Loneliness and International Students: An Australian Study

Erlenawati Sawir, Simon Marginson, Ana Deumert, Chris Nyland, Gaby Ramia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

460 Citations (Scopus)


In a study of international student security, consisting of 200 intensive interviews with students, resident onshore in Australia, it was found that two thirds of the group had experienced problems of loneliness and/or isolation, especially in the early months. According to Weiss, students experience both personal loneliness because of the loss of contact with families and social loneliness because of the loss of networks. Both forms of loneliness are at times exacerbated by their experiences in institutional sites. The article discusses the coping mechanisms that students use. It identifies a third kind of loneliness experienced by international students, cultural loneliness, triggered by the absence of the preferred cultural and/or linguistic environment. This can affect even students with adequate personal and social support. Thus, same-culture networks are often crucial for international students. Yet same-culture networks are not a universal panacea: They cannot substitute for adequate pastoral care by universities or ensure satisfactory engagement with local cultures, so some causes of cultural loneliness often remain. The article concludes that the creation of stronger bonds between international and local students in the educational setting, helping international students to remake their own cultural maps on their own terms, is key to a forward move on loneliness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-180
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Studies in International Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2008


  • Coping strategies
  • Cross-cultural relationships
  • International students
  • Loneliness
  • Networks
  • Social and economic security

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