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July 16, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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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 that of New Zealand.

We all know that change and transitions can be exciting, but they can also be challenging, creating anxiety and stress, especially when usual support is not available. You may already be experiencing huge differences in this culture or having mixed feelings about being in New Zealand. Almost everyone who studies or lives abroad experiences some form of culture shock. Perhaps you are feeling a little more settled and are 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 a new culture. These include whether you have previously lived away from home, 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 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 in a place where appearance, language, food, clothing, religion, customs, and values were different to your own?

We have an international reputation as a provider of quality education along with our reputation of a welcoming and a safe destination. Yet where there is a 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 and add value to our learning environment. It 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 a class/tutorial, you step outside your comfort zone and extend a warm welcome to students who have come from afar to experience New Zealand culture and education, to interact with New Zealanders and to study at Victoria. Let’s make this a rewarding, positive experience for all. A little warmth can go a long way to help International students feel accepted.

A special remembrance to students from the Solomon Islands, the USA (especially those from Virginia Tech University) and to all students from war zones and others who have experienced loss, we know that these traumatic events can impact heavily and our thoughts are with you.

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.

– Student Learning Services – Excell Programme: English Conversation: to assist adapting to a new culture.

– Counselling Service – run a support group and also have counsellors who understand the difficulties with cultural transitions.

– Anglican Chaplaincy – Survivor Island: News Watch.

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

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