So… Where are you from?

Just last Friday night I attended a university function allowing local and international students to socialise in a ‘Global Buddies’ program. It’s amazing to see the diversity of people who come to study in Australia and I found myself asking every person I encountered, “where are you from?”  My eyes were opened to the range of students here in Australia. For someone like me, who has not yet traveled abroad, I was placed in the middle of a vibrant mix of culture. This got me thinking about this week’s topic, international education and the cultural experiences and issues that both international and local students gain.

“…the importance of establishing common ground.”

(Kell & Vogl, 2007, p 5)

I’ve discovered, it is paramount that to develop positive relationships with fellow foreign students (as well as migrants). Empathy and ability to understand and accept different cultures and perspectives develops one’s degree of cultural competence. According to Simon Marginson, an international cultural experience lends itself to one’s “self formation” creating a cosmopolitan identity (Marginson, 2012). Through this, the answer to the question,”where are you from?” is not as straight forward as one would think. 

Let’s look at The University of Wollongong‘s perspective on the international student experience in Australia.

We discover that it’s not necessarily where we’re from that defines our cultural selves, but rather where we have been. This allows a hybrid formation of identity is what makes studying abroad or just knowing people from around the world a rewarding experience. Enriching our identities as global citizens (Marginson, 2012).

It is not uncommon for international students to study the language of their host country for many year prior to an international exchange (Kell & Vogl, 2007, p 4). Often some phrases (particularly in regards to Aussie slang) are lost in translation, nevertheless in today’s global context language education is encouraged making it easier for international students to communicate all over the world (Kell & Vogl, 2007, p 4). An international education experience may not always positive, however as globalised education becomes more common, the “needs of an increasingly diverse student population” will be met (Kell & Vogl, 2007, p 9).

The International Student Blog at Australian Catholic University details some of the challenges and highlights of being an international student. barriers of language as well as confusion regarding housing, work and expenses appear to be among the largest concerns. In today’s global format, with wider education opportunities  cultural barriers are crossed,blurred and intertwined. In turn, we all have the potential to be an international student, the first step is to engage, understand and embrace the cultures around us – interationalising ourselves. 



Kell, P and Vogl, G (2007) ‘International students: negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes,’ Everyday Multiculturalism Conference Proceedings, Macquarie University, 28-29 September 2006.

Marginson, S (2012) ‘International education as self-formation: Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’ Lecture delivered at the University of Wollongong, 21 February 2012, available online at



One thought on “So… Where are you from?

  1. Good link to UOW TV link. I think that UOW does a pretty good job at facilitating cross-cultural interaction amongst students. I agree with you that developing relationships with students from diverse backgrounds, is really important.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s