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The massive acceleration of international student mobility in recent years has provided an eclectic (short and long term) cultural influx into Australia. Sitting somewhere between structured immigration and international tourism, this influx effectively constitutes edu-tourism, in which students seek to experience education and local culture over a period of several weeks, months or even years. It is through the hybrid nature of this edu-tourism, that the complex interconnection of culture, languages and education is highlighted, revealing both significant advantages and flaws. If we are to value education above it being merely a tradable commodity, it is clear that it must also be about enhancing the ‘social good’ and genuinely improving intercultural communications and outcomes. The increasing demands of work, play, economic and political survival within the global community require that we become interculturally competent citizens. In order to achieve such competence, it is therefore essential to deepen cultural awareness and empathy through maximising effective interpersonal experiences. While edu-tourist students do interact to an extent within class cohorts and organised social activities, there remain serious limitations. Classes may not offer sufficient cultural diversity; social activities, whilst popular, may serve to be culturally divisive, rather than inclusive, thus hindering the cultural integration process. The authors of this paper, in their capacities as university educators (one in Strategic Communications and Gender Studies and the other in languages and intercultural communication research), have observed student intercultural engagement in their classes and on the university campus. Their observations show consistent patterns of behaviours and recurring issues, which led them to clarify challenges and recommend ways for higher education providers to develop deeper cultural ties through specific communication opportunities.
This document has been peer reviewed.