Guest Post by Anu (PhD Candidate at University of New Mexico)
The most striking feature of US is its lifestyle. The social culture and matters may sound to be interesting but also builds anxiety in students who visit US for the first time. Although experiences might vary from person to person and location where they reside in states, but I felt that the first year in US is the most difficult phase in my life in US. As I completed 3 years in States, I feel very comfortable in doing things independently.
The most important thing to learn while in US is to be punctual. Time is money. Often time is considered more important than money in States. It is necessary to be on time for official or personal meetings, official gatherings and private dinners.
Saying Hi to unknown person on street and smiling back is taken as a gesture of politeness. Although this may vary from State to State but in New Mexico, people get offended if they don’t get a reply of their greetings.
Work culture in University
People are very hard working and work 5 days a week. Most students don’t work on weekends. However, if you decide to work on a weekend, it is inappropriate to call someone for seeking help for work on weekends unless it is urgent.
Normally, a student looking for funding in US writes more than 15 emails per day. Still, most students from India continue using Dear Sir/Madam instead of Hi (salutation – Full name) while addressing their emails. American culture likes personalization of emails rather than generalization. Avoid forwarding pre-designed emails while approaching a Professor for the first time via email.
Always follow the cue while in public. Give preference to others first even if they are breaking the rules. For example, if you are driving and have the right of the way, while the other person speeds up to go first. Give him the way and wait. It is considered decent to keep the door open and the elevator on hold for the person following you.
It is indecent to drop by to visit someone without informing. Always call and fix a time to reach someone’s home. Also maintain the time committed for the meeting. In case of delays keep them updated.
People in US are very busy with their work and they take our precious time from their busy schedule to help you. Please acknowledge it by few words of gratitude. Americans get very delighted when offered Indian food. It is a very humble gesture to offer home cooked food in appreciation of their favor.
People with different religious beliefs reside peacefully in US. Please respect religious beliefs of everyone around you. Refrain from commenting anything conflicting to religious beliefs. It might be taken adversely. People know that beef and pork are not consumed by Indians as a part of religious belief. If you let them know politely about it in social gatherings, it is taken positively. Even alcohol consumption for socializing is not necessary.
Majority of American students are financially independent. They do not depend on their parents for financial support. Large numbers of families are single parent families. The term biological parents, legal parents and step-parents are commonly used. Avoid asking details about their family unless they begin such conversation.
Professors are very diligent and teach the courses thoroughly, with rare exceptions evident in few universities. Cheating and copying for exams and assignments is considered immensely offensive. If caught, you might be asked to drop the course or convicted for plagiarism by being deported to India under severe cases.
Dealing with homesickness, stress and anxiety
Most students miss their family and feel homesick. Try calling home often. It is good to get involved in physical activities to overcome it. Stress and anxiety develops with unfortunate events and work pressure. Playing and meditating are best means to deal with it. There are a lot of fun-things organized by the University to help students relax. Try attending most of them.
Growing from being dependent to independent
Remember that for almost everything you will need help from someone for the initial couple of months. During this time, it is obvious for people to get annoyed and behave rudely with you. Try to be patient and not to reciprocate the rude behavior. As you become independent, you turn out to be the helper and the tradition continues…….