After teaching the EALD International students at Wilderness for just over a year I have understood how important it is for them to be included in the social life of the school and to feel part of their new culture. Being a boarder without family and home peer support adds another new dimension that international students have to face if they are to participate in extra-curricular activities and build friendships.
It can be challenging for both home girls and international students to develop relationships but there are social opportunities that can be developed to encourage inclusivity. One of these opportunities is the end of year Valedictory Walk when the year 12 students cut up and remake their uniforms into a new “creation” and walk through the school to say good bye to the whole school community.
Although, the girls taking part in the walk were graduating, I wanted the international students in year 9, 10 and 11 to see how much fun it is to be involved these memorable events. Being actively involved and experiencing the school culture will help them understand Australian culture, to get to know local girls and make new friends. This will enhance their language learning and their academic studies.
It is a challenge to become part of a different culture even though it is one of their major reasons for choosing to study here. International students need a supportive environment and this was one occasion where I could help them to get involved.
It all started back in August while teaching the Text Production in ESL when I used Ethical Fashion as a topic. One of the sites we researched, had information on how to recycle fashion, a pair & a spare. This site has fabulous craft ideas and I told the students that I’d help them “redesign” their school uniform for the Valedictory Walk in November and as they do not have access to a sewing machine I’d bring mine in for them to use.
Excitement grew when they saw my fashion dummy and sewing machine in the classroom. Two students drew their designs and we sewed them up. I loved the feeling of our classroom being turned into a sewing workroom- all chatter about music, fashion and graduation. The happy feeling of working together on a project that would enable them to join in the celebration of their final year of school was a fantastic opportunity and one we will all remember and will now become a tradition for next year’s international boarders.
In my research for this blog I read this article entitled Enhancing the Student Experience- global education and integration by Viv Thom so I’ll end on a quote.
Any interventions which seek to increase intercultural engagement, however, superficial and limited they may seem, do contribute to the breaking down of stereotypes and reduce insularity.