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Integrate international students into community, new study says

Integrate international students into community, new study says

Developing connections between international students and their host communities is key to optimising the students' experience, according to a new study. 

'Community Connections: A programme to enhance domestic and international students' educational experience' details the results of a university in Australia in attempting to help its international students' integration. 

The Community Connections programme at the University of Newcastle is a volunteer-resourced programme, led by a paid coordinator, which harnesses the skills and experiences of members of the local Newcastle community. Its aim is to facilitate the development of cross-cultural friendships between international students and members of the host community. 

In the past two years, referring international students have identified their preference to develop friendships with domestic students of similar ages over people from the wider community, who tend to be older. 

It was in this context that the pilot project between participants of the university's ILEAD (International Leadership Experience and Development) programme, an experiential leadership programme, and Community Connections was initiated. It involved 30 domestic students who were given training in issues that might emerge in dealing with international students. 

The students were required to make contact at least fortnightly and to ensure that a minimum of one face-to-face meeting occurred monthly. The project coordinator was available for regular consultation about the progress of the links and to assist in resolving issues or problems as they arose. Ongoing training sessions were also organised to address issues and areas of interest, and an active social programme of events was initiated and delivered with support from the coordinator. 

The results show that regular one-on-one contact is key to successful integration since it helps to: (1) build meaningful connections and assist in the building of understanding of the local environment for international students; and (2) develop their confidence and capacity to negotiate their way within the local university environment more effectively. 

Posted by Nick Tellwright

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