As a student who will be studying in the United States for the first time, you may have many expectations of what this experience will be like or you may have little idea what to expect. No doubt, some things will be exactly as you thought they’d be; others will surprise you. Your feelings during the coming months and years may range from confusion and loneliness to confidence and elation. If you know others who attended Drake or studied at an American university, it may be helpful for you to talk to them. Their advice may help you have more realistic expectations and minimize culture shock. (See section on Culture Shock) Some of your experiences will be similar to the ones you hear about; others will be completely new. In the end, your experiences at Drake will be totally your own!
Campus/Classroom Courtesy and Expectations of American Professors Americans and Iowans are often viewed as quite informal. Drake professors may seem informal in dress, conversation, and classroom atmosphere. But they have high expectations of their students. They expect you to:
Attend every class, unless you are ill. Many will have attendance policies, which lower your class grade if you do not attend. If you cannot attend, call the professor as soon as you know you will miss the class. Ask about the work you will miss and arrange to complete assignments as soon as possible. Failure to do so is considered impolite and irresponsible.
Make appointments when you wish to see someone. Drake faculty and staff are not always in their offices. Even when they are there, they may be preparing to meet with another person, or working on something, which cannot be interrupted. Therefore, an appointment is considered to be respectful, and assures you an opportunity to see the person. If you must miss an appointment, courtesy requires that you call to tell the person as soon as possible.
Be on time for appointments and classes. This usually means arriving two or three minutes EARLY. If you are late to class, you may explain the situation to the professor after class. If you are late for an appointment, you may miss the opportunity to see that person. It is considered courteous to call and tell someone if you will be more than one or two minutes late for an appointment. Being late is considered discourteous.
Read assignments and do all homework. Professors will expect you to understand what you read before it is discussed in class. This includes assignments from textbooks, or handouts given to you in class. They will also often give you deadlines for completion of assignments. Do these on time so you are prepared if a quiz is given.
Listen attentively in classes and take notes, which you can use later when studying. Some students prefer to sit in the front of the class where they can see and hear easily. Some also bring cassette recorders to class and record the lecture.
Type or use a computer to produce papers for class. If you cannot type, you may need to pay someone else to type papers for you.
Do your own work, independently. If you want to work with a friend on a paper or project, ask your professor if this is acceptable. In some cases, working together may be viewed as cheating. For other assignments, a group or team of students will be expected to work together. In this case, be sure you contribute the work you say you will do. The grades of the other students on the team may depend on the work you do.
Ask questions in class. Most professors like a "lively" classroom. Usually they will ask if students have questions or comments during the class or near the end of each class period. Often professors view a question as a sign that you have been listening and are interested in the subject. Silence may be interpreted as disinterest or a lack of understanding. Therefore, asking questions is good.
Ask questions after class, or in a professor's office. If you feel uncomfortable asking questions in class, it is also good to ask them privately in the professor's office. It can have the same positive effect and also gives you a chance to get to know the professor a little bit. Most professors like this. If the professor has office hours that conflict with your class schedule, it is proper to ask if another time is possible for an appointment. Perhaps you can eventually develop the confidence to ask a question in class.
In some classes, discussion is expected. This is similar to asking questions in class. During class discussions you may give your opinion, disagree with students or the professor, or describe your own experiences. Sometimes you will be asked to give more explanation for a statement you make, such as what makes you hold a certain opinion.
Most professors will tell you what they like to be called when they first introduce themselves to you, usually Dr. (Doctor), Professor, Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms., plus their family name. Some professors use their first, or given name. They will usually address you by your given name, or occasionally by Mr. or Ms. plus your family name.
International students often discover that they must make many more decisions than would be necessary at a university in their home country. You must choose a major subject to study, whether or not to change roommates, when to study, etc. You must also choose the courses you want to take, within certain guidelines and with the help of your adviser. Whenever a choice seems difficult you should seek advice from someone, such as a counselor or your academic adviser. When you do not know whom to ask, someone at the International Center can refer you to the right person.