The International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) has urged institutions in Australia and New Zealand to provide structured post-pandemic peer-to-peer support to international students.
According to a recent study, Student Voices, conducted in association with Education New Zealand, education providers were not particularly active in encouraging domestic students to help their international peers.
This gap allowed a lot of domestic students in both New Zealand and Australia to become way more aware of the issues faced by the international students during the COVID-19 pandemic, including practical hardships and accommodation-related issues.
Also Read: Support for COVID-19 Affected International Students in Australia
Around 50% of the domestic students said they were concerned about the hurdles faced by their international peers who had to self-isolate during the pandemic.
The study found that the domestic students came to know about the same through media coverage and lesser-extent friends.
The report further pointed out that while institutions were providing international students with support, domestic students seem to not have learned much about it. The common forms of support included learning assistance, social networking, mentoring support, peer support, study support, material support and psychosocial support.
The study also included responses from domestic students about how the peer-support program started organically. While some felt the need for it, some simply wanted to help on their own accord be it based on mental health issues or everyday crises.
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President of IEAA Janelle Chapman said international students particularly faced a lot of challenges last year.
Chapman further acknowledged the support provided by domestic students to international students in Australia, who were among the most vulnerable groups last year.
The report also found that 82% of the 981 and 1,313 citizens from New Zealand and Australia respectively suggested there was a change in attitude to the idea of separation and isolation international students face, while 81% of them said their appreciation of accommodation challenges faced by international students had changed.
Also Read: Australia Contemplates New Processes to Facilitate Overseas Students' Entry
While Australians were way ahead in helping international students with practical advice, New Zealand was more focused on improving social connectedness.
Chief executive of ENZ Grant McPherson said that the people of New Zealand often talk about the Maori value of manaakitanga, which means hospitality and generosity and that he was very pleased to see domestic students living up to it.
Student Voices was conducted with a two-phase research design based on key education stakeholders and government agencies along with a survey based on a total of 4,300 domestic and international students at five TAFE institutes in Australia and 15 universities in Australia and four universities in NZ.
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