Investigating the Benefits and Challenges of Workplace Volunteering Experiences for International Students’ Employability Literacies


  • Georgina Barton University of Southern Queensland
  • Kay Hartwig Griffith University
  • Yijun Hu Griffith University
  • Marie Kavanagh University of Southern Queensland
  • Marthy Watson University of Southern Queensland



international students, volunteering, employability literacies, industry partner hosts


For many international students the prospect of employment in overseas locations post-study is a strong desire. The concept of employability has infiltrated the literature but little is known about how volunteering experiences might impact international students’ preparedness for work placement during their programs of study. Using theoretical framing related to types of employability literacies, this paper shares data from interviews with international students who volunteered. Findings revealed several themes aligning with linguistic proficiency, cultural awareness, attitudes and mindset, and vocational literacies. Additional themes such as hospitable relationships and building trust were also revealed which could relate to sustainable citizenship. Many benefits result from volunteering experiences for both international students and their hosts, but more work is needed to support hosts through cultural awareness programs and international students due to their study commitments and limited time.

Author Biographies

Georgina Barton, University of Southern Queensland

Dr Georgina Barton is a Professor of literacies and pedagogy at the University of Southern Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. She has experience as an Acting Head of School, Associate Head of School – Research and Program Director. She teaches English and literacy education courses in both under- and post-graduate programs. Before being an academic, Georgina taught in schools for over 20 years and has been an acting principal, and a lead teacher in literacy. She has over 130 publications in the areas of socio-cultural theory and the arts and literacy including an edited book titled: Professional Experience for International Students.

Kay Hartwig, Griffith University

Dr Kay Hartwig is Adjunct at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. Dr Hartwig, as well as teaching in the discipline of music (undergraduate to PhD level students), is the Director of internationalisation for the School of Education and Professional Studies. In this role she coordinates study tours for Australian Student Teachers internationally. As well as music and arts education research, her research interests are currently centred around international education; internationalisation of the curriculum; work placements for international students.

Yijun Hu, Griffith University

Dr Yijun Hu is an early career academic in the sociology of education and teacher education. With research experience in both Australia and China, she has developed a special interest in exploring knowledge dissemination, pedagogical recontextualisation and the professional identity construction of Asian academics when traveling between their home countries/cultures and the Western ones. Her recent research explores professional development of the in-service teachers in internationalised schools in China.

Marie Kavanagh, University of Southern Queensland

Marie is a university Professor of Accounting with a diverse range of skills and expertise in business, governance and management, and a national and international research profile in business education. Her main research focus is on business education where she is currently engaged in topics investigating the impact of factors such as authentic assessment, professional work experience, and the shift to online learning due to COVID-19 on the learning outcomes for both undergraduate and post graduate domestic and international students. Marie has been successful in obtaining funding for, and leading, several large national projects to deliver business education and training to enhance employment opportunities particularly in low SES and culturally diverse communities.

Marthy Watson, University of Southern Queensland

Dr Marthy Watson is a Lecturer at the University of Southern Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. She has been an arts educator for over 20 years and taught the arts in secondary and primary schools South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Marthy has extensive experience in leading and developing course materials in the area of literacy and arts education. She has worked on numerous research projects supporting culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Her current research focuses on reflective practice thought arts-based learning. She strongly advocates for the arts and regularly presents at conferences and arts workshops in schools.


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How to Cite

Barton, G., Hartwig, K., Hu, Y., Kavanagh, M., & Watson, M. (2021). Investigating the Benefits and Challenges of Workplace Volunteering Experiences for International Students’ Employability Literacies. Journal of International Students, 12(3), 777–793.



Research Articles