ACU’s new virtual reality experience gives international students taste of Aussie life

Australian Catholic University’s new virtual reality transition program Gateway to ACU gives international students a realistic, immersive taste of life in Australia before they arrive in the country.

International students preparing to study at ACU’s Melbourne and Ballarat campuses in second semester can now use Gateway to ACU interactive modules to access videos, learning activities, quizzes, interactive tours and to download resources.

The virtual program explores topics such as Australian cultural norms, how to use public transport, how to apply for a part-time job, classroom etiquette, student life and academic skills – issues that can cause confusion, anxiety and culture shock for many international students in their first weeks in Australia.

Leaving all that is familiar in your own culture and trying to adapt to a new cultural, social and academic environment is often a challenging experience.

ACU Pro Vice-Chancellor Global and Education Pathways Chris Riley said the program is the first of its kind and will redefine the pre-departure and transition experience.

Mr Riley said gamified elements of the program build excitement and familiarisation before students step into the country.

“International students need to adapt to a new culture and learning environment so the transition period can be a particularly overwhelming time for them,’’ he said.

“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.” 

More than 500 international students are expected to join ACU for second semester in July. Students from Kenya account for the largest proportion of students beginning courses at ACU in this intake. They join students from across the world including India, Nepal, the Philippines, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

ACU’s Director of Education Pathways Marta Skrbis said Gateway to ACU is part of the university’s broader student transition experience, grounded in contemporary research on transition pedagogy, that emphasises the importance of student welfare and support in the first-year experience.

“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,” Mrs Skrbis said.

“By connecting international students to ACU as they are preparing for their life in Australia, we hope to develop students’ sense of belonging to ACU and to alleviate some of their anxieties upfront.

“From here, students can access ACU’s Connect2Uni services which are designed to support them through to the end of their first year. This includes peer-to-peer mentoring, face-to-face and online workshops, games, events and other opportunities to connect with peers.”

The program is funded by the Victorian Government’s Study Melbourne International Education Resilience Fund which aims to support, retain and attract international students to study in Victoria.

Chief executive of Global Victoria Gönül Serbest said: “Study Melbourne is proud to support our world-class education providers so they can continue delivering the outstanding experience that international students have come to expect from Victoria.”

Gateway to ACU will be available to all international students commencing study at the ACU Melbourne and Ballarat campuses from Semester 2, 2022.

After the current pilot, four new modules will be released in September and the full program will be available to all commencing ACU International students from December 2022.

Click here to view Gateway to ACU

Media Contact: Elisabeth Tarica, Australian Catholic University on 0418 756 941 or

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