Higher Education in America- Cultural Shock
16 years from now, I flew to America in British Airways to complete my PhD. For me it was a huge thing like flying in a plane, getting astounded seeing a co-passenger get drunk, leaving newly married wife for 58 days. So it was a huge difference.
Due to education, I bring a lot of Bangladeshi students in my group, have lots of contacts with them, and even teach students who are not Bangladeshi. Even for those students who are new to America the culture, rituals everything is new. Many students get into trouble in adapting to the environment like this unlike anything else. I have observed and have known as I saw it by myself for a decade and then my students have also observed. Today’s writing is for students who come to America for higher education- about how to adapt your life here. It’s possible to write a thick book, but today I will point out a few points.
Culture of Thanksgiving – Americans are a very friendly nation. On the way if they happen to eye contact strangers in the streets they will with a smile and say good morning, how are you? when you get to the elevator, if the person who is entering after you, sees you they will say, ‘have a nice day’. And there is thank you for everything. These things are not very much in the culture of our country. As a result, strangers may be surprised at first when someone is shaking their hands or coming forward to talk. The shopkeeper who hands over things you bought with money, you are ought to say thank you. Simple solution, Make a habit of saying please in every sentence and if someone gives something to thank him. So practice saying thank you. When you walk in the eyes of someone, practice saying hi. If someone says, do not assume that s/he wants to be friendly with you. Even if you are sad or in pressure, make it a habit to smile.
Refrain from beating around the bush – Say and write conversations directly. Eliminate the vanity that has become a habit. Get to the point. The subject is often dropped if the person acts too humble. On top of that, if you have learned words from GRE TOEFL then quickly forget it because nobody in America uses these languages. Use short sentences rather than compound or Complex sentences.
Doors – Legendary courtesy of the American people is about holding the door. Let’s say you open the door to a shop. One is coming after you. Here is the custom; the door should be open for the gentleman to come in. In the big cities, maybe nobody cares, but most are in the small town of College town, where everyone expects the gentleman to hold the door. Even many times, in case you find yourself pressed as you might be quite far away, but still, you have to open the door for them. And of course, be sure to thank them.
Maintaining eye contact – Speaking with looking at the eyes while talking is a huge taboo in the culture of Bangladesh. This thing is infused into the head from childhood. As a result, it is the custom of Bangladesh to bow down and talk to the teacher or boss. In America, it’s completely opposite. If you do not maintain eye contact when talking to someone, everyone will look with doubt, as maybe you have a problem in your head or a very shy or antisocial person. So if you look into the eyes while talking and raise your head, no one will find it rude.
Misunderstanding someone because of their friendly behavior – This point is especially applicable to boys. In America, if someone in the university or elsewhere is talking to you or saying hi it doesn’t mean that they are curious about you. If someone you meet well acts friendly but you start thinking romantic about, doing so and acting accordingly will cause huge problems, especially in the workplace or university. Sexual harassment will not be exempted, you will have to go to jail if you do poor work.
I cautioned you with another point from the previous point – Tuition teachers in Bangladesh may fall for or romance with students. In the stories of Humayun Ahmed, often home teachers or college teachers to fall in love with students. Those of you who are coming to the United States for higher education, many of them serve as teaching assistants to undergraduate students. Do not give romantic looks to the class students even if there is a sign of interest from them. In American education, it is considered unethical, and also sexual harassment, even if the two parties agree. In some states, it is a serious crime of having a romantic or other relationship with a student under the age of 19 and in my state of Alabama, there is a long-term prison system when it crosses too far. So your job as a teaching assistant is simply to teach.
Personal space – In America, the issue of personal space is largely unwritten. Any person up to a distance of four feet from the area, the area is considered to be his/her personal space or private area. It is important to maintain such a distance when talking to someone unless you are very close to someone. It is not so bad in Bangladesh especially among friends but no matter how close a friend is when someone enters the personal space, the person gets into great discomfort. So be careful.
Ethics – Lastly I would say Ethics. This is a fact not only in Bangladesh. This is especially true for students from all over Asia. In the coursework, copying the assignment, everyone writing the same answer by copying from one another, or to jot it down from the book, copying and pasting from the internet, cheating from another person during the test, these are the extremely looked down upon work that maybe people don’t give much thought to. The problem is, American education universities have a strict code for these cases.
Duplicate assignment submission can easily be caught due to software used. (such as Turnitin). In most universities, if for the first time you get caught you will get zero in that assignment, if you get caught in the same course again after the warning is given, you will get an F grade directly in the course, it will be reported to the Dean and there may be high chances of getting expelled too. Even when quoting something from somewhere, it is mandatory to mention the reference. And any other quote should be clearly specified. If it is anything from the internet or books, you should write in your own language without having to copy. And the assignments that are supposed to do alone, then do the homework by yourself.
Epic writing on various topics of cultural shock goes on. For those who will leave the country for the first time, this is a very difficult time. If you have some understanding and are careful, it will be very easy to comply and adapt to local customs. Wish you good luck in the world of higher education.
Reference by Ragib Hasan