A preliminary study in the efficacy of ACT skills training for International student sojourners

Samuel Zimmer1, Christine Wang2

1 Queensland University of Technology, 2 George Street Brisbane, QLD, 4000, samuel.zimmer@qut.edu.au  
2 Queensland University of Technology, 2 George Street Brisbane, QLD, 4000, y68.wang@qut.edu.au

Thirty Chinese international students to Australia participated in an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) efficacy study for international student sojourners. The study aimed to evaluate whether an ACT skills training group would predict greater psychological adjustment and positive acculturation than the waitlisted control group undergoing the same transition to life and study in Australia. The ACT skills training group completed an ACT skills workbook in simplified Chinese, an ACT skills half-day workshop and regular fortnightly emails sent during the academic semester containing resources on how to apply the six core processes of ACT. The study aimed to measure pre and post effects for general mental health (GHQ-12) and positive acculturation (AARS). Process measures were also taken which included the acceptance and action questionnaire (AAQ-II) and the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI). Significant interaction effects were found for positive acculturation and mindfulness. Attrition and subsequent low sample size was a significant challenge for the study. A brief qualitative analysis supported the efficacy of the use of ACT skills training and resources for international students studying abroad.

Keywords: Intercultural Competence, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, International Students, Acculturation


Samuel Zimmer is a psychologist who works within the tertiary education sector. He’s also had experience working in academic language and learning, TESOL and within foster care, child safety and family therapy services. Samuel has a passion for supporting well being and transition among international students studying at Australian universities. He enjoys developing his professional  skills and knowledge in applied psychological practice with a particular interest in psychology and cultures.

Outside the classroom: The student led experience

Krystal Agourram

Deakin University English Language Institute (DUELI), Deakin University, 70 Elgar Road, Burwood, VIC, 3125

International students, especially those in ELICOS programs, want more than just the classroom experience. They expect a holistic educational experience that prepares them not only with academic skills, but also culturally and socially so that they can confidently engage with, and integrate into, the university and the wider community. ELICOS students in particular need English to communicate, but without confidence in their ability to engage with those outside their language and cultural groups, they risk isolation and disappointment with their educational experience. To equip Deakin University English Language Institute (DUELI) students with the skills necessary for this, we offer an extracurricular program aimed at developing and enhancing leadership, communication, teamwork and social skills. The program is multilayered to provide a variety of opportunities to students dependent on where they are in their academic lifecycle. The training undertaken, skills developed and role requirements progress in complexity along the journey from student volunteer to graduating professional. Those students not wishing to participate in these programs are still able to benefit by attending the weekly social program run by the student leaders and student volunteers. Through this program we have been able to watch students’ progress from student volunteers, to student leaders, to confident professionals who feel better equipped in both their academic and professional lives and who, in turn, want to give back to the university community.


Krystal Agourram is a Student Support Coordinator at the Deakin University English Language Institute (DUELI). During her four years in the role she has worked to develop a non-academic program to enhance the sense of student community for English language students whilst also increasing their sense of connectedness with the wider Deakin community. Her focus is supporting students to develop strong social support networks and to encourage help-seeking behaviour. Prior to this role she worked overseas as an ESL teacher and managed the Student Rights and Support Service on a number of Monash University campuses.