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The Daily Illini

International students note differences in classroom, social scene

By Aminah Koshul, Staff writer

Although starting college and moving to campus can be a daunting prospect for all freshman, few people find the experience as new and unfamiliar as international students.

Often there are customary aspects of American campus culture that may stand out to foreign students.

Classroom settings at the University are inclined to call for much less discipline. Junyi Tang, senior in LAS, commented about how calling professors by their first name is common in America, but wouldn’t be deemed acceptable in China.

Virupaksh Agrawal, junior in Engineering, expressed similar views. He noted how language directed at the instructor in India would always be more formal than in America.

Agrawal said that perhaps one factor contributing to different levels of classroom discipline was the values taught by each respective culture.

“There are social systems in India that have been in place for centuries without challenge,” he said, “The US, on the other hand, was formed on the basis of rebellion.”

Andy Wu, senior in lAS, spoke in a similar way about his experience as a student in China. To him, classroom settings in China were less engaging, which perhaps could be attributed to East Asian cultures placing a strong emphasis on respect for the elderly as well as knowledge.

“We were required to stand up at the beginning of the class and formally greet our instructors,” he recalled.

In addition, Tang spoke about the college admission process in addition to campus culture in both countries.

America has a more holistic approach that balances academics and extracurricular activities, whereas Chinese universities require a single entrance exam.

“A standardized test to determine college acceptances is held once every year,” he explained.

He said that the need for such clear cut and rigorous exam practices was related to the sheer size of a population of over a billion people. T

he entrance exam placed everyone on equal footing and gave each student a chance to go to college.

Tang recalled his demanding schedule in China, in which school hours lasted from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. In contrast, the freedom and flexibility at the University made for a much less stressful academic career.

Similarly, Agrawal spoke about how the “partial autonomy” of college — the flexibility of classes and required attendance — was different from his experience as a student in India.

Both Wu and Tang also explained how the social setting in China differed from America. The drinking age there is 18 and often times drinking laws aren’t strictly enforced.

Checking ID isn’t as common a practice as it is in America, where drinking or even entering a bar at night requires identification.

Moreover, campus towns allow for more mobility than campuses in China, where students are often segregated by major.

At the University, students of all majors will take general education credits together and participate in extracurricular activities as one campus.

In Wu’s parting advice for his fellow international students, he urged them to become a greater part of the campus community and integrate with other foreign as well as domestic students to gain a better understanding of their surroundings and reap the full benefits of studying in America.

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1 Comment

  • Lance

    Congrats to those who have come from afar because being an international student isn’t easy, given our complex culture and language. Assistance must come from numerous sources to aid these young people embarking on life’s journey. A new award-winning worldwide book/ebook that aids anyone coming to the US is “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It is used in foreign Fulbright student programs and endorsed worldwide by ambassadors, educators, and editors. It also identifies “foreigners” who became successful in the US and how they contributed to our society, including students.

    A chapter on education explains how to be accepted to an American university and cope with a confusing new culture, friendship process and daunting classroom differences. Some stay after graduation. It has chapters that explain how US businesses operate and how to get a job (which differs from most countries), a must for those who want to work for an American firm here or overseas.

    It also has chapters that identify the most common English grammar and speech problems foreigners have and tips for easily overcoming them, the number one stumbling block they say they have to succeeding here.

    Most struggle in their efforts and need guidance from schools’ international departments, immigration protection, host families, concerned neighbors and fellow students, and informative books like this to extend a cultural helping hand so we all have a win-win situation. Good luck to all wherever you study!

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