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In moving to a new country to study, or moving from a rural to city area, many students will find that there is a time of adjustment. Change brings with it feelings of excitement and stimulation as well as feelings of inadequacy and fear.
A range of statements from ‘this is fantastic’ to ‘what have I done?’ can be expected.
In working with and teaching students who are making a cultural transition it can be valuable to keep in mind that there will be times when they simply have not heard or do not understand what you have asked of them simply because they were not emotionally ready to do so.
The W curve (70KB) indicates those times when students may not be able to absorb what you are saying or do something in the desired time frame.
If you feel that an individual student is struggling with adjustment issues there are a few things you can do to help.
As noted on the W curve diagram, students in the first few weeks can be feeling very unhappy, isolated, lonely and despondent. This is not the time to try and explain plagiarism or university rules around special consideration. If the rigours of the academic calendar require important matters to be presented in the first few weeks then you will need to repeat this information at a later date as students may not be able to comprehend what you are saying.
The report titled Identifying and Providing Culturally Relevant Support Services to International Students by Wendy Paulusz, Division of Student Life 2004 provides examples of how to present information to enhance the understanding of international students. For example:
Present information in a number of ways
|In depth and as key points||Handouts|
|Overhead||Deakin online - web|
Repeat key messages
For important matters, eg exam information, details of an assignment, repeat the information three or four times. Each time you repeat the information you could use a different mode of communication, a different time of day or require an acknowledgement from your students.
Ask the student to repeat back to you what they have heard and provide guidance and clarification where they have not heard correctly.
Peer support and mentoring
Linking an individual student with a peer or mentor allows them to develop a personal relationship with that person. This relationship is important in that it provides reassurance to the individual, gives a message of support, assists with feelings of isolation and allows important information to be conveyed in a way that suits that person.
Where the individual student is having difficulties adjusting it may be that they need assistance with getting established, meeting people or dealing with their own emotions. There are a number of support services that you can refer the student to for assistance.
Note: If you are unsure whether or not the student is experiencing transition difficulties then you can discuss the behaviour with a counsellor who may be able to assist you identify the issue and possible sources of support/assistance.
The services available for support and assistance are: