Is it a ‘Do’ or is it a ‘Don’t’?: Tips for a Successful Study Abroad Experience in the USA

Deciding to study in the United States is huge! From picking the right university to applying for a visa, then arriving on time, meeting new friends and finally settling into your new American life, there is a lot to consider and accomplish before you ever set foot on campus. What many students coming to America do not think about before arriving is what is a “Do!” or a “Don’t!” in their new life in the States. A “Do!” would be an action you take that is appropriate or even encouraged, while a “Don’t!” is an action that can hurt your ability to fit in, make friends and succeed in class. Take a look at the following quiz. What would be a “Do!”? What would be a “Don’t!”? You might be surprised how different life is in America!

(The answer key is at the bottom of the page.)

  1. Your American classmate gives you beautifully-wrapped gift for your birthday. You are so excited that you tear open the paper around gift in front of him, throwing paper on the ground and making a mess.
  2. You made plans to meet with your American classmates to discuss your design project for 4:30pm at a café. You arrive at 4:40.
  3. After a delicious dinner at a restaurant, you get the bill of $20. The service and food was excellent, so you give a $2 tip.
  4. You are invited to a party of a famous architecture firm in the US. When you meet the senior partner of the firm’s very small wife, you shake her hand softly and look down.
  5. You are eating soup at American friend’s house. This delicious soup is very hot and in a small bowl. So you pick it up and slurp the soup slowly.
  6. It is the weekend and you are at the park with friends. An American classmate of the opposite sex sees you, runs up and gives you a hug. You hug him/her back.
  7. You have a cold and feel terrible. Because your nose is running, you bring tissues to wipe it in class. While sitting in class, you take out your tissue and blow REALLY hard into your tissue making a loud sound.
  8. You are sitting in class when your best friend from your country calls you with awesome news. You quickly answer it and say, “I can’t talk right now! I’m in class!” and hang up.

Answer Key

  1. It’s a “Do”! When Americans give a gift, they expect you to open it in front of them and tear open the paper. If you don’t, Americans might think that you are not happy to receive it or that you are not thankful.
  2. It’s a “Don’t”! Although being 10 minutes for a social meeting is usually ok, Americans try to be punctual for important meetings for school and work.
  3. It’s a “Don’t”! Restaurants servers usually expect a 15% to 20% tip for good service, so $3 to $4 is enough.
  4. It’s a “Don’t”! American’s shake hands strongly, even when they are small, female, elderly or delicate. They also like to look each other in the eyes. If you do not, they will think you do not like them or are not truthful.
  5. It’s a “Don’t”! American’s eat soup with it sitting on the table. They also think the only sounds that should be heard are talking!
  6. It’s a “Do”! Americans who know each other from school or social situations, and have met each other more than 2 or times, might want to hug you if they see you in public. It does not mean that they want to date you or that they are crazy. They just like you. Period. Hug him/her back.
  7. It’s a “Don’t”! When Americans have a cold with a running nose, they either blow very quietly into their tissue or go to the bathroom to blow harder.
  8. It’s a “Don’t”! Why is your mobile phone on in the first place? Turn it off!

Click here to find out how you can study at NewSchool of Architecture and Design!

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