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March 24, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Our students from afar

There are approximately 3,000 International Students at Victoria University. These students come from all corners of the globe; often from cultures very different to NZ culture.

As we all know that change and transitions can be exciting but also challenging, creating anxiety and stress, especially when usual supports are not available to you. You may already be experiencing huge differences in this culture and having mixed feelings about being in NZ. Almost everyone who studies or lives aboard, experiences some degree of culture shock. For those who have arrived earlier this year and those who have been here longer, you are perhaps feeling a little more settled and working through your experience of culture shock and hopefully not feeling so homesick. There are a number of factors that impact upon your experience of culture shock. Factors include whether you have lived away from home before, previous exposure to other cultures, current living arrangements and support networks, contact with those from home, your expectations and how you look after yourself. For those who have come from a Western culture the differences may not be so enormous. For those Domestic students who have travelled or lived overseas, you will recall experiences and emotions that you may have felt. How did it feel to experience, ‘difference’, perhaps not feeling accepted, where appearance, language, food, clothing, religion, customs, and values were different to your own?

NZ has an international reputation as a provider of quality education; along with this, it has a worldwide reputation for it being a welcoming and a safe destination. However, where there is perceived or an actual sense of ‘difference’ it is not uncommon for International Students to be the target of prejudice and discrimination. International Students bring diversity, add value to our learning environment; this is an opportunity to learn about intercultural understandings, an opportunity to be a citizen of the world.

After all what is education? – Isn’t it about being able to think outside the box?

So how about the next time you are in class/tutorial, you step outside your comfort zone and extend a warm welcome, to these students who have come from afar to experience NZ culture, to interact with New Zealanders and to study at Victoria University. Let’s make this a rewarding, positive experience for all. A little warmth can go a long way to help International Students feel accepted.

There are many supports available at the university for all students and some specific to International Students. To name a few:

• Victoria International for all concerns. 463 5310
• Student Learning Support Services – Excel; Conversation Group with Native Kiwi Speakers; Grammar Sessions; Preparation For – Academic Life and Study (PALS) which introduces students to the learning environment and culture at Victoria University. 463 5999
• Language Learning Centre – wide range of resources to help with English. 463 5315
• International Academic Advisers – all faculties and most schools have an academic advisor to provide support and advice specifically for international students.
• – Counselling Service – have counsellors who understand the difficulties with cultural transitions. 463 5310

We hope that your New Zealand experience will be an enriching one.


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