Students in a lecture theatre

Making friends

In late 2013 Catherine Gomes, Chief Investigator for the Translating Impermanence project, spoke on “Parallel multiculturalism: Asian international students in Australia” at the Multiculturalism and Asia International Workshop at Monash University.

ABSTRACT: “Work on the experiences of international students in Australia often point out that these students do not successfully integrate into Australian society with many international students counting very few or no Australians as friends by the time they complete their studies. International students instead live in a parallel multicultural society made up almost exclusively of fellow international students. Through in-depth interviews with 50 Melbourne-based university-going international students from Asia — the source of Australia’s biggest export education market — this paper explores the complex multicultural society these students occupy. By highlighting Asian international students’ self-perceived identities, social networks and media use, this paper throws light on the ways in which these transient migrants create a multicultural existence for themselves while not being part of conventional Australian (multicultural) society. A study examining international students in the broader discussion of multiculturalism in Australia is necessary since many of these students convert their status to permanent after they finish their studies.”

Gomes more recently spoke with Sydney’s Radio 2SER about the barriers preventing more friendships between international and Australian students. Expectations of meeting lots of Australians can diminish quickly for incoming students. It’s not necessarily about where you come from, but what you are going through. Commonly-shared experiences as international students might be a stronger glue for them to stick together, rather than being from the same country. In a survey organised by the project, some international students thought that their impermanent status could be a bit of a turn-off to Australians with strong local networks. At another level it’s simply who you choose to sit next to in class. Cat talks through these and more factors in the linked podcast. 2SER