It’s not all smiley faces: International students experiences in high schools and the impact of online activity

Year: 2019

Author: Rowan, Leonie, Hurem, Aida, Beavis, Catherine, Hoang, Trang

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Psychological, sociological and globalisation studies highlight positive and negative factors impacting on the study experiences of international students but also on their overall quality of life. While they experience academic problems derived from language proficiency, understanding of provider/program expectations, and inadequate access to appropriate academic support (Clark & Gieve, 2006), many also have concerns for their personal safety and security linked to discrimination or alienation (Poyrazli & Lopez, 2007). International students often report feelings of personal isolation, a lack of connection to their host country, inadequate or unsatisfying connections with domestic students, loneliness, and/or few friends (Smith & Khawaja, 2011). Now recognised as a ‘vulnerable population’ (Sherry, Thomas, & Chui (2010), these students require different strategies to ameliorate such difficulties.

In related debates, “online activity” is consistently referenced as one potential mechanism for offering both academic and social support, and as an important mechanism for improving the overall quality of the international students’ experience in Australia. While emergent research has identified these as new agendas for researching international education, most of the literature highlighting the (often painful) realities of international students’ experiences has drawn upon international students in universities. Relatively little is known about how international students in schools (a younger, more widely distributed and potentially even more vulnerable cohort of learners) experience their status as ‘international student’. Researchers also have little understanding of what the commonly cited phenomenon of ‘online activity’ actually means and how (if) it impacts upon international students’ sense of self. This paper draws resources associated with the politics of belonging to analyse interviews conducted with 50 Year 10 students from Queensland and Victoria to address two specific questions. First: what do these young students describe as the positive and negative aspects of their experiences studying internationally (and to what extent is this similar to research focused on the experiences of university students)? Second, how do these high school students make use of online activity to negotiate the positive and negative experiences?