Social Life at
WWU- American Way of Life

When you arrive on campus you will want to get involved. The Student Involvement Office at WWU can assist you in the clubs, sororities and fraternities available on campus. These associations are often excellent ways to make friends. WWU also has an Office of Student Life and an Office of Multicultural Affairs which host many events and activities on campus where you will be able to meet other students.

Student Life in America may be a very different experience from that to which you are accustomed. If you will be living on campus, remember that the residence hall rooms are small and bathrooms are shared. You may find that the noise level is much higher than you are used to. Try to find a quiet place on campus, such as the Library, where you can go if you are feeling overwhelmed. If you require a lot of privacy or quiet time, it may be to your benefit to pay for a single room if there are any available.

Culture Shock

Some new students experience "culture shock" when they first arrive on campus. "Culture shock" is the name given to the feeling of disorientation and confusion when a person leaves a familiar setting and moves to an unfamiliar place.Here are some helpful suggestions in dealing with culture shock:

  • Remember that is is natural for you to experience culture shock.
  • Get plenty of rest to deal with the stress and jet lag that you may experience.
  • Try to relax, take naps if you feel overwhelmed.
  • Take time to think and/or talk through your feelings.
  • Put little things that bother you into perspective. Is the problem really so bad?
  • Make an effort to be optimistic, but not to the point of avoiding negatives that should be expressed.
  • Make your new home environment as comfortable as possible.
  • Make friends as quickly as possible. If there are others of your nationality on campus, get acquainted.It will give you a support system.
  • Keep in touch with your friends and family members.
  • Find someone you can talk to in your native language if possible.
  • Try not to compare and search out "things like home". Things are different! Enjoy and explore those differences.
  • Always, always keep an open mind and a sense of humor.

Another name given to the emotional effect of leaving home is called "homesickness".Although it is not a disease, "homesickness" can make you feel tired, depressed, and very emotional. International students are not the only students who experience "homesickness".Keep this in mind and seek out American students who are also far away from home and family. Remember that some Americans students do not leave home until they attend college and they are experiencing the same emotions as you.

Your Rights in the U.S.

Even though you are not an American citizen, you do have rights to which you are entitled while you are in the U.S. If someone is purposely offending you by calling you names, harassing you in anyway, or making unwelcome sexual advances, ask them to stop. If the behavior continues, seek out your advisor and report the incident. No one has the right to treat you in a harmful way, physically or emotionally, during your stay. If you are having problems with your roommate, speak to your Community Advisor or to the Office of Residential Life and they will assist you with the problem.

If you are offended by behavior that is not made directly towards you, such as cursing in general, or something that may be disrespectful to your gender or religion in your country, keep in that people may not realize they are offending you.Try not to take offense and if possible, leave the situation.If it is an instructor, explain to them why the action or words are offensive.

You have the right for legal representation if you are convicted of a crime.

American Behavior

American Ways, by Gary Althen is an excellent bookthat is extremely helpful explaining about Americans and their culture.You may find it helpful during your stay in the US.

The first thing to remember about Americans is their strong sense of “individualism.”Americans are taught from a very early age that they are separate individuals who are responsible for their own behavior and actions.They are not raised to see themselves as members of a “group.”Group meaning “close-knit, tightly interdependent family, religious group, tribe, nation, or other collectively.” They dislike being dependent on other people and some people from other countries may view this as selfish or being self-centered.Others may view it as healthy freedom from the constraints that they were under at home.

Americans have founded their nation on the idea today that “all men are created equal.” This is interpreted to mean all people are created equal. You will find that women in the U.S. are as assertive as men. This may not be the case in your country and it may be difficult for you to adjust to women being placed in an authoritative position. Try to be as understanding of American ways as you would like Americans to be of your ways.

Americans place considerable value on punctuality. They tend to organize their activities by means of a schedule. (Your classes will be picked to fit into a schedule.)

Americans are generally very friendly and appear to be very open with you when you meet them; they readily welcome and are willing to help newcomers. It takes a long time however, for friendships (close friendships between people) to develop. In the United States people enjoy doing things together and exchanging ideas, which can lead to friendship. However “friends” may not become deeply involved in each other’s personal affairs or even spend a great deal of time together.

For example, Americans often talk about their children and family activities, but they are generally reluctant to discuss family problems. Americans are reserved about discussing financial matters and will often avoid answering questions about their income or the cost of their possessions. Generally, Americans are interested in discussions about politics, religion, local and international events and hobbies. They are curious about how people live in other parts of the world and are willing to talk about their own way of life. You do not have to discuss any subject that is difficult for you, but when friends exchange views with honesty and mutual respect, they gain new insights and understanding.

Americans often indicate their interest in others by asking them questions.Their questions to you indicate an eagerness to learn about your country and culture.Even the most basic information is of interest to them.

To answer their questions you can:

  • Share photographs from home.
  • Share a book from your country.
  • Share a CD or tape of popular music.
  • Discuss events that are happening in your country.

Social Customs

Americans, like all people, have unique social customs. By observing Americans and asking them questions, you can learn about others.

Invitations: Americans make statements such as “You must come to see us” or “See you later.” This kind of friendly statement is not necessarily an invitation. An invitation specifies a time, date and place. It is polite to respond to an invitation with either “yes” or “no.” A “yes” answer requires you to attend unless you call to cancel. You can always decline an invitation from your hosts; it is polite to say “no” or “no, thank you.” If you find you must cancel a meeting or social engagement, inform your host as early as possible. It is considered impolite to accept an invitation and not attend without any explanation.

Dress

Everyday dress is appropriate for most people’s homes. You may want to dress more formally when attending a holiday dinner or cultural event, such as a concert or theatre performance. If you are uncertain about what to wear, ask your host.

Dress for attending class is very casual. Most students wear jeans, t-shirts, slacks, button up shirts, or shorts and sandals. You might find that some instructors dress in what is considered “office casual”, which are slacks and a nice polo-style shirt. Most do not wear a suit and tie to class.

Introductions and Greetings

It is proper to shake hands with everyone to whom you are introduced, both men and women. Students do not usually address each other in this manner when introduced. Usually a “Hi, how are you doing?” or “Nice to meet you” phrase is used. If you want to introduce yourself to someone, extend your hand for a handshake and say, “Hello, I am…..” Some Americans greet each other with a hug, if they are well acquainted. If you do not wish to be hugged, extend your hand quickly for a handshake.

Dining Customs

When asked to join someone for lunch or dinner at a restaurant in town, casual dress is usually sufficient. Most eating establishments in town have informal dining, and many are what is considered “fast-food.” Remember that if someone asks you to join them for lunch, expect to pay for your own meal. When it comes time to pay for your meal if your guest says, “This is on me”, or “I’ve got it”, it will be up to you to accept the invitation to pay.

Pets

Many Americans have pets, especially dogs and cats, which are often allowed in their homes. If the presence of pets makes you uncomfortable, just tell your host and they will usually accommodate your wishes. There are regulations in the residence halls concerning pets and you should contact the Student Life Department for questions.

Telephone Etiquette

Ask permission before using anyone’s phone, if it is not yours. Long distance calls can be expensive, and it is viewed as being rude if you use people’s belongings without their permission. If you do not have a cell phone with an international plan, you might want to invest in a calling card, which is a pre-paid card with an allotted amount of minutes, so that you can phone home. Telephones can be placed in your residence hall room upon request.

Social Media

Many students enjoy using communication tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media outlets to communicate with friends and family and to share pictures and activities with others. This can be an excellent way to get to know people and to show your activities to people back home. Just remember to use social media with caution and remember that once your pictures and notes are on the internet, they may be accessed by people you do not know or by agencies that may not find your activities acceptable. You would not want to post anything that might jeopardize your F-1 visa status.

Academics

Academic expectations may be different in the U.S. than your home country. Talking to other students and developing good relationships with your professors will help you understand how the departments function. Keep in mind that it often takes one semester for American students to adjust to campus life and with the added adjustment of a new culture, it may seem difficult for you to find your place at first. Do not become discouraged.

Your professor or instructor has the discretion to make and enforce certain classroom policies relating to attendance, make-up examinations, and other issues. Lectures are the primary form of undergraduate instruction in the US. The standard size of the classroom at WWU is approximately 20 students. Although attendance may not be recorded, you are nevertheless expected to attend. Be present for the first day of class. Professors usually discuss their attendance policies and other expectations in the first meeting of the course. In most classes a syllabus will be provided by the instructor, which is the outline describing the course objectives, materials to be covered, due dates for assignments, and schedule of exams and reference reading. It is essential to study this carefully for information which the instructor may not mention in class. You may be surprised by the amount of reading that is expected for every course besides the reading of the assigned textbook.

Some professors will require that all homework be typed. If you do not have a computer, take advantage of the computer lab that is offered at WWU. There will be someone on site to assist you if needed.

Testing may take various forms. Objective questions have only one right answer and include true or false, sentence completion (fill-in-the-blanks), multiple choice, and matching. They cover a broad range of material and demand a particular type of studying. Many exams include one or two questions requiring essays of several pages, or several questions requiring a paragraph or two each.

In many cultures, stronger students may help their weaker students during a test or an exam. Do not attempt to help anyone when a test is being given in the US. When taking a test, American students are expected to demonstrate by themselves what they have learned in class. Talking during exams, bringing written notes, copying from another’s paper, or having someone else do your work is considered cheating. Some professors may allow what is considered “open book” tests, but they will explain to you before the testing what material can be used to aide you during the test.

Plagiarism, intentionally or knowingly representing the words or ideas of another person as your own, is not allowed. Make sure you understand the difference between quoting another person’s work and plagiarizing.

Grades can be accessed on the William Woods Website via Owlnet. Owlnet is your personal portal on the WWU website. You will be given an Owlnet account when you arrive.

There are some American student behaviors that you may find surprising or that would be considered disrespectful in your country. Students may sit with feet on the chair or desk in front of them. They may eat, drink, or even sleep in class. Students may interrupt lectures to ask questions or raise objections to what is being discussed. In general, this behavior is not considered disrespectful unless done in a belligerent or aggressive manner. In fact, one way in which an American student shows respect for his or her teacher is by being an active participant in class.

Resources

We are very excited to have you on campus. Our international students are an integral part of our community. We are invested in your success. Please do not hesitate to ask a lot of questions and to let someone know if you have a need. Two excellent resources to help you on campus are:

Office of Student Life: (573) 592-4239

Registrar’s Office: (573) 592-4248

Office of Multicultural Affairs: (573) 592-4358

©