Studying abroad is a valuable program for international students as it is intended to increase the students' knowledge and understanding of other cultures. International education not only helps students with their language and communicating skills, but also encourages students to develop a different perspective and cross cultural understanding of their studies which will further their education and benefit them in their career.
Certain distinctions and differences can become sources of cultural shock and cultural misunderstandings that can lead a student to inhibit adaptation and adjustment. For example, a key requirement in many foreign institutions is participation. Failure to participate in the classroom with faculty can be a serious obstacle to academic success and if it is coupled with the view that professors are to be held in awe, then the problem can be reflected in the grades given for class participation. Lack of participation can be interpreted by faculty as failure to learn the course content or disinterest in the topic.
Some of the identified distinctions are:
Semester system has three models, they are (1) the semester system comprising two terms, one in fall and one in winter/spring (summer term is not required); (2) the trimester system comprising three terms that includes summer (one of these terms can be a term of vacation); and (3) the quarter system comprising the four terms of fall, winter, spring, and summer, and in which the student can choose one of them to take as a vacation.
The schedule of the classes is a standard five-day week for classes, but the instruction hours in a week may be divided into a variety of models. Two common models of choice are Monday/Wednesday/Friday (MWF) and Tuesday/Thursday (TT) model. As a result, the class hours per week are the same, but the length of time per class for the MWF will be different from the TT.
Most foreign institutes values ideologies of fairness and independence. This standards ensure the rights and responsibilities of all students, regardless of background. Most institutions that define the rights and responsibilities of their students also provide a code of conduct to guide their behavior. Because independence and freedom comes with responsibilities.
Certain immigration regulations allow international students to gain practical experience during their studies through employment in their field of study like an internship during your study, and at other times for one year of employment after you complete your studies. The eligibility factors are often disseminated through international students office at the college or university.
Faculty differ both in rank and by the duration of their contracts. They are (1) Distinguished teaching and research faculty hold the most honored rank among faculty. They typically have the doctoral degree and are usually tenured (i.e. on a permanent contract with the school until they retire) and record of their personal excellence accounts for their standing; (2) Emeritus professors are honored faculty who have retired from the university but continue to teach or undertake research at colleges and universities; (3) Full professors are also tenured and hold the doctoral degree. It is length of service and the support of departmental chairpersons, colleagues, and administrators that leads to the promotion to this rank; (4) Associate professors typically hold the doctoral degree and are the most recent to receive tenure; (5) Assistant professors may or may not yet have their doctoral degrees and have held their teaching or research posts for less than seven years; (6) Instructors are usually the newest faculty. They may or may not hold the doctoral degree and are working towards tenure; (7) Adjunct professors and visiting professors may hold professorial rank at another institution. They are not tenured (usually retained on a year by year contract) and they are often honored members of the university community.
Most institutes that accept international students have faculty who are leaders that can integrate best elements of teacher centered and learner centered pedagogical styles that integrates and leads students of every diversity to a path of success. They are careful not to obstruct a student with their own personality or achievements and maintain a resourceful, open and supportive "holding environment". Simplified, meaningful resource dissemination and engaging students in participatory and active learning is the key to this mixed learning. Lack of skill in handling such pedagogical methods might result in straining the students (taking classes in a faster pace disregarding the quality and quantity of the information transferred) and at other instances downgrade into a liberal laissez-faire style which might affect negatively on students performance. The skill of the tutor is exemplified in many forms one such is when they are able to keep some students from dominating (attention seeking, disruptive or disrespectful) and to draw in those who are reticent in a participatory section.
Students are expected to know the content of their courses from the class website (structure of the course, frame of references, jargon's) and to think independently about it and to express their own perspectives and opinions in class and in their written work. Open disagreement is a sign of violent intentions in certain cultures and in other cultures it is merely expressing one’s opinion, this aspect can be challenging if proper people skills is absent in the group and group development isn't given importance. Similar is the case with asking questions, in certain classroom cultures it is tolerated asking vague questions and this is interpreted as a sign of interest from the student whereas in other cultures asking vague questions is a display of ignorance in public that results in loss of face and embarrassment. There are also certain institutes and cultures that disallow student discussion at certain topics and keep limitations to what can be discussed and punitive means for deterring from topics that shouldn't be discussed. But often direct communication is considered vital for academic survival.
Foreign university programs differ from structured programs of universities in certain countries. In each quarter the student is given choice to select the courses they deem important to them for gaining credits, there is no proportion between no. of courses that a student can take and program fees for the quarter. But they require to gain certain no. of credits to pass a quarter which is calculated from the grades that they obtain from the courses and this credits have little to do with the actual credit hours spent for each courses, for these courses students have to pre-register. Though its an open structure for course selections, students might require to take certain compulsory courses for the program as maintained by departments for degree standardization.
Foreign institutions differ in their requirement of the content that a student require to be familiarized with and this difference is identifiable in programs which have similar objectives and structure but of different universities. Some may be professional oriented and thus give importance to depth in certain areas and some might be for providing a breadth of knowledge on the subject. Commonly, some institutes might require to master the essentials of a subject as a whole while others might require to master large quantities of content on the subject which might not seem practical in a framework of short period of time. More accessible institutions provide syllabus of their previous and current programs and courses for better pre- and post- program communication.
Classroom etiquette may differ from institute to institute. In western institutes the old standard of practice for students to address faculty is by their last name and the title "Professor", but it is not uncommon for faculty to be on a first-name basis with students today. However it is a good etiquette to check with the faculty member before addressing him or her by their first name only. Both students and faculty often dress very informally, and it is not unusual for faculty to roam the classroom while talking or to sit on the edge of a table in a very relaxed posture. Relaxed dress and posture are not, however, signs of relaxed standards of performance. Sometimes faculty, administrators, and even staff may sometimes hold receptions or dinners for their students. In that case, students should ask what the dress should be for the occasion; sometimes students will be expected to wear professional dress (suit coat and tie for men, and a suit or more formal dresses for women). Faculty wouldn't be caring even if they elicit the need of participation in classroom or as personally involved with students even if they engage students in frameworks/styles the student might understand the topic. This is because the faculty-student relationship is considered to be professional. Relationships in the West are most often determined by some kind of function. Here the function is guidance, education and skill development.
In occidental institutions students are evaluated in many ways, including exams, papers, lab reports, simulation results, oral presentations, attendance and participation in classroom discussion. The instructors use a variety of types of exams, including multiple choice, short answer, and essay. Most adept instructor's provide guides or models of assignment construction, framing and on asking questions and how to prepare for their exams. Most students are expected to be creative in presentation (to avoid similarity in paper submissions), systematic in formatting (citation: Style guide) and invested for drawing and providing positive individualism to the group/class (group purpose, role identity for autonomy, positive thinking, value oriented responsible self-expression, etc. vs. attendant selfishness, alienation, divisiveness, etc.) aligned with the common development objective.
Relationships are an important part of the foreign academic experience and for healthy social support. Relationships with faculty (instructors and academic advisor's) are very important for academic success and for bridging cultural gap. But in off campus venues, appreciate their life outside of campus and every time you view one another as individuals, avoid asking favors that can affect teacher student comfort zones and expect cautiousness from them in an attempt to avoid notions of favoritism and friendliness to break down barriers of role and culture.
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