Five Things That Have Surprised Me About College Life in America

Posted June 3rd, 2015 at 4:51 pm (UTC-4)
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Triwik at Ohio University, United States

Triwik at Ohio University, United States

Hi all!

My name is Triwik, and I am a summer intern here at VOA Learning English. Every week, I will write a blog post here about my experiences as an international student in the United States.

I am from Surakarta, Indonesia. I am currently studying for my master’s degree at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. This is my first time studying in the U.S. I received my bachelor’s degree in economics in Indonesia.

I began my master’s degree program in the fall of 2014. I have already noticed many differences between universities in the U.S. and universities in Indonesia.  It has been a challenge for me studying in the U.S. because Indonesia has a different academic culture than that of in the U.S.

Here are a few things that have surprised me:

*One major difference is class participation. Here in the U.S., students are encouraged to be active and involved in discussions. You are free to share your thoughts and opinions in class. University students in Indonesia, on the other hand, somehow tend to be “passive” as they only listen to the lecturers.

*Second, in terms of lecturer-student interaction, the relationship between lecturers and students in the U.S. is less formal. My professors at Ohio University, for instance, asked me to use their first names instead of using “Professor” or their last names. In Indonesia, it is a different situation. To address your lecturer, you have to call him/her “Mr.” or “Mrs.” It is considered impolite to use only first name.

*As for the clothing, Indonesian students have to dress “properly”—no flip-flops, no shorts, and no sleeveless tops. In the U.S., you can wear all of those in class! One thing that I like in the U.S. is that you can eat and drink in class! I cannot do that in my home country because eating and drinking in class would be considered impolite.

*Writing research papers and keeping up with the readings are the most challenging tasks for me. A professor might assign 100-page of reading materials per week. At first, it was hard for me to do all of the readings. But better time management has helped me keep up with the reading requirements.

*Since English is not my mother tongue, writing research papers in English is not easy either. I went to the university’s writing center for help. The center provides tutors to help students with writing research papers or essays.

It has been nine months since I started studying in the U.S. In that short time, I feel that I have adjusted myself to the active-learning system of American academic culture.

Do you have any questions for me about studying at U.S. universities? Have you studied in another country before? Write to us in the comments section! 




Confessions of an English Learner is a place for you to practice your writing and share the joys and pains of learning the language. We will post a weekly prompt, to give you a chance to practice your writing and to comment on others’ writing.


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