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Cultural Resources

Academics in the U.S.

What to expect in American classrooms

Lectures are the primary form of instruction, especially at the undergraduate level. Although attendance may not be recorded, you are nevertheless expected to attend. Classroom discussion, recitations, reading assignments, and periodic written assignments supplement the lectures. Students are expected to contribute to the discussion in the classroom. American professors want students to respect their knowledge and opinions, but they generally prefer discussion and debate to respectful silence. Questioning or challenging the teacher is viewed as a healthy sign of interest, attention and independent thinking. Silent observation is often assumed to indicate that you are not interested in what is being said in class, or that you do not understand.

Although most faculty members encourage critical thinking from students, the manner which criticism is expressed is important. You can show respect by acknowledging your professor’s point of view and then offering yours for consideration. The teaching style of the professor can determine the amount of student participation in each class. Some instructors prefer a more formal style of lecture with a possible question and answer period at the end. Others prefer a more conversational style and encourage interaction throughout the class. You can get the ‘feel’ of the classroom expectations with the first few weeks of class or discuss classroom etiquette with your classmates or professor if you have questions or concerns.

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Adjusting to another culture

Cultural Shock

Culture shock can be described as the feelings one experiences after leaving their familiar, home culture to live in another cultural or social environment. Many people associate culture shock only with extreme changes of going from one country to another, but it can also be experienced closer to home, such as when traveling from one city to another within your own country. Even the most open-minded and culturally sensitive among us are not immune to culture shock.

Dealing with Culture Shock

  • Learn as much as you can about the new location before you go. This means the good, the bad, and the simply different — from time zones, to what side of the street people drive on, to climate/temperature, to foods, political system, culture, customs and religion(s), to "Can you drink the water?" and "What type of electrical outlets do they have?".
  • Remember there will be people who fit the image you create of the typical "Person from Country X" and those who do not. Clinging to stereotypes won't help you to learn more about a new country and its people.
  • Be open-minded and willing to learn. Ask questions. If you are going to a place where people speak a different language, consider taking a few courses in that language.
  • Maintain a sense of humor. (Perhaps the most important!)
  • Knowing that the move will be a challenge, give yourself time. Don't be hard on yourself. 
  • Don't withdraw! Continue to experience the new culture. Travel within the country, and visit cultural events and locations, such as museums or historic sites.
  • Build new friendships.
  • Associate with positive people.
  • Stay active, eat well, get enough sleep.
  • Bring a few touches of home with you, such as photos of favorite locations and family members, your favorite music or favored knickknacks.
  • Keep in touch with people at home by Skype, email, phone, postcards — whatever. This can give you some comfort while away, and it will help you to minimize reverse culture shock when you get back home.

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Cultural adjustment


Americans tend to celebrate many holidays marking historical, cultural and religious events. Some are very formal or somber, while others are silly and fun. During certain national holidays, government offices, banks and other businesses will be closed. For a list of common celebrations, please visit the link below.

Celebrate! Holidays in the U.S.

American Social Customs

University social life 

The best measure of success on any college campus is not only academic achievement but also to what degree you are engaged in clubs or organizations, or how quickly you are able to connect and make friends. Students who are happy on any university campus very often are members of several groups. Even happier students find themselves surrounded by a diverse group of friends who speak a different language and come from a culture that is completely different than yours. Fellow students can help you to appreciate where you come from but more importantly, it also helps you to understand all the wonderful things about their cultures and their traditions.

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For more information please contact:

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