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International Student Self-Identity and Self-Concept Essay

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Updated: Oct 11th, 2019


From the view point of a student, identity can be said to be that behavior that an individual or a group of persons symbolizes by showing how they interact with each other as well as how they represent their culture of origin (Baumeister, 2004, p. 252).

Definition of Identity

According to Baumeister (2004, p. 257), due to the continuous evolution of the identity theory, there is no definite concept attached to identity; but the concept can be well understood by dissecting it into three key characteristics which are: identity as produced by the society, identity as a personal sense and identity as spontaneous as well as a representational character.

On the other hand, Bailey (2000) views self-identity as a complex multidimensional concept that is composed of a number of components that seek to create an integrated image to an individual which then translates to the perceptions underlying that individual when it comes to defining whom he or she is, which is often coupled with ethnic identity.

This shows that identity concerns itself with the nature of self rather than the person’s experiences.

Bailey (2000) also proclaims that self identity is a series of involved steps over a long period of time; where the first step involves an interweave of one’s human fixed nature as well as one’s ongoing acquired nature, step two arises from interpretation of one’s social experiences which builds one’s system of values, step three delves into the realm of philosophy of life where a person defines what life is to him or her which in turn ponders on one’s value system, step four deals with the creation of one’s character upon his/ her created belief system and in regard to his/ her philosophy of life and lastly the final result is a fully fledged self image that is the product of one’s character and personality (Bailey, 2000, p. 6).

Culture Identity

Culture identity refers to a set of learned beliefs, behaviors as well as values that signifies a way of life within a certain community or society (Sakurai, 2006, p. 33).

This conforms to a shared system of commonalities in terms of perceptions towards certain issues which translates into the belief system coupled with practices which are defined and identifiable to each member who in turn creates the behavioral tendencies within a group of people.

Therefore, cultural identity can be said to emanate from history (a person’s background and roots) and personal identity (a person’s personality and character).

Thus it can be said that cultural identity is a representative of an individual’s or a groups behaviors which have been built up on ethnic backgrounds as well as values and belief systems that seek to define that group or society which the individual belongs to (Baumeister, 2004, p. 265).

An individual’s cultural identity is the symbolic cultural representative of one’s cultural background and a composite of ethnic belief systems and practices (Sakurai, 2006, p. 39).

Language Identity

Language identity is also a key component in one’s own self identity for it comprises of the social and interaction aspect of the individual which propels him or her into developing his/ her “environmental self” (Bailey, 2000, p. 5). Language is the only major component that people use while interacting and socializing.

Therefore, social interaction is barely dependent on the level of communication as well as the relationship-band that is inherent between two or more interacting parties otherwise one of the biggest barriers to communication is language break-down.

According to (Kijima 2005), international students from the Asian countries and the Middle East will often communicate by use of their native language while interacting with persons from their national/country origins; this proves how identity tends to interpolate itself within differing communities or societies in a multicultural arena.

This proves that there is a very strong correlation between language and identity, and they are both inter-dependent of each other. Kijima (2005) argues that language use and identity are part and parcel of social practices within groups or communities as well as in a society, this is because the way a person speaks and the types of vocabularies they use fully represents their identity (Kijima, 2005, p. 130).

For instance, an Asian student whose English language is a second language is less likely to use more English vocabularies and slung when compared to an Australian who is a native English speaker.

International Student Identity

People who often go to study overseas have to conform to new identities as international students (Weber, 2011, p. 8). The learning institutions generally view students to be of the same level and are required to comply and achieve the intended course outlines.

These learning institutions provide a fair platform to all students without favoritism (Kijima, 2005, p. 132). For an international student this is both advantageous and disadvantageous at the same time.

It is advantageous in that the learning institution is not discriminatory and most of them go a further notch to provide favorable resources which assist international students to settle down and socialize more, e.g. peer to peer groups, home stay accommodations and orientations; this is where local students are coupled with international students to help them settle down in their new founded country and society, show them around while guiding them and giving them tips on how to survive as a normal students within campus and society etc, this initiative gives international students an edge when it comes to creating their self identity in a whole new world of culture (Tran, 2009, p. 7).

On the other hand it can be disadvantageous if the international student goes to a country where he/ she has no comprehension of language spoken within the new country or has only the basic understanding of the language (second language).

This becomes a major hurdle for the international students, for without knowledge of language there is likelihood of great communication barriers which may suppress his/ her self esteem and image thus his identity may be misconstrued if not given the relevant support and guidance.

Though most learning institutions make sure that most of their enrolled international students pass their native language tests e.g. for an international student to be enrolled in Australia there is a need to pass the English test such as IELTS (International English Language Testing System) (Tran, 2009, p. 10).

This ensures that at least the international students have a basic comprehension of English which they can learn more vocabularies during their learning as well as they continue to study more advanced levels of the language during their stay in the new countries of study, the continuous learning of English is intended to keep abreast with the lectures, research and reading materials.

In order for the international students to represent their new identity, they need to study hard, comply with submitting their research and assignments on time, do required exams and tests, interact with lecturers as well as the other students, and be pro-active in forming and participating in study-groups and study sessions.

For instance, an international student in Australia, who comes from a country (such as Vietnam) which has different cultures as well as language there is need to make a number of adjustments when creating a new identity; these adjustments are related to culture and language.

This means the student is bound to accustom him or herself with the Australian/Western culture and by using of English language as often and more frequent.

This is because the interactions in a lecture are done by use of the English language and at times the students may be paired with persons from other countries whereby English is the only common language among them and this calls for consistency in getting to learn the paradigms within the English language which helps the new student to create a comprehensive identity which is cosmopolitan in nature and which accommodates different cultures as well as respect to other people’s personalities and backgrounds (Sakurai, 2006, p. 39).

Asian students in Australia are normally disadvantaged by the fact that they hail from a communist ideology and an Eastern culture which gives them a bit of a headache before adapting to the new foreign arena, (Kijima, 2005, p. 134).

Language plays a significant role in the transformation process; one of the main impeding factors is that the Asian English language education lays emphasis on reading and writing as opposed to listening and speaking (Kijima, 2005, p. 129 – 136).

This requires the students to readjust in their mind because Western education focuses more on listening, internalizing the information and then speaking/communicating what has been taught (Tran, 2009, p. 6).

This requires the international students to be very adaptive in the English language in Australia. On another light the styles and methodologies used in teaching differ from society to society, this has a direct implication on the academic performance. Therefore, language is very basic and key when it comes to academic work.

Social adjustment is also very core for international students for it helps them in creating their new identities for they develop a new perception after being immersed in the new culture (Baumeister, 2004, p. 261). This involves a lot of psychological changes as well as behavioral changes. This makes communication a key component in developing the new identity.

For an international student to fit in the new culture there is a need for him/ her to interact with different students from different cultures and nationalities, as well as be very proactive in social activities rather than discriminating oneself.

The new founded international student identity is influenced by other students within the domain of the culture that underlies the country of study which includes: the values, belief systems, aesthetic standards, and linguistic expressions, patterns of thinking, behavioral norms and styles of communication.


This concept of international student identity is a sensible subject to all students aspiring to go for overseas study or is already studying overseas. There is need to understand that the mechanism behind personal, social and international identity is highly dependent on culture and language use; which is inherent for any international student.

For a new culture and language will always seek to change one’s personal identity, there is a need for any international student to have an open-mind and an accommodative spirit so as to be in a position to develop a self-identity which is supreme to his/ her new founded culture and language.

Also still there is need for international students to create a prism that differentiates between negative and positive influence and impact of the new culture for which-ever way the international student creates his personal identify is highly dependent on these cultures which have an impact (either positive or negative) to their present and future educational, social and professional lives (Kijima, 2005, p. 136).

Hence a need to be cautious while creating one’s new identity in a foreign land, for these choices affect one’s personality character and representation.

Reference List

Bailey, J. (2000). Self-Image, Self-Concept and Self-Identity Revisited. Life Skills Medical Journal: Vol.2: 1 – 6. Web.

Baumeister, R. (2004). Self-Concept, Self-Esteem and Identity. Numerons Publishing House. P. 248 – 275. Web.

Kijima, M. (2005). . International Education Journal. Vol. 5(5): 129-136. Web.

Sakurai, T. (2006). Effects on Multicultural Interaction on International Students. International Education Association of Professionals in New Zealand and Australia: ISIANA. P. 1 – 42. Web.

Tran, L. (2009). An Acculturation Dilemma for Asian International Students in Australia: The case of Vietnamese International Students. University of New South Wales-Sydney. P. 1-11. Web.

Weber, L. (2011). Canadian International Chinese University Students’ Experiences at a Canadian University: Exploring Local and Global Identities. University of Western Ontario. P. 1 – 10. Web.

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