International Students in Australian Secondary Schools: Longing for Belonging

The challenge

This longitudinal project aimed to analyse the forms and effects of international secondary students’ transnational connectedness with different people and places in physical and online environments. It examined how and why students’ relationships changed across Years 10–12 of school, and the implications for students’ experience of school, Australia, and post-school pathways.



Project overview

The project team interviewed international and domestic students, students, teachers, homestay parents and policymakers. The project provided the first systematic data interrogating how international students experience living and studying during the final years of Australian secondary education. All aspects of the international student experience were considered including the students’ capacity to forge friendships with international and domestic peers and homestay. In particular, the study focused on their sense of belonging and how the online environment facilitated their connectedness with friends and family. International students’ experiences of the Australia school system are highly situated depending on their aspirations, school context and cultural mix.


The findings provide the empirical knowledge and theoretical insights to support the development of policies and practices to support international school students, protect their social, emotional and physical wellbeing, and improve the economic competitiveness of Australia’s international education sector.

Key recommendations from this research have been published in the report and outlined in the Infographic below:

Project report


 Australian Research Council Discovery Project



2016 – 2021

Project team

Deakin Distinguished Professor Jill Blackmore (CI)
Professor Ly Tran (CI)
Professor Catherine Beavis (CI)
Professor Leonie Rowan (CI)
Dr Trevor McCandless
Dr Caroline Mahoney
Dr Cath Moore
Dr Trang Hoang
Dr Manaia Chou-Lee
Dr Aida Hurem
Dr Huyen Bui



international education, education policy, international students