I was raised to always show respect where it is due, which includes referring to people by their title and using their last name. At my internship, every single person that I have been introduced to and work for prefers that I call them by their first name or nickname (even the President of the Company). This honestly is slightly uncomfortable for me because my parents are big on respect.
But like I mentioned before, it all depends if the person allows you as well as your environment.” (Marlene Castillo, Mexico)
“Coming to the USA from the Anglo-oriental cultural background in Pakistan where it is customary to call the seniors or professors in a formal and official way as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’, It took me quite some time in adjusting to the prevalent norm here in the USA. For instance, in Pakistan I could never think of addressing my professor as ‘Dr. Vasavada’ or ‘Professor Vasavada’ as I do here in the USA. In my culture, this way of addressing is considered disrespectful and way too informal. Similarly, in my culture, it is a norm to bend the head a bit while greeting a senior. But when I was new to the USA, whenever I did this gesture, I felt a visible astonishment on the face of my professors.” (Shahinshah Faisal Azim, Pakistan)
This guide has been prepared for International students to read and refer to during your time here. It gives you information about American customs and describes some points that may be different from your culture.
What makes studying abroad fun and interesting is the opportunity to observe and learn about the culture and traditions of people on your campus and in your community. It can also be helpful to know how other people will expect you to behave, and will behave toward you while you’re away from home. Having a basic understanding of culture and etiquette can help avoid awkward misunderstandings for you, the people you meet, and the new friends you’ll make!
We’re very pleased that you’ve chosen to study in the USA, here at Penn State Harrisburg in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and we wish you many good experiences while you’re here with us!
Thank you to our Global Ambassadors who shared their insights and experiences in this guide. Thanks also to Wendy Moynihan, the coordinator of the International Student Support Services, who put together this much-needed resource.
“Since I did not come to the United States until last summer, everything for me was new at the very beginning. First, I think people here are welcoming. Usually when people in China see strangers, they ignore them and keep doing what they are doing. Things are different here, however. When I’m walking on campus, people I don’t even know say hello or smile at me all the time. But in China, I don’t think I would ever do that. People in China might think you are creepy or strange. They would ask, “I do not even know her, why is she smiling at me?” I always pay attention to those little things. Maybe some international students will not regard it as a big deal, but this makes me feel like Penn State Harrisburg is a big family.
Secondly, almost every professor allows us to eat during class. If eating can help students concentrate better in class, why not? It differs from my hometown, since eating in class is totally banned. One day, I did not have enough time to have lunch, so I brought some cookies to class. I didn’t know students could take a bite of food here, so I grabbed the cookie quickly into my month when the professor turned back to write on the board. My friend sitting next to me wrote “What R U DOING” on her notebook, and I wrote “EATING” back. She laughed out loud after class and told me that I did not have to act like this, because most professors allow us to do so.