Frequently Asked Questions
Not everyone adjusts to a new culture in the same way or experiences the same degree of shock. You should not worry if classmates, friends, or family members adjust differently. The good news is that culture shock does not last forever. As you develop a new routine and learn more about your new surroundings, your life will get easier. You may not always like everything people say and do in the new culture, but you can learn to understand and accept the differences.
Feel free to stop by to talk to an AEC cross-cultural advisor about how you are adjusting to life at KU. The CAPS website also lists suggestions to help you ease the process of adjustment.
- Keep a diary so you can track your learning successes and problems. What problems did you have in your classes? How did you try to solve the problems? Did they work? Why? Why not? Read your entries over several days and weeks. Do you see any new solutions or strategies that work?
- Talk to other students who are particularly successful at learning and using new vocabulary, for example, and ask them how they do it. You may learn a strategy that is new to you.
- Talk to your teacher about particular problems that you may be having. Your language teachers have training in second-language learning strategies and enjoy meeting with students to offer language learning tips in the skill areas they are teaching.
- Systematically assess your strengths and weaknesses and work to develop strategies to address them. AEC cross-cultural advisors can help you set goals that will help you achieve the level of English language skill you want to have when you finish your English language studies. Remember that the more aware and in control you are, the better you will be at learning a foreign language!
*This information was taken from How to be a More Successful Language Learner (2nd edition) - Joan Rubin and Irene Thompson, pp. 70-78.
- Student Union Activities Center which sponsors events like film presentations, live music concerts, art shows, and trips over fall and spring break.
- Student Involvement and Leadership Center which coordinates the 600+ student organizations on campus, which deal with an incredibly wide variety of academic, political, cultural, governmental, recreational, religious, social, and special interest groups.
- Check out the KU Athletics Department for information about upcoming sporting events on campus or on television.
- The University Daily Kansan, the KU student newspaper, provides the latest news and information about KU, including upcoming events.
- The Arts & Entertainment section of the Lawrence Journal-World lists upcoming social and cultural events for Topeka and Kansas City as well as the area around Lawrence.
- Don't forget about various activities sponsored by the AEC throughout the semester such as the conversation groups, school exchange programs, field trips, receptions and picnics. The conversation groups are a good way to meet American students as well as other international students.
We hope that you will see, do, and enjoy many activities and meet many new people while you are at KU. Have fun!
- Divide large assignments into sections, and complete a section each day. Don't wait to begin studying until the night before an exam.
- Take a ten-minute break after each hour of studying or when you change subject areas.
- Set aside a special place for books, notes and study materials. This will save you time looking for them when it is time to study.
- Study where you won't be distracted, for example in the library or in an empty classroom. Make sure the place is quiet, spacious and well-lit.
- Consider studying in the morning instead of at night to avoid distractions.
- Mark important ideas in your textbooks with a highlighter pen or make a light pencil mark in the margin, which can be erased later.
- Write down all homework assignments, tests dates, and paper due dates in a calendar and cross them off as you complete them. This will help you to keep track of assignments and give you a sense of satisfaction.
We hope that the semester goes smoothly for you. If you want more information on study skill habits, please stop by the AEC cross-cultural advisors' office.
Attention to space, distance, and time vary across cultures. In some cultures, instructors often move about the room, while in other cultures, they stand in only one spot. In the U.S., either may be true. In your AEC classes, instructors will typically move around the room. In some cultures, there is no time schedule at all, while in other cultures, such as that of the U.S., schools follow rigid time schedules, sometimes with buzzers or other sounds announcing the change of classes.
Levels of formality can vary across cultures. In some cultures, students rise when an instructor enters the room, and the instructor is always addressed in a formal manner. In the U.S., however, the classroom is sometimes more informal. The instructor will usually say how he or she wants to be addressed at the beginning of the course. While it is always a sign of respect to address an instructor with his or her title (Mr. Jones, Ms. Jackson, Professor Jimenez), some instructors prefer to be addressed by first name only. It is not appropriate in the United States to address an instructor as "Teacher."
Teachers in the U.S. have struggled with this question for many years. In the US gifts for teachers may represent a "thank you" as in your country, but in other cases the gifts may be viewed as an attempt to influence grades. In the United States, teachers are careful to ensure that grades are based on work and participation and that those grades are not influenced by anything else. Also, when one student brings a gift, other students may feel that they must bring gifts also. Or, worse, they may believe that a gift is necessary to ensure a good course grade.
If you want to show respect, thanks or admiration for a teacher, it is all right to bring a teacher a small, inexpensive gift. It is not customary in this culture for teachers to receive expensive gifts from students. Therefore, a large or expensive gift, regardless of your financial ability to give one, will probably be refused. This could cause embarrassment for both you and your teacher. Because accepting gifts can complicate the teacher-student relationship, you might want to wait until after the end of the semester to give one. We also suggest that you give gifts in your teacher's office rather than in the classroom. In the U.S., gifts for teachers are never expected. However, a small present will be appreciated for the kindness it is. As we say in English, "It's the thought that counts."
In general, on U.S. college campuses, people wear informal clothing, such as slacks, blue jeans, and t-shirts, for most daily activities like working, teaching, and attending classes. Informal clothing on college campuses is an accepted fashion, not an indication of social, academic or financial status. It may also be a reflection of a commonly held belief that we work and learn better when we are comfortable, and these are the clothes in which we feel most comfortable.
There is also some informality in behavior in the English language classroom. For example, we often address teachers by their first names and hold open discussions in the classroom. One of the reasons for this is that in the U.S. we believe that students learn best in a comfortable, open atmosphere where people know and trust each other. In most U.S. English programs, students and teachers spend a great deal of time together and need to feel relaxed and comfortable practicing language, sharing ideas, and making mistakes. When formality is reduced in the classroom, the comfort level usually increases. This lack of formality is also a reflection of a common cultural belief of equality. While the teacher holds a superior position in the classroom, this does not suggest that the teacher is superior to the student as a person.
This informality and belief in equality do not suggest, however, that the teacher is unprofessional or that there are no rules about acceptable behavior in the classroom. Students are expected to be on time, to do their best work, to be respectful of teachers and classmates, and to follow any rules teachers may make. In return for this respect from the students, teachers are expected to respect students and their ideas and to appreciate their contributions to the class.
Your teachers here expect you to answer questions, ask questions, and work in groups with other students. You may sometimes find it especially difficult or uncomfortable to work with your classmates in small groups. However, you can learn to be a good group member and to benefit from working with others. Small group discussions provide more opportunity for everyone in class to participate, and they also help to develop analytical and critical thinking skills. Furthermore, they will help prepare you for your university classes which will also require group work and participation. Here are some tips for successful participation in discussion groups:
- Be prepared by reading and preparing assignments before class. Know what the discussion will be about and you will be more confident in sharing your ideas.
- Take responsibility for a role in the group. Various functions in group dynamics include guiding or managing the discussion, taking notes of the discussion, managing the use of time in the discussion, and reporting or summarizing the discussion for the whole class.
- Pay attention to what others have to say. Other students' viewpoints will help you learn more, and listening carefully will keep you focused on the topic. Also, pay close attention to the nonverbal aspects of participation, such as when and how people use eye contact, facial expressions, and other body language to signal their desire to take a turn in the discussion.
- Ask questions when you don't understand something. It is likely that others will appreciate the clarification as well. As you share with the group, it is courteous to recognize what others have said. Also, pay attention to how others understand what you are saying. Be prepared to rephrase your ideas to make yourself clear.
- Be flexible in your views so that the group can come to a consensus. Be ready to incorporate others' views to help meet the group's discussion goals.
- Make sure that everyone has the opportunity to speak. Be aware of how much of the discussion time you are using to share your views.