International Students: One of Australia’s Biggest Exports

Although numbers vary from year to year, it is estimated that upwards of 500,000 overseas students come to Australia to study at universities, technical colleges and private schools. This has made education one of Australia’s largest exports and easily the fastest growing over the last decade.

The largest group of overseas students is from China and the second largest is from India. Students go to Australia because of its proximity to Asia, its high standard of living, its English speaking institutions and the strong reputation of its top universities. A degree from an institution like the University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne or the Australian National University is extremely well regarded in Asian countries.

The typical experience for these students is generally pleasant and they are generally very satisfied with the standard of education they receive; but thousands of students find themselves profoundly unsatisfied with their wider experience in Australia. This is because they often fail to meet many Australians and also find themselves unprepared for the financial and cultural differences they encounter in Australia.

Mixing with the locals
Students from China, Vietnam, Korea and other non-English speaking countries often come to study in Australia but leave after a few years, without really meeting and making friends with the locals. 升學顧問  There are two big reasons for this: (1) Australians, although friendly, are not likely to reach out to foreigners and make friends and (2) because there are so many foreign students studying in Australia, people find it very easy to mix with a friendly face from their home nation.

Both of these issues can be overcome. Australians may not be outgoing towards foreigners but if the foreigner makes the effort they will find that Australians are actually very keen to make friends with people from diverse cultures.

Insufficient information
Students from Asian countries generally don’t get much advice on cultural and academic issues they may encounter in Australia. Their own governments give them very little advice and the Australian government provides almost no information, apart from promotional tourism info. Universities are also remiss in this regard and give virtually no advice on how to live in Australia, save for some mundane practical information related to enrolment and study. As a result students often find their first few months in Australia somewhat confusing and often haven’t even been told which side of the road people drive on in Australia (the left).

Attacks on Indian students
In 2009 there were a series of widely reported assaults on Indian students studying in Melbourne. They were portrayed in the Indian media as racially motivated and many students considering studying in Melbourne consequently decided to study in other cities or not come to Australia at all. Although these events were horrible, they were blown out of proportion by Indian news services. There were a handful of attacks but it was discovered that they were not linked and were generally not racially motivated. They were largely just ordinary crimes, the type of which occur every day in Australia. But it is somewhat ironic that rates of such crimes are lower in Australia than almost any country on earth and certainly much lower than India.

Australia remains a very good country in which to study or to merely visit and education will likely make up even more of Australia’s service economy in years to come.

Jamie Freestone is a teacher, author and podcast producer currently based in Canberra, Australia.



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