11: Cultural Differences

Interaction with Professors

Professors in the U.S. can be less formal than in many countries. For example, it is not uncommon for professors to dress informally in class and to tell you to call them by their first name. Students are expected to be direct and specific with professors. Consulting with a professor about the class or an assignment is considered normal in the U.S. You should come to meetings prepared with questions. If you have a need for help with the class, the professor expects you to ask for help directly. In many countries, this direct form of communication would be considered impolite, but it is not in the U.S. Most professors welcome students who have questions about the class.


In the U.S., students are evaluated in many ways, including exams, papers, quizzes, lab reports, oral presentations, and participation in classroom discussions. In some parts of the world, University students attend lectures all semester and then take an exam at the end. While some professors might use that approach, most professors in the U.S. will use multiple methods of evaluating your work. You will probably have several tests or exams throughout the semester. You might also have quizzes (short tests), papers, and individual or group presentations in class. And some professors factor in the level and quality of your participation in class when determining your grade. Expect to be evaluated more frequently and throughout the semester, not just at the end.