Culture shock

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ACADEMIC CULTURE SHOCK

The number of foreign students and scholars in the United States is at an all-time high. In 2007-08, U.S. colleges and universities hosted 623,805 international students,an increase of 7% over 2006-07, according to the Institute of International Education. Nearly 8% of these students studied in New England, where they contributed $1.5 billion to the regional economy.The number of foreign faculty and scholars increased at a similar rate to 126,123 with 9% residing in New England.

Administrators and policymakers agree that the contributions foreign students andscholars make to campus global diversity, local economies and America’s academic competitiveness are worth the recruitment and visa challenges. Once foreign students and scholars are on campus,however, most U.S. institutions tend to be naïve about the impact of cultural differences on their core work of teaching and learning. While some faculty and administrators are aware that differencesexist, they rarely consider how to incorporate that knowledge into the work or services they provide.

While international students and scholars face day-to-day cultural adjustments, of more concernare the often stark differences they encounter in the classroom and academic system. Based on academic norms in their home country, international students and scholars are frequently uncomfortablewith the hallmark activities of U.S. higher education. American students are taught from a young age to participate and ask questions. They are encouraged and even rewarded for challenging authority.Americans expect informal student-teacher relationships, a broad choice of courses, group work and a myriad of campus support services and activities. Academic integrity rules are part of a sharedvalue system dictating interactions among faculty, students and administrators. In contrast, many international students and scholars come from predominately lecture-based academic traditions. The...
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