You can’t learn it all in a classroom. These students share what they know about the U.S.

Group of international students walking (AP Images)
A group of new international students gets a tour of Murray State University in Kentucky. (AP Images)

No matter how well you’ve prepared to study in the U.S., some things about American universities and culture will probably come as a surprise. Eight international students share their discoveries.

Omayra Chuquihuara from Peru (Dept. of State)
(Dept. of State)

Omayra Chuquihuara from Peru

They teach you very technical English in schools in Peru, and you learn colloquial language from movies and TV shows. But once you get here, there are words you never had to use before, like kitty-corner.*  My friend said, “I’ll meet you kitty-corner from my dorm.” I said, “Is there a restaurant called that?”

* “Kitty-corner” means positioned diagonally across from something else.


Patrick Wang (Dept. of State)
(Dept. of State)

Patrick Wang from China

In China, if a person is introduced to a group, he will probably wave to everyone else instead of shaking all their hands like people do in the U.S. When you get closer to someone, you may shake hands. But we don’t do fist bumps.


Eunice Tan (Dept. of State)
(Dept. of State)

Eunice Tan from Malaysia

In the U.S., they emphasize group discussion in universities. There, you have to speak up in class. In Malaysia, it’s more of a lecture environment. Group discussion [in the U.S.] counts toward our grade.


Felipe Aggiunti Yoshida (Courtesy Felipe Yoshida)
(Courtesy Felipe Yoshida)

Felipe Aggiunti Yoshida from Brazil

From what I watched on movies and TV, I thought of Americans as mostly white. However, once here you see that the U.S. is as diverse as Brazil — you can find Americans with all different origins and backgrounds.

Jean-Louis Ntang (Dept. of State)
(Dept. of State)

Jean-Louis Ntang from Cameroon

I was having a personal conversation with my R.A. in the dorms. I kept stepping forward to get closer and he kept stepping back. I said, “Are you uncomfortable with me?” He said: “No, it’s personal space. I need to maintain a distance between you and me. It’s a cultural thing.”

Thiago Serra (Courtesy Thiago Serra)
(Courtesy Thiago Serra)

Thiago Serra from Brazil

I had the idea that people spending five years in the U.S. would all master spoken English. Now I feel that international students spending most of their time at a lab working must also look for ways to socialize, since otherwise their language skills stay the same or improve at a very slow rate. And opportunities for socializing abound if one looks for them. The number of student associations and their purposes is very diverse.


Nodirjon Siddikov (Courtesy Nodirjon Siddikov)
(Courtesy Nodirjon Siddikov)

Nodirjon Siddikov from Uzbekistan

Parents in America expect their children to leave the house and start their own life once they finish college. In my culture, at least one of the children is expected to live with his or her parents to take care of them.

Also, here in the U.S., people always have a plan in their mind — whether it’s a study plan or payment plan.


Daniel Ribeiro Silva (Courtesy Daniel Silva)
(Courtesy Daniel Silva)

Daniel Ribeiro Silva from Brazil

I assumed that Americans were argumentative and always suing each other. That’s a very common image in Brazil, but I was happy to find out it’s not true.

Want to learn more?

For more information about U.S. study, check out CampusUSA and EducationUSA.

On Wednesday, October 29, you can participate in a live webchat, EducationUSA Interactive: Explore Your Options.