You are on page 1of 2



Academic Culture Shock

Part 1Decisions, decisions!

Julys edition of Culturally Speaking addressed culture shock and

the other stages in the process of acculturation.
As if this process is not enough, international students must also
adjust to the rules and expectations found specifically within
American higher education.
Encountering and adjusting to the differences in classroom ex-
pectations between ones home culture and new culture has been
termed academic culture shock.
This edition and upcoming editions of the newsletter will address
specific aspects of academic culture shock to help shed light on
potential areas in which international students may require addi-
tional information and assistance.

Decision: Field of Study

In a number of countries This is unlike American students to take courses within a variety
around the world, students who often do not choose a spe- of fields, demonstrating breadth
specialize in their studies cialty until they declare their over depth in their studies.
much earlier than students in major in college.
the United States. Additionally, in many cases
Students from early-specializing parents or relatives have a great
Many of these students will countries will likely have gone deal of input on which major a
have a clear sense of their into great depth in certain con- student pursues.
future studies and career by tent, while not having taken
the time they are teenagers, courses in unrelated fields. This ranges to from gentle sug-
and the courses they take will gestions to complete control
reflect this. In the United States, high school over the choice of major.
and college students are expected

Newsletter created by: Danielle Bergez, Academic Liaison for International Student Support,

Decision: Which University

In many parts of the world, entrance receive extra training to prepare for
to university is accomplished solely the exam.
through high-stakes testing.
This would be comparable to an LESS THAN 2 PER-
There is a very clear ranking of univer- American student spending around 15 CENT...FROM A POOL OF

sities and placement into them is often to 20 hours a week for two years, on ROUGHLY 500,000 WHO
determined via a standardized test. top of regular schoolwork, preparing QUALIFY TO TAKE THE


In some countries, students and their THAT REQUIRES TWO
families make great sacrifices of time YEARS OF SPECIALIZED
and resources in order for students to COACHING AFTER SCHOOL
(NAJAR, 2011, PARA . 5).

Decision: Coursework
The high school and college curricu- Students from these areas will have
lum for many, if not most, other had their course schedule handed to
countries tends to be more prescribed them as part of enrolling in their uni-
than that of the United States, leaving versity.
little room for students to choose
courses. Little to no room for changes exists in
such contexts.

Decision: Time Management

Working at a part-time job while a stu- In yet other cases, the role and respon-
dent in university is not an option in sibility of a student is to study and do
many other countries. well in their program. Part-time em-
ployment may not be seen as adding
In some cases, this is because it is not
experience of any particular value.
necessary. Many university students
around the world go to school for free or Not all countries have university sys-
at least for a much lower amount of tui- tems that rely on or encourage univer-
tion than is typically paid in the United sity housing.
In some countries, students live at
In other cases, it is because it is not possi- home or with relatives while enrolled
ble. This might be due to the demands in university which relieves some pres-
of studying or perhaps the absence of sure about the time spent taking care
jobs appropriate for students. of non-academic concerns.


Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence Carnegie Mellon University (n.d.). Recognizing and addressing cultural variations in th e classroom. Retrieved from http://

Heeter, C., Compton, R. A., & Broken Pencil Productions. (2008). 2 million minutes in India: A deeper look at Indian education. Indianapolis, Ind.: Broken Pencil Productions.
Najar, N. (2011, October 13). Squeezed out in India, students turn to U.S. The New York Times. Retrieved from:

Newsletter created by: Danielle Bergez, Academic Liaison for International Student Support,