Disconnections with the host nation and the significance of international student communities: Asian international students in Australia

Dr Catherine Gomes1

1Rmit, Melbourne, Australia

This paper look at Asian international students in Australia and their disconnectedness with local students. Here I suggest that these students create parallel societies for themselves in the host nation based on their identities as international students or as diasporic nationals. These parallel societies while impermanent exist for the benefit and support of their members throughout their transience. Through extensive interviews with 46 international students from Asia, my research reveals that these students hold aspirations for cosmopolitan mobility with ambitions to live and work in the big cities of Europe, North America and Asia with a view to return to the home nation eventually or possibly in the future. Moreover my study reveals that the respondents’ cosmopolitan mobility is encouraged by their lived experiences in Australia. Here I highlight their ability to form friendship networks with fellow international students from their home nation and from elsewhere in Asia. This they do, for a range of reasons, in lieu of friendships with locals. I also refer to their capacity to find a sense of belonging to their home nation through rapid developments in communication and media technologies.


Catherine Gomes is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Media and Communication where she teaches Asian Studies.  She was also an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow (2013-2016) and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Singapore Management University.  Catherine has worked extensively on the themes of of identity, migration, ethnicity, memory, multiculturalism and transnationalism in Australia and Singapore as well as on the information-seeking behaviour of international students in Australia.  Catherine is founding editor of Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration. She is author and editor of 5 books.

A decade of mentoring at Griffith: Reflections on the achievements and limitations of a model of central support for local peer mentoring solutions

Ms Laura Chandler1, Nathan Seng2

1Acting Program Manager, Queensland Centre for Mental Health Learning, West Moreton Hospital and Health Service; 2Senior Mentoring Coordinator, Griffith University

For the past decade, peer mentoring initiatives at Griffith University have been supported through a centralised program known as Mentoring at Griffith. Mentoring at Griffith has sought to expand and enhance mentoring through a series of strategies and activities focussed on training, development and recognition for student peer mentors combined with networking, consultation and resource provision for mentoring program coordinators. With around forty locally coordinated and funded peer mentoring programs operating in central elements, student organisations and Schools around Griffith, programs have relied on the available supports to differing extents over the years.

A recent review of the framework has highlighted the achievements and limitations of this model. A strong commitment to maintaining local ownership and coordination of mentoring programs has led to widespread use of peer mentoring to support transition and retention in the first year, but has also contributed to difficulties ensuring universal and equitable access to peer mentoring for commencing students across all campuses, including those studying online. For students, peer mentoring has been effective in supporting orientation, transition, social connection and academic success in the first year, but has not, as yet, been significantly expanded to support students during the challenging transitions experienced later in the student lifecycle.

This presentation will provide an overview of the review findings, outlining the most successful strategies and greatest challenges of this approach to the organisation of peer mentoring in a large, multi-campus university.


Laura Chandler has worked in student support and development roles in higher education over the past 20 years, including equity and widening participation projects, personal counselling, disability support, international student support and welfare related work. Over the course of her career, Laura has developed a passion for proactive peer support approaches, including peer learning and peer mentoring. She has coordinated and established many peer support programs over the years, including transitional and intercultural peer mentoring and peer learning programs, such as PASS. Laura served as the Coordinator of Mentoring at Griffith at Griffith University for eight years, where she supported the establishment and development of peer mentoring programs across the five campuses. She has been recognised for her work supporting student learning with a USQ Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning and induction into the USQ Teaching Academy. Recently Laura took up a position as the Acting Program manager at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Learning and continues to find working with learners of all types energising, inspiring and hopeful.

Nathan is the Senior Mentoring Coordinator at Griffith University.  Mentoring at Griffith is a core component of the Student Transition and Leadership team and supports student development, retention and success through the coordination of peer mentoring, peer learning and student leadership initiatives across the University.  Prior to this role Nathan managed The Learning Space, a community partnership between Westfield and Griffith University.  Nathan’s experience includes almost 20 years of involvement with community mental health organisations, working with ex-prisoners, implementing the National Disability Employment Services Quality Assurance Framework and project management.

Training and developing first year experience mentors and building a community

Ms Nina Riikonen1

1University of Auckland, Faculty Of Arts, Auckland, Auckland CBD University Area, New Zealand


First Year Experience (FYE) mentors provide helpful assistance to new students transitioning into the faculty. Training, developing and engaging quality mentors is paramount to long term success. Students who volunteer as mentors not only develop skills and confidence, but gain many benefits from being part of the FYE community.

Research has shown that positive interactions with their mentees increases mentor satisfaction. In our FYE programme mentors mainly have email contact with their first-year mentees. While mentees can ask their mentors questions at any time, contact is centred on a weekly email which contains advice and tips the mentors write themselves. Contact is very high at the start of the year and drops substantially halfway into the first semester. Mentors regularly share that it can be hard to stay motivated when they receive few replies to their emails.

Mentors help the programme in various ways. We need them to regularly engage with events and student outreach. Over the course of two years we worked to increase mentor engagement and strengthen team cohesion. We did this through clear expectations, regular contact, face-to-face meetings and training days, requirements to report back, and community building. This presentation will outline how we created our mentor development structure, analyse which aspects were most successful, and show that by investing more time and resources in our mentors we not only improved our own programme, but also helped facilitate a strong mentor community which greatly benefits the students who volunteer for us and the students that they mentor.


Nina Riikonen is a Student Experience Adviser in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland. She coordinates the faculty First Year Experience Programme, and also works with undergraduate orientation and student events.

Ready, set, go! The lifecycle of successful student transition

Ms Cheryl Burgess1, Ms Karen Newson2

1The University of Newcastle, University Drive, CALLAGHAN, NSW, 2308, Cheryl.Burgess@newcastle.edu.au
2The University of Newcastle, University Drive, CALLAGHAN, NSW, 2308, Karen.Newson@newcastle.edu.au, 

Changes to the Higher Education landscape in Australia has seen a once docile competitive arena turn into a sector where institutions play hard ball to grab students into their admission pool (Robinson, 2014). We know that student engagement is an important factor to student success and our comprehensive range of activities throughout the transition to university have been planned to address students questions early into their journey and provide them with the answers and support mechanisms needed for their success (Krause & Coates, 2008, p.485). Hence, the University of Newcastle’s approach to transition begins prior to the Offer period and tracks throughout first semester studies. UON follows three campaigns, Outreach to Offer (OtO), Offer to Census Date (OCD) and Census Date to Exams (CDX).  Outreach to Offers commences prior to and during offers period focusing on school and non-school leavers and offers programs such as  ‘Friends on Campus’  which is  a High School outreach program that combines Uni staff and students and  ‘Start Smart’  which is designed to engage non-school leavers.  Meanwhile includes Offers to Census Date involves student mentor programs and other targeted welcoming programs while   the Census Date to Exams includes coping strategies for stress such as ;stress less activities.  All the campaigns have multi layered and detailed targeted communications delivered alongside all activities. Student participation data is collected at each activity and analyse to show comparisons between those that participated compared to those that did not. To date students who participated have shown increased retention compared to those that have not.


Cheryl Burgess has over 25 years experience working in Higher Education in Australia.  Her experience covers managing the areas of international admissions, student outreach, and transition and retention programs at the University of Newcastle.  Cheryl is passionate about helping all students achieve success while studying. Cheryl has developed High School outreach programs and has presented at conferences nationally and internationally on student transition and retention strategies. Cheryl is the Senior Manager of Access and Transition at the University of Newcastle.

Karen Newson has over 14 years experience within Higher Education employed in numerous positions supporting the Student Life Cycle. Her experience covers Program Advice, Governance & Policy, Student and Academic Business, Credit & Articulation. Previously Karen worked collaboratively with TAFE and VET providers by developing pathways to University for non-school leavers. Currently Karen is responsible for coordinating High School Partnerships and Outreach Programs and is heavily involved with new student progression from offer to Orientation and first year transition support and advice.



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 anzssa.com.


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 www.isana.org.au.

Conference Managers

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