Living in a culture that is different from your own can be both an exciting adventure and a challenging process. Regardless of what country you are from, it is common for all international students to go through a period of cultural adjustment. Understanding this adjustment process and getting support through this transition will help you to have a more fulfilling experience, both academically and personally.
The values, social norms, and traditions in the U.S. may be very different from beliefs about "how things should be" in the country where you grew up. When individuals move to another culture, they naturally carry their own background and life experiences with them, and these shape how they perceive and adjust to their new environment. For example, some of you may find American classroom culture easy to adjust to, while others may struggle significantly in this area. "Culture shock" is a common experience that describes the feelings of confusion, stress, and disorientation that occur when entering an unfamiliar culture. Keep in mind that not everyone has the same reactions to cultural adjustment and may experience the symptoms of culture shock in varying degrees and at different times. Common reactions to culture shock include:
Adapting to a new culture is an ongoing process. It may be challenging at times, but most students who experience culture shock agree that going through this transition helped them to learn more about themselves and to develop greater confidence in their ability to navigate new situations. It can also lead to a renewed appreciation of one's own culture. There are many people in the university community who are available to provide you with support. Keep in mind that you do not have to struggle alone.
Adapted from https://www.cmhc.utexas.edu/cultureadjustment.html
The American classroom is very unique. Many international students have never seen anything like it.
There are different types of university classes. That is, they are taught in different formats. The most common format is a lecture.
A lecture is a speech delivered by a professor that is relevant to the class topic of the day. The lecture will be different in each class session. They are most frequently delivered in large classes.
During lectures, you should take notes that will help you prepare for exams later.
A seminar is based on class discussion. That is, the professor will present a topic. This topic might be taken from the most recent reading assignment. She/he will begin a discussion, and then the students will participate. The seminar format is typically used in small to midsize classes.
In a seminar, you are expected to speak up. You are allowed to disagree with someone else as long as you are respectful and explain why. Ask questions of both your professor and other students. Creativity is encouraged. (See the section on Participation, below.) You should take notes in seminars to help you prepare for exams. Your notes will also serve as a reference when you write papers.
Get to know all your professors. Even if you don’t need help, introduce yourself. It is a good relationship to build, both for now and in the future.
Professors have office hours that are usually included in the syllabus or posted in Canvas. (A syllabus is a list of assignments and other information necessary for the semester.) Office hours are blocks of time when students can visit professors in their offices. This is a good time to discuss classwork or to ask for help if you have concerns or struggles.
Office hours might conflict with your classes and activities. Your professor can still help you. You’ll need to schedule an appointment to see them. Your professor's contact information is usually found on the syllabus.
Remember: You must go see professors on your own. They will rarely invite you to meet. If you have something to discuss, take the initiative to schedule a meeting.
When you participate in discussions, remember a few things:
Americans are very sensitive about copying work done by someone else. If you don’t credit someone else’s work, it’s plagiarism, which is stealing someone else’s work or ideas. It is considered cheating.
This applies to many situations. Suppose you are writing a paper. You have proposed a thought. You want to support that point with a fact. You may have read this fact in a book.
If that fact goes into your paper, you must cite the book. There are many ways to do this.
Citing work doesn’t just apply to books. If someone else said or wrote it, you must credit them. This applies to:
Don’t feel overwhelmed. Once you do one bibliography, it’s easy to do more. For more information on bibliographies and citations, visit the ENC Library website: http://libguides.enc.edu/citations
Don’t let fear of plagiarism keep you from being original. You can still be creative. Think of your paper as a private seminar. You can propose as many original thoughts as you want. No one can interrupt you. But remember:
Many international students are not used to this. In the U.S., students are encouraged to think and speak independently. They are encouraged to question what they are taught. This is uncommon in many other countries. It might take some time before you are comfortable enough to speak up.
If you have any doubts, ask your professors. Chances are, they will encourage you to be creative.
It’s important to pay attention and listen carefully to what your professor and classmates say. Note what is taught in reading materials. But reflect on them. If they don’t make sense, ask why. If you disagree, say why.
You may want to open a checking or savings account with a bank in the United States. These accounts are places to store your money. They help you keep track of money you are earning, spending, and saving.
This is different from a credit card. With a checking or savings account, you can only spend money that you already have. With a credit card, you can spend money that you have to pay back in the future, often with high fees or other penalties. (All college students are cautioned to be very careful about using credit cards.)
You are able to deposit money into both checking and savings accounts. Many employers (including ENC) offer a direct deposit option so that your paycheck is electronically deposited into your account.
When you open a checking account, you get paper checks. You can use them to pay for goods, services, or bills. The business you pay using a check will have to process your check before the amount is deducted from your checking account.
You can also get a debit card. A debit card can pay for things without writing out a paper check. This card is similar to a credit card. It is plastic and equipped with a number. But when you pay with a debit card, money is immediately deducted from your checking account. For credit cards, however, the balance can be paid later.
If you need cash from your checking account, you can use an automated teller machine (commonly called the “ATM”) to remove money from your account. Your debit card can be used to access an ATM.
You might choose to open a savings account. A savings account is good for storing money that you don’t need to spend right away. This money is good to save for emergencies or special occasions.
You might have to remove money from your savings account. You might also want to move it to a different account, such as your checking account. This requires a transfer, which your bank can help you with. Depending on your bank, you may also be able to use an ATM to withdraw money from your savings account as cash.
Most banks have websites that can let you handle many banking transactions online, such as:
These websites can also let other people that you trust access your account. You might want to give your parents access. That way, they can deposit money into your account(s) in case of an emergency. Choose these people carefully.
When you come to the United States, you will want to be able to communicate with friends and family at home. You will also want to communicate with new friends you meet here. There are many ways to communicate in the U.S. Most are very easily accessible.
Mobile phones (usually called 'cell phones' in the U.S.) are almost more common in the U.S. than landlines. For many people, the cell phone is the only one they have or need. There are two ways to buy a mobile phone.
Calling cards are another affordable calling option that you can use from any telephone. These are not the same as credit cards.
Like a prepaid mobile phone, you pay in advance for a certain number of minutes that the card will provide. After you buy the card, it will provide you with a toll-free number (a number free to dial from any phone) and an access code to make phone calls. Calling cards come with dialing instructions in many languages.
Read the card’s packaging carefully before you pay for it. You want to make sure it allows enough minutes for your needs. Also, make sure you can use it to call the country you need to reach. Most calling cards can also be used for domestic calls within the U.S.
To send and receive email, you’ll need access to a computer, smartphone, or tablet that connects to the Internet. Most U.S. colleges and universities have plenty of public computers for students in libraries and labs. To use these computers, you will need your campus email address and password.
To do work in your room, class, or other locations, you will likely want to buy your own computer. If so, it is recommended that you purchase a laptop. That way, if you need to travel elsewhere (like the library or a café) to get work done, your computer can come with you.
You can always purchase a computer online, either new or used. If you’ve never bought your own computer before, it might be best to buy a new one from a store. That way, you can speak with an expert and avoid certain problems. Before you go into the store, be prepared with information for the sales representatives:
Many stores specialize in selling computers. Some of them are:
The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (or MBTA) is Boston’s public transportation system. This far-reaching system of buses, subways/trains, and even some ferry boats can take you through the neighborhoods surrounding ENC's campus into the downtown area of Boston and other communities. Tickets can be purchased at train stations, or you can get a "Charlie Card" that you can fill up in advance to pay fares for trains and buses. (Check here for current pricing information.)
Since ENC's campus is located about a mile from the nearest train station and is located directly on a bus route, public transportation is a good, affordable option for students who live off campus to get to class. No matter where you live, it’s a great way to get to work, shops, and restaurants throughout the metropolitan Boston area.
Like any bus or train, all public transportation runs on a schedule. If you are going to use public transportation to get somewhere, always check the schedule first. This will help you get to your destination and back home on time. You can find information about the local transportation system here: https://www.mbta.com/
In most American restaurants, your check will not include gratuity. This might change if you are with a large group of people. When the check arrives, see if it includes a tip. Ask your server if you’re unsure.
It is considered extremely rude not to leave a tip. The standard amount is 15% of the check’s total. For outstanding service, people leave an 18% or 20% tip.
To calculate your tip:
Before you go to the restaurant, find out if there is a dress code. All restaurants require a shirt and shoes. Most chain restaurants do not have a specific dress code. The dress code is sometimes on the restaurant’s website. You can always call the restaurant and ask. Here are some common dress codes:
Most American restaurants have free refills for non-alcoholic drinks. If you order one and finish it, your glass will be refilled for free. This typically applies to drinks like soda, iced tea, juice, non-bottled water. If you order a bottled drink, you will have to pay for every bottle you order.
Water and soda are always served with ice. If you do not like ice in your drink, tell the server.
In the US, the legal age for alcohol consumption is 21. ENC has a policy prohibiting all students from drinking alcoholic drinks, even if they are above the legal age.