Australian Catholic University’s “Gateway to ACU” program includes videos, learning activities, quizzes and interactive tours covering topics such as cultural norms, classroom etiquette, student life and academic skills – areas which the institution identified as causing anxiety for new international students.
“The transition period can be a particularly overwhelming time”
The pilot program will be available to international students commencing study at the university’s Melbourne and Ballarat campuses in July 2022.
The institution, which has seven campuses across Australia, said it aims to make the full program available to all new international students from December 2022.
“International students need to adapt to a new culture and learning environment so the transition period can be a particularly overwhelming time for them,’’ said Chris Riley, ACU pro vice-chancellor global and education pathways.
“Almost all international students go through a period of adjusting to life in a new environment. Gateway to ACU supports students through this process by helping them unpack their cultural expectations about life in Australia and navigate the world of studying in an Australian setting at their own pace.”
In February, Australia fully re-opened its borders to international students for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic but the return of students has been slower than anticipated, in part due to visa delays and continued lockdowns in China.
ACU said it expects over 500 international students to arrive for the second semester of the academic calendar in July, the largest proportion of whom come from Kenya.
“Institutional integration plays a key role in ensuring students are engaged and transition smoothly to university life. For international students, this begins before they have even arrived in Australia,” said Marta Skrbis, ACU’s director of education pathways.
The virtual reality program is funded by the Victorian government’s Study Melbourne International Education Resilience Fund, which aims to attract international students to Victoria.