Being the ‘International Student’

(In a non-english environment)

Now I understand.

I’d like to take this moment to apologise to all of the international students who I was short with, who I was impatient with and even to those I never gave the time of day. I am sorry.

I am an international student. I am an international student in Spain. Some may argue that my situation is different because I am english-speaking and Australian, but that does not change the fact that I am the ‘other’. Sure, the situation may have played out differently if all the classes I attended were in english but that’s just not the case. It’s a ridiculously daunting situation being one of very few (or only) international students in a class that isn’t taught in your native tongue. (Can I just acknowledge that this is not the case for all exchange students – particularly those who can actually speak the host language fluently, but fluent is what I am not)

It’s an endless cycle of anxious-lined hope that your professor doesn’t notice you and asks you questions in front of the class (which has happened, if you were wondering) and the struggle to keep up with what’s actually happening. On top of this is the fact that I have no friends* – not in all my classes anyway. In one of the subjects I’m currently taking, I’ve only been spoken to once when the girl behind me was passing down the roll. Yay social interaction!

The structure of classes here is different to how I have it back at home. The students here are pretty much assigned a group within their class from the beginning of their course and are generally with the same people until they graduate. In other words, they got their #squad. They don’t need no new recruits. The mindset here is ‘what’s the point in making friends with them if they’re just going to leave after 4 months anyway?’.. fair enough guys, fair enough. No temporary friend for you!

It certainly has been an experience though, to actually live how it is to study in another country under different regulatory and educational systems, to observe student-teacher dynamics and to see the differences in student expectations and social interactions. It has also made me really appreciative of my university at home (excluding the student exchange department) and education in Australia.

So yes, I now understand the struggle that the international kids go through at UTS and just how hard it is to study in another language. It ain’t easy guys. It really ain’t.

* just clarifying that I am not a complete loner (I have made friends out of uni)

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2 Replies to “Being the ‘International Student’”

  1. You weren’t the only one. My daughter experienced the same when she was studying abroad in Italy even she took extensive Italian language before she left. She said it was really hard to be in foreign land without friends and relatives. But she did it! She learned a lot to be on her own. And I’m sure you will as well. You’re doing great! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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