Working Paper 111
Networks of support: Civil society’s role in integrating international students in Japan and Australia
Published April 2024

The role of civil society in helping incoming international students to adapt to the host country and integrate into the broader community has largely remained unseen, as most prior studies focused on universities and government policies. This paper aims to fill this gap in research on international student mobility by showing the ways in which interaction with civil society organisations (CSOs) is already helping international students feel less lonely and more included.

The paper describes two studies in Japan and Australia comparing interactions between CSOs and international students in different environments: an established and globally leading study destination in a Western and English-speaking country, on the one hand, and an emerging regional hub in a non-Western and a non-Anglophone nation, on the other. By combining insights from social capital and social anchoring theories, the study attempts to develop a more comprehensive multi-theoretical model to better understand international students’ sociocultural integration and their contribution to the local community. The findings show that despite their limitations, local CSOs in both Australia and Japan act as alternative providers of international student support co-creating networks of trust, exchange, and cooperation. In addition, leadership in volunteer organisations seems to provide international students with a number of specific advantages compared to simple participation. The paper also discusses new forms of activism and advocacy that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings imply that the potential of volunteer groups for international student adaptation and integration and for community building should be mobilised and exploited more actively.