Wellbeing and Quality of Life of International Students in Australia: Opening Pandora's Box

Wellbeing and Quality of Life of International Students in Australia: Opening Pandora's Box

Sunaina Gowan
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9628-9.ch007
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The highly competitive international environment in which higher education institutions now compete mandate the provision of high quality, satisfaction-creating tertiary experiences to remain competitive within the sector. To achieve this, tertiary providers are identifying ways in which they can meet student expectations. Research has identified that in addition to academic delivery, quality of life and wellbeing of international students have now emerged as significant elements impacting student experience specifically after the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Many international students choose Australia to study not only because of its high standard of living and enviable lifestyle, but also because of its excellent education system and international recognition. Not only is China sending impressive number of students to study in Australia; South Asia accounts for over 25 per cent of all international students in Australia (DET 2019), with India representing 15 per cent, Nepal 7 per cent, Sri Lanka 2 per cent and Bangladesh 1 per cent of the international student populations studying in Australia. The experience that students have while studying and living in Australia is one of the most important factors that contributes to their long-term success and the sustainability of Australia’s international education program. International students from South Asia (Bangladeshi, Bhutanese, Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Afghanese and Maldivian backgrounds) are, after the Chinese, collectively the largest group of international students in Australia. Nonetheless there is a lack of studies specifically on the quality of life and wellbeing of South Asian international students which poses a significant gap in the literature. Further, several research studies have explored international students’ perception of their academic challenges but not many have investigated their wellbeing. Previous research has focused on different socioeconomic groups, but there have been very few research studies on the quality of life of tertiary students, (Vaez, Kristenson & Laflamme, 2004). This is a significant gap that needs exploration as students in their young adulthood experience critical transitions which may have enduring long-term consequences (Li et al., 2018).

Academic achievement is the main goal for university students (Xiao, Tang & Shim, 2009) and it determines a student’s academic success and life satisfaction (Lepp, Barkley & Karpinski, 2014; Li et al., 2018). Therefore, this is a vital study as there is evidence from previous research that academic performance is connected to emotional, physical, and social wellbeing. Other such studies have found that students’ quality of life has an impact on their wellbeing (Sirgy, Grzeskowiak & Rahtz, 2007), as well as on their physical and mental health (Li et al., 2018; Salmela-Aro, Kiuru, Leskinen & Nurmi, 2009). Therefore, students’ quality of life is of significant concern and needs further study (Benjamin & Hollings, 1995). Social support refers to the social and psychological support an individual receives or perceives in her or his environment (Lin, 2010), such as respect, care, and help (Li et al., 2018). This then enhances their educational experience. This chapter explores the integration challenges faced by these students and identifies the ways in which they connect with the host country, the local communities and support groups to reduce social isolation, enhance inclusion and mitigate the harmful effects of exclusion.

The current study engaged 45 post graduate students from South Asia in three focus groups and 24 face to face interviews to understand their networking approach and their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing and inclusion challenges. The students belonged to one College and were in the age group of 23-32 years. The objective is to provide evidence-based understanding of the current challenges and opportunities available for the wellbeing and inclusion of international students from South Asia in Australia and identify what formal and informal systems of support students currently draw on and how can engagement strategies be improved. The findings will provide empirical knowledge and theoretical insights to develop policies and programs for students and practices to strengthen support for international students, protect their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing, and improve the economic competitiveness of the Australian education sector. This research endeavours to explore the experience of these international students in order to identify the factors that impact their wellbeing and quality of life during their tertiary experience in Australia and identify potential resolutions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Support: Social and psychological support an individual receives or perceives in her or his environment.

Social Communication Competency: Knowledge of the host countries ‘values, nonverbal norms and history.

Neo-Racism: Racism due to cultural differences.

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