loved this post and admire the time and effort you have put in to educate others on a topic that isn’t discussed frequently enough. There have currently been numerous debates about the government focusing predominately on the economic value international students bring to Australia rather than trying to accommodate for them. An article I found particularly valuable is attached below and discusses these issue. But on a social scale, as Australians, we should be moving towards becoming more inclusive and culturally accepting of international students as it appears to not be happening nearly as much as it should. I totally agree with everything you have written about!



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