Chinese international students face many barriers when it comes to making Australian friends, according to an international education expert, who said it is a big mistake to underestimate the benefits of social integration.
When it comes to making friends with domestic students, "it's not hard, but it's definitely not easy," Chinese international student Vincent told Xinhua on Friday.
The 24-year-old Macquarie University student expressed the view that it was particularly difficult for Chinese students, and according to Professor Ly Tran from Deakin University in Melbourne, Vincent is not alone in feeling the difficulties of social integration.
Tran's specialty is international education, and throughout her research, she found that there is some truth to the long-standing stereotype that Chinese students tend to socialize among themselves, and many do not befriend local students.
However, this is not always a reflection of their own motivations, as most Chinese students want social integration, Tran told Xinhua, but there is often a gap between their expectations and the reality that faces them when they arrive in Australia to start their studies.
"Social and academic integration is really important for Chinese international students into Australian universities, and it is definitely a critical issue," Tran stressed.
"We have students from a variety of backgrounds, and they come with their own motivations and social preparation prior to their departure, so we are dealing with a spectrum of Chinese students, some are prepared for what to expect and able to socialize easily, and others are not."
As she herself was an international student hailing from Vietnam, Tran is interested in the variety of factors in play that contribute to the complexity of the social integration of Chinese international students into Australia. She said that although the language barrier is often cited as the cause of the concerns raised, it is but a small part of a larger issue.
"English proficiency can be a barrier to communication, and the responsibility of improving language skills is the responsibility of the Chinese student, that's really up to them," Tran said.