Customs and societal expectations vary from country to country, and within the university classroom is no exception. One of the keys to success at a US university is learning the cultural etiquette and basic rules (both official and unspoken). A clear idea of what to expect when you study at an American university will help you feel more comfortable and ultimately get a better education, receive higher grades and have a more rewarding experience.
Speaking in Class
Classes at US universities are often more hands-on and engaged than in other countries. When studying at an American university, you will be expected to speak up and participate (and will gain much more from the class when you do so). Most often, students will raise their hands and wait to be called on by the professor, though in some smaller classes students take turns speaking out in a more conversational format. Since you will likely find the US university environment more interactive than at home, you will need to take initiative to stand out and be heard.
Many international students find the US university classroom atmosphere to be more informal and relaxed than the environment in their home countries. Still, politeness and respect are expected and appreciated, and will help you succeed when studying at an American university. Most professors require you to arrive at class and turn in assignments on time. Distractions like cell phones and laptops (except when being used for classwork) are typically discouraged or disallowed, but many classes allow eating and drinking. Teachers will generally explain the rules for their classroom at the beginning of the semester.
Most US universities have adopted honor codes, sets of rules and expectations that govern what the school considers to be ethical behavior in the community. Students are expected to follow the honor code and act in a trustworthy manner. Consequences for violations such as plagiarism, cheating and lying are enforced by a university council.
Definitions of cheating and plagiarism often vary between cultures, so it’s crucial to learn the expectations when studying at American universities. Because these two factors are so important, we go into details on what they mean and what to expect at US universities below.
Plagiarism is defined as representing another’s ideas as your own. In the United States, intellectual property laws and ideals are highly respected and taken very seriously. It is considered ethically wrong to use someone else’s ideas or words without giving credit. All US universities have rules against plagiarism and have consequences for violations—being aware of this expectation and using citations (references to sources quoted in your assignment) will help you succeed when you study at an American university.
Cheating can include several types of activity, including looking at someone else’s test for answers (or allowing someone to look at yours), having another person complete an assignment for you, using unauthorized notes or study materials (including on an exam) or submitting similar work for two different courses without permission. It’s important to know that helping someone else cheat is treated as strictly as cheating yourself.
Keeping these rules and expectations in mind will help you have an effective and positive educational experience when you are studying at an American university. If you have further questions, US universities usually post their honor codes on their website or in the handbook, and you can always talk directly with your professors.