The cultural and digital Transition of Saudi Female International Students in Australia

Haifa Binsahl1, Shanton Chang1, Rachelle Bosua

1 University of Melbourne

There is a good proportion of Saudi international students who are women in Australia. Yet, not much is published or known about the experiences of Saudi Female International Students (SFIS). SFIS represent an emerging and different segment of transient migrants who are culturally and digitally unique. A central question in this paper is how does the transition of Saudi female international students between Saudi Arabia and Australia impact their online and offline experiences over time? This paper highlights some of the findings from interviews with 50 SFIS (25 students who are relatively new to Australia, and another 25 students who have returned home to Saudi Arabia after their studies). An  analysis of the 50 students showed that Saudi cultural and digital norms, language, social networks and Australian advanced digital environment influenced their information searches and their adjustment challenges. For example, some of the factors that were initially considered opportunities to enhance their online interactions when they first moved to Australia, eventually also caused readjustment challenges after their return to Saudi Arabia. For instance, SFIS in this study identified their exposure to the Australian advanced research and digital environment as positively increasing their reliance on online tools such as e-mails, Google Maps, e-libraries and academic databases. However, this became a challenge when they returned to Saudi Arabia because of the lack of support for such behaviours and research cultures (including the limited use of e-mails). This paper explains the context of SFIS and will also highlight areas that institutions could focus on when working with and providing support for this group of students.


Assoc Professor Shanton Chang is an ISANA life member and an academic at The University of Melbourne. His latest project in international students’ online behaviour has been published and presented internationally. He was also previously Assistant Dean (International) at the Melbourne School of Engineering.

Haifa Binsahl is a Saudi female student, who is sponsored by King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz Scholarship Program. She received her Master degree in Information Systems from the University of Melbourne. Her Master thesis was about the use of social networking sites by Saudi females in Australia. The thesis was published and presented in a conference in 2012. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Computing and Information Systems. She is interested in topics of how transient migrants seek their information  when moving across countries. Her Ph.D. research is focusing on the impact of cultural and digital transition experience on Saudi female international students’ information seeking behaviour ( ISB) when they are in Australia and whether the movement forth and back from one culture to the other may impact their ISB.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

For more information, please visit ANZSSA website by


ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

For more information, please visit the ISANA website at

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.