Academic journal article College Student Journal

University Environment Experience of the First Two Years of University Graduates at a Newly Established Small University Located in Suburban Area in Taiwan

Academic journal article College Student Journal

University Environment Experience of the First Two Years of University Graduates at a Newly Established Small University Located in Suburban Area in Taiwan

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study is to describe students' university environment experience from the perspectives of the first two years of university graduates of a newly established small university located in suburban area in Taiwan. A qualitative method of phenomenology with in-depth interviews is adopted. Fourteen male and sixteen female seniors, with an average age of 22.75 years old participate in this study. Results reveal that students go through stages, beginning with shock and disappointment, uncertainty and instability, coping and acceptance, resource usage and ability enhancement, belongingness and identity, and retrospection and integration. The more students accept, interact, and identify with the university environment, the more satisfaction they have with their life at the university and the more they grow throughout their university career.

Key words: university environment, university student

There have been many changes in the higher education system of Taiwan in the last two decades. The number of universities in Taiwan has increased from 50 to nearly 170 and the number of students has skyrocketed from three hundred thousand to more than 1.2 million (Ministry of Education, 2010). Many of the new universities are located in suburban areas. These universities are smaller with a small student body, limited resources, poor transportation, and difficulty in exchanging with other universities and industries. University life experiences of students enrolled in a newly established university are very different from those who study at universities with longer history, better facilities, and sound systems. It is thus imperative to study the impact of the new university and its environment on students. This study portrays the life experience of the first two years of university graduates of a newly established small university located in suburban area in Taiwan.

The university environment constitutes stimulus from physics, physiology, biology, and society. It can be regarded as an integration of physical space, architecture, service, curriculum, events, and policy (Banning, 1989). It is an environment set up for the realization of educational purpose, provides various learning opportunities for students, develops students' potential, and provides the foundation for learning, growth and development (Yeh, 2006). The term "university environment" used in this study is a collective noun in a broad sense indicating physical space and buildings on the university campus as well as psychological, social, learning, and living aspects of the campus environment. In addition, the term is expanded to cover the geographic, human, and social environment of the neighboring communities of the university campus.

Environment affects the quality of life of individuals (Mares, Young, McGuire, & Rosenheck, 2002; Ibrahim & Chung, 2003). The relationship between a student and the campus environment is one of the key indicators in that student's success (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). When university students perceive that the environment is isolated, hostile, and unfriendly, they usually have a more negative attitude toward studying (Gloria, Castellanos, & Orozco, 2005). On the contrary, the warmth of the perceived environment, the match between culture and environment, and lower environmental-related stress contribute positively to the studying of university students (Gloria & Pope-Davis, 1997). When university students have a good social support system and adopt proactive methods to adapt, they are better able to adapt to university life (Zea, Jarama, & Bianchi, 1995). A positive campus atmosphere enhances interaction among students and participation in extracurricular activities (Upcraft, Gardner, & Barefoot, 2005). When university freshmen fit into the campus atmosphere, they are better able to reach their goals.

Students with a good academic performance have a more positive perception toward the campus compared to those with a poor academic performance (Robbins, Lauver, Le, Davis, Langley, & Carlstrom, 2004). …

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