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Short Essay

  1. Universities have their own particular culture. For students, “adjusting tothe life and culture of a university usually takes time and effort” (Kantanis,2000, p. 104). 

Adjusting to new life and culture in any organizational setting is bound to have a significant impact on an individual because of the adjustments required in getting used to the new culture. The same applies to students adjusting to a new life and culture at the University. Lawrence (2005), notes that while institutions have to deal with transition and retention issues, students are often challenged by the construction of a means to engage the university culture. It takes time and effort to go through the academic, social and personal transitions (McInnis, 2003). As noted by Kantanis (2000, p. 104), such adjusting normally requires time and effort before students can become fully conversant with their new way of life. The same sentiments are put forth by other scholars who note that the first year of any undertaking including school, institutions and companies is usually full of challenges which may require a significant level of effort for those involved to adjust effectively (Pandian, 2001). This is caused by the need to adjust into the organizational culture and life at the university.

Taylor (1999) notes that many underprepared students tend to experience difficulties as a result of as a result of the gap between their social and academic skills with those demanded in the college environment. Bridging this gap consists of a series of actions aimed at mastering the University academic requirements and culture which involves a considerable level of learning. This may take a significant period of time before the students can adjust; which may cause them to lag behind and perform poorly during their first year in the University. According to Cameron and Kirkman (2010), first year international students are often challenged by the culture shock they are likely to encounter upon joining Australian universities. They often lack critical reading experience, appropriate citation and other academic rules that are found in Australia; such that they have a lot to learn before they can become fully acquitted to the system. This could be highly challenging for the international students because they are expected to learn all the academic requirements and also adjust to the new culture of Universities in Australia which may take a significant level of effort.

Lawrence (2005) and Pandian (2001) introduce the presence of multiliteracies in the university culture. Lawrence (2005) notes that if the university is considered as a culture, it means that student engagement and familiarity of the culture can be referred to as literacy. There is a significant level of knowledge, both social and cultural, that first year students need to master so as to enhance their engagement in the Australian universities (Burnett, 2006). At the University of Queensland, there is a project known as the First Year Experience (FYE) project that helps students in adjusting to the new environment through providing them with an efficient learning environment (Burnett, 2006). This is upon the realization that students are often challenged in the first year of University and therefore need guidance during the adjustment period.

It takes time and effort for students to familiarize themselves with what is expected in the academic circles (Taylor, 1999). New concepts must be learned and the university cannot be compared to lower education levels that students were previously studying in. These concepts may be difficult to comprehend and so is the level of commitment required to pass examinations since they are expected to be more difficult as the education level progresses. Increased activity may also be involved at the university and students are required to learn how to effectively plan their time in order to ensure that nonacademic activities do not prevent them from achieving their academic objectives. The overall success of students in adjusting to university life is however dependent on their willingness to learn and participation. As noted by Taylor (1999), the impact of college depends on the quality of individual effort and how well a student is involved in the academic and nonacademic circles.

  1. Consider the culture of Australian Universities and the particular problems students may face successfully adjusting to this culture. Reflect on your own experience and the factors which have hindered and helped your adjustment. 

Students are expected to adjust both socially and culturally in order to enhance learning and effective adjustment in Australia in the case of international students. University life is a completely different setting and students must get used to their new way of life in order to succeed academically. This is expected to be problematic especially in the first year at the university.

Culture shock remains one of the most significant challenges that students are likely to face in the process of adjusting to the new environment in Australian universities. It is notable that academic requirements at Australian universities may vary significantly compared to the education systems that first year students were used to before. Cameron and Kirkman (2010) identify three sources of academic shock in Australian universities including the method of learning, citing appropriately and ability to seek academic assistance. The problem-based learning method often seems challenging to international students who may be used to other methods. Asians for example are said to favor interactive learning and would thus encounter culture shock in Australian Universities. Students are also expected to learn citation techniques for use during academic learning; a factor that may have a considerable impact on their ability to adjust effectively.

Personally, I faced a number of challenges in adjusting to the University life; more so in shaping my academic and social orientation. The first year at University was marked by significant challenges in adjusting to the new culture as I had to learn a lot of new things in order to fit well into the system. Firstly, I started on a low point, given that I knew very little about the university and yet I had not made friends to share my experiences with and to help me understand the university culture. While I found everything rather exciting to learn, it was utterly confusing and every new concept that I learned in class only made me feel like I had engaged myself in a highly difficult endeavor. There were many expectations to fulfill at the university including the need to be independent in studies as opposed to high school where the teachers were always available for us. I had to adjust to the fact that university life required great seriousness and involvement as the university required all students to deliver in accordance to the required grades. The university academic requirements such as the adoption of proper citation skills and learning culture also posed a challenge to me because I had not encountered these factors previously.

I also had to establish effective relationships with the tutors so as to ensure that any academic challenges that I faced were addressed. This was not easy, considering that there seemed to be a greater distance between students and tutors at the University. This mostly has to do with the large number of students such that the tutors may not offer personalized attention to each student. Accordingly, I came to learn that in order to succeed effectively, it was important to upgrade my personal research skills and also establish relationships with my fellow students in order to benefit from group discussions. These proved effective in making up for the less availability of tutors to solve every academic inquiry that I had.

In order to adjust effectively, I engaged in a lot of interaction with older students within the university. They were really helpful and they guided me through the various academic requirements while orienting me to the university culture. I utilized social contact methods such as study groups, writing groups, friendship networks and mentors in acquitting myself with the University social and cultural ways as suggested by Smith (2005). Furthermore, the role of group participation is highly imperative in helping new students fit efficiently into the university culture and thus succeed in their studies. Besides this, I sought to familiarize myself with the academic requirements at the University such as the writing styles, plagiarism requirements and proper citation and referencing. These have helped me greatly in my academic progress because they form some of the basic requirements within the university.


Burnett, L. (2006). The First Year Experience Project Report. Australia: University of


Cameron, H. & Kirkman, C. (2010). Managing culture shock for First Year International

students entering Australian universities.Australia: First Year in Higher Education (FYHE).

Lawrence, J. (2005). Re-conceptualising attrition and retention: integrating theoretical, research

and student perspective. Studies in Learning, Evaluation Innovation and Development, 2(3), 16–33.

Pandian, A. (2001). Advancing literacy in the new times: happenings in contemporary Malaysia.

In M. Kalantzis & A. Pandian (Eds). Literacy matters: Issues for new times. Malaysia: Common Ground Pty Ltd.

Smith, C., & Hughes, C. (2004). UQSES data report: First year students’ experiences at UQ.

Brisbane, Australia: Teaching and Educational Development Institute, The University of Queensland.

Taylor, S. (1999). Better Learning through Better Thinking: Developing Students’ Metacognitive

Abilities. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 30(1),33-45