Expectations to Realities: International Student Mismatch of Social Integration at University

Year: 2016

Author: Mahat, Marian, Dollinger, Mollie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Higher educational research is dominated by terminology and definitions crafted by Western perspectives. Even fields that often seek to understand international students such as engagement and integration use frameworks and theories that are built within Western contexts. In the field of international student integration this is especially problematic. Currently, academics do not know international students expectations of their social integration. Do international students strive for the same social interactions as their domestic Australian counterparts? Depending on the cultural distance of the international student do their expectations differ? In sum, what do various subgroups of international students hope to achieve within their social relationships and cultural exposure? Before higher education assumes success or failure of international student integration it should first ensure it knows the terms of which success and failure rest. The next steps for international student integration research should identify not only the expectations of international students but also the realities of whether these expectations are met. Higher education engagement or satisfaction surveys are crafted for large audiences and do not tailor survey questions to diverse international student groups. Without more specific data on the social support and the social behavior of international students research cannot properly link expectations to outcomes, and therefore, cannot know if certain subgroups of international students suffer from more integration mismatch than others. New knowledge on the cultural and social match or mismatch of certain international student populations to their higher education institutions would help identify which groups are the least accommodated for and help encourage further research to look for strategies to better serve these groups. This presentation will present an overview first of the cultural and social expectations of higher education international students to date and secondly help frame the issue within the need to innovate and internationalize higher education within the growing context of an increasingly market-oriented higher education sector.