Enhancing International Students’ Understanding of US Higher Education and Culture
This mini-course is composed of three one-and-a-half hour sessions intended to give current or future international students in a deeper understanding of US higher education culture and practices and to facilitate their success in these institutions. The methodology in each session will involve the following: a) presentation of new information b) application of that information in open-ended case studies c) Use of the Socratic method by reserving a significant part of each session specifically for questions and comments from course participants. Each session of the mini-course will have an article or reading which the student should have read before the sessions. Brief videos may be used to illustrate points in the presentations or related issues.
At the conclusion of this mini-course the student will: a) be able to accurately contrast US higher education culture and practices with those of the student’s home county b) have a deeper understanding of US culture and how it influences students’ experiences in colleges and universities and c) develop practical approaches to overcoming challenges which may present themselves in the US higher education setting.
Topic: Contrasting US Higher Education with Systems in Other Nations
- Credit system for college and university courses vs. credit by examination systems.
- Differences in evaluation systems: Objective vs. subjective items.
- Understanding the nuances of objective questions in your second language.
- Different views of cooperation in evaluative tasks.
- Academic advisement: potential problems
- Cooperation with fellow students on group evaluative tasks.
- Participation during class.
- Using the professor as a resource or using other offices in your university as resources.
- Formality or informality as norms in higher education systems.
- Thinking of your professor as a future reference.
This session will involve a case study concerning the adaptation of international students to various evaluative tasks in US higher education which differ from those they are accustomed to in their home counties. At the end of the case study, a series of open-ended questions will be posed. These questions will allow the participant to apply some of the information from the presentation to hypothetical US college experiences. The purpose of this exercise is not to arrive at a single “correct answer, but rather to explore options which are feasible to resolving the dilemmas posed in the case study.
This final segment of the session is not programmed, but is open for student questions and comments as well as the ability to have a frank dialogue with the professor.
Topic: US Culture and Practices
- Understanding regional differences in the United States.
- Understanding racial, ethnic, language, religious and class differences.
- Assessing your knowledge of US culture, geography and practices.
- Understanding the average American’s exposure to other nations, international geography and practices.
- How to expand your cultural literacy and navigate “naiive questions”.
- Navigating formal US higher education culture: policy or student manuals and written documents.
- Navigating “informal higher education culture”. What some others seem to know but is not included in the student manual.
- Establishing relationships with Americans inside and outside colleges and universities.
- “Language issues” which arise even if you speak English. (slang, regionalisms and double meanings of words).
This case study will involve international students applying the norms of their home educational systems to situations in US colleges and universities. The questions posed will involve how to best resolve the misunderstanding and confusion presented in the case study. Also, students may apply some of the concepts in the presentation to resolve the dilemmas posed in the case study.
Students will have an opportunity to ask questions and/or engage in a free-flowing dialogue with the professor.
Topic: Practical Approaches and Solutions
- Using other international students who have more experience as “culture brokers”.
- Developing friendships with US students who can serve as “culture mentors” to US culture.
- Joining clubs and student organizations at your college or university.
- Becoming familiar with the “Writing Laboratory” and “Academic Tutoring Services” if you need assistance.
- Using the services of the Office of International Students.
- Finding a counselor with an international background.
- Seeking professors with international backgrounds and showing interest in their work/research.
- Combatting social isolation and acculturative stress.
- Adapting to a US style of academic communication
- Becoming a “proactive” rather than a “reactive student”.
This case study will pose a series of “communication dilemmas” which could be faced by international students in US colleges. They will involve international students who speak English as a second language as well as some who speak it as a first language. The last example is included because all language is spoken in a cultural context. It is possible for two speakers who understand all the words being said (but interpret them in different cultural contexts) to still not communicate clearly.
Questions and/or a free-flowing dialogue with the professor.
Your professor, Dr. Carlos Diaz has 36 years experience as a college and university professor. He has travelled to 6 continents and 92 nations.