There’s so much more to Australian culture than just its predilection towards beer and backyard barbies. For international students, simply living in the country is an opportunity to learn everyday about what makes Australia, well… Australia.
And rather than learn about it in textbooks and in classrooms, international students are taking it upon themselves to do so.
Being proactive about their learning
We conducted a survey with 25 Trinity College Foundation Studies (TCFS) students, asking them about the most effective ways in which they are learning about Australian culture. Most felt that communicating with locals was the most effective way of learning — after all, what better way to learn about the culture than from the source itself!
One student we spoke to as part of our survey said that living with her homestay family enabled her to talk openly with locals on a frequent basis.
“We chatted with each other at dinner, and my homestay parents taught me many [things] about Australian culture,” she said.
Direct immersion at Australian festivals events such as Melbourne’s exciting ‘White Night’ also assisted students in learning more about Australians and the kind of lifestyle they promote. Others meanwhile said exploring local restaurants was a great way of seeing — or rather, tasting — Australia’s diverse food culture (yes, there is more to Australian dining outside its true blue meat pies, sausage rolls and bush tucker).
Why some international students feel its important
Culture shock is very real for international students. Settling in Australia — or any other country for a prolonged period — can take some time to get around to and because of this, many of the students we spoke to agreed that immersing themselves in Australian culture helped them to integrate better.
“I learn about Australia culture in order to be respectful to the place where I live,” said Anne, an international student from China.
Of course, learning about it might not be important for others. While some students recognised that it was certainly helpful in some cases for those who wanted to get along with locals and quell their feelings of homesickness, they also felt that the culture itself wasn’t as interesting.
Michael Heald, subject leader for Literature at TCFS, teaches indigenous Australian culture and history at the school. He believes that if students were truly keen to learn about Australian culture, part of understanding the country means learning about its past.
“If you are living in a country, you should know how it became as it is today,” Michael said.
Indeed when it comes to Australian history, knowledge of indigenous cultures, and recent politics in the country, few international students will really know it all entails. An argument can be made that while these students are living here, knowledge of such topics isn’t quite paramount to their learning. But Michael believes that to truly understand ‘Australia’, this knowledge is necessary.
“If you don’t know about the Australian culture, you cannot really understand currently the circumstances in Australia,” he said.
So while international students are doing the best they can to learn about Australia on its own, some insight into its recent and past history may help form a deeper understanding of how Australia came to be.
Do you think learning about Australian culture is important for international students? Why? And what methods have you found work best for you when it comes to learning about Aussie culture? What parts of Aussie culture do you like or dislike? And do you agree that learning about its politics and history is crucial to international students in Australia? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.