Adjusting to U.S. Classroom Culture

It’s the first week of classes, which is a very exciting time in any student’s life. As an international student, you may find that the classroom culture is very different from what you’re used to – it’s not just what you learn, but also how you learn! Here are a few ways in which the U.S. classroom culture can be different, to help you anticipate what to expect on your very first day:

Talk to your professors

Professors tend to be less formal in the U.S. They schedule office hours outside of class to encourage students to ask questions about coursework, discuss any concerns they might have, and share opinions and information.

Participate in classroom discussions

Most international students come from an academic environment where teachers are expected to lecture for the entire length of the class while students take detailed notes. In an American classroom, students to a large extent are responsible for their own learning. Professors don’t provide all the answers, leaving students to figure it out for themselves. Students are expected to show up to every class knowing the topic assigned for the day, prepared for an intelligent discussion and debate on the subject matter.

Ask questions and challenge ideas

Professors welcome intelligent questions from students during the lecture. Students are expected to challenge theories and assumptions, evaluate options, and judge the importance of facts in relevance to the subject matter.

The adjustment period to a new classroom style can be challenging, so give yourself time to adapt and allow yourself to make mistakes. Talk to your professor, faculty adviser, counselor, or even a friend about any concerns you might have – remember it’s always okay to seek help. Good luck with your first week of classes, and Fight On!

Written by: Deeksha Lal, OIS Communications Editor, Master of Communication Management, USC Annenberg 2020