August 21, 2017

Out of the Box

The program in a nutshell

Out of the Box equips international students at university level with the tools and mindsets to embrace the out-of-school environment as a place for experimentation and personal transformation.

Why Out of the Box? 

International students represent a great opportunity for Australian universities. Not only does international education represent one of the biggest exports for the country, but international students bring a cultural diversity that greatly enhances the experience of other students and the vibrancy of our cities. Over the longer term, international students can be a source of rich and extended networks, whether they return to their home country or settle to Australia, where they greatly contribute as workers and entrepreneurs.

However, a range of obstacles stand in the way. Language and cultural differences often make it difficult for international students to thrive socially and academically. Often, this discourages them from interacting with the broader community. No clear body or agency is accountable for the experience of international students outside class. As a result, international students often limit their interactions to classrooms and other people of the same background, while experiencing both mental health issues, discrimination or, in the worst cases, exploitation from employers or landlords.

The challenge that this program aims to address is: how can we equip international students with the tools and mindsets to embrace Australia as a place for experimentation and deep personal transformation?

What is Out of the Box?

Out of the Box brings together international students in universities in a four week experiential program. The program combines in-class workshops that helps international students undersatnd the importance of out-of-class learning and the challenges that they may face in unfamiliar environments. In between workshops, students are given guided activities to conduct in pairs or small groups, gradually stretching their comfort zone and creating positive experiences associated with local engagement. On the last week of the program, students are invited to organise their own activity with their peers, and graduate ‘out of the box’.

What are the outcomes? 

Out of the Box is still in the piloting stage, and outcomes have not been tested, but the program makes the following assumptions. International students are more ready to engage with their local environment. This in turn has the following benefits:

  • International students develop a greater sense of belonging and well-being, creating the conditions for better study and a better experience – resulting in better integration for students staying, and a deeper lasting connection for students returning.
  • International students are more able to observe Australian culture and acquire English through exposure to and engagement with a broader range of local environments. This in turn contributes to greater employability and capacity to understand and practice Australian cultural codes.
  • Engagement increases the likelihood of interactions with locals – opening new networks, job and internship opportunities, or friendships.
  • International students become visible members of local communities, and are seen as potential audiences, clients, customers neighbours, friends, partners and contributors to various initiatives. In turn, this increases their capacity and readiness to become valued members of society.

How advanced is the program. 

Out of the Box was designed in partnership with the Melbourne University faculty of Business and Economics. A first pilot was trialled with Monash College in May 2017. A second pilot is currently underway. A range of organisations, including Monash College and RMIT, have expressed strong interest in Out of the Box.

If you would like to know more about Out of the Box, or think the program might be of benefit to your organisation, contact us!