Student guide: Campus etiquette in the US

Jun 21, 2024

US Shortcuts

Studying abroad is always an exciting time as an international student. Not only do you get to enter some of the world’s most prominent schools, but you also get the chance to meet different people, cultures, and improve your communication skills. Learning the basics about etiquette in the US will go a long way in understanding the people around you, avoiding misunderstandings, and appreciating cultural norms.

If you’re going for the American dream and planning on moving to the US to pursue your education, this article is for you. Let’s learn about some of the most important campus etiquette you should know.

Classroom Etiquette

Punctuality

Being on time is a US etiquette that should be followed not only on campus but also in other activities outside of school. Professors and teachers expect you to arrive before class starts. This demonstrates respect for your professors and the class environment as well.

  • Tip: Be sure to arrive at least 5-10 minutes early. Make sure you have your route planned to avoid any potential delays.

Participation

Actively participating in class is always a welcome sight in US classrooms. You are encouraged to always ask questions, share insights, and engage in discussions.

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    • Don't be afraid to speak up if you have something to say. Professors appreciate different perspectives and active engagement.
    • Some professors prefer for you to raise your hand if you want to answer a question and wait to be called on before you speak, so be patient. This is more typical in large classes, especially those held in an auditorium. 
    • In smaller classes, it’s more of an informal setting where you do not need to raise your hand before speaking. Just speak loudly and clearly for everyone to hear.
    • For virtual settings, use the built-in “raise your hand” tool found on some video conferencing platforms and wait for your name to be called before speaking.

Respect

Respecting your professors includes addressing them politely, usually by their title and last name unless they say otherwise. And always follow the rules and guidelines they set for the classroom.

  • Tip: Pay attention to how professors introduce themselves and follow their lead. This gives you an idea of how to approach them with respect.

Use of Technology

Nowadays in modern times, the use of laptops and smartphones in class has become more popular with US students, although it still varies by professor. Some encourage it for note-taking, while others may restrict it to prevent distractions.

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    • Keep track of the professor's guidelines if they allow using gadgets or not. If in doubt, ask for their preference.
    • Your phones or laptops should always be on silent in case of notification pop-ups to avoid disrupting others.
    • If you want to listen to music or watch videos, it’s highly recommended you use headphones for some privacy and respect for your peers.

Comparing Classroom Etiquette With Other Countries

Classroom dynamics can vary significantly between countries. Understanding these differences can help international students adjust more smoothly. In countries like India, education is more on lecture-based classes with less emphasis on student participation. 

Additionally, respect for teachers is important, and students may be less likely to challenge or question the teacher openly. Unlike in America, campus etiquette in the USA for students encourages open dialogue, questioning, and participation. Students are seen as active participants in their education.

Social Interactions

Greetings

Greetings are an essential part of social interactions and cultural norms in the United States. The most common greeting is a firm handshake with eye contact and a bright smile, especially when meeting someone new or being introduced to someone for the first time. But also, keep in mind that greetings can vary based on the situation.

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    • Handshake: Make it firm but not overpowering.
    • Eye contact: Show some confidence and interest in the person.
    • Smile: Convey a lot of friendliness and openness.

Small Talk

Making small talk is an important social skill in American culture. It's a way to build rapport and ease into more meaningful conversations. Common topics include weather, sports, current events, and personal interests.

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    • Topics: Stick to basic topics like asking the weather, favorite hobbies, and interests.
    • Questions: Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation flowing.
    • Listen: Show genuine interest in what the other person is saying. Listen attentively

Making Friends

Building friendships in the US often starts with joining in a lot of social activities. Joining clubs, and organizations, and attending events are some of the best ways to meet new people.

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    • Clubs and Organizations: Join student groups that align with your interests.
    • Events: Attend campus events, social gatherings, and meetups.
    • Be Approachable: Always smile, be friendly, and show that you have an interest in what others say.

Comparing Social Norms With Other Countries

Social norms can be different between countries, and understanding these differences can help international students navigate social interactions more effectively. 

For example, if you compare the US to China, greetings in China can be more reserved. A nod or a slight bow might replace a handshake. Social interactions can be more indirect, and personal space is respected. Meanwhile, in the US, it is more direct, and open communication is always valued. Friendliness and approachability are also emphasized if you want to make friends.

Living With Roommates

Roommate Agreements

One of the most common experiences as a student in the US is living in dorms and apartments. Learning how to live with your roommates is important, and establishing room agreements is essential to avoid any conflicts and respecting each other’s space.

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    • Discuss Expectations: Talk about cleanliness, noise levels, and number of guests allowed to visit.
    • Set Boundaries: Remember to respect each other's space and privacy.
    • Communication: Keep an open line of communication to address issues early.

Cleanliness

Maintaining cleanliness in shared living spaces is important if you want to have a pleasant dorm experience. This includes both your area and common areas like bathrooms and kitchens.

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    • Create a Cleaning Schedule: Divide chores and stick to a routine schedule that everyone should follow.
    • Personal Responsibility: Clean up after yourself immediately. Follow the CLAYGO (Clean As You Go) principle.
    • Respect Shared Spaces: Keep common areas tidy for everyone's benefit.

Comparing Social Cleanliness Practices With Other Countries

Dormitory living can be quite different across cultures. Although there is indeed cultural diversity in America, knowing these differences can help international students adjust and coexist peacefully with their peers.

For instance, dorms or hostels in India often have stricter rules and curfews. This results in a greater emphasis on communal living and shared spaces. Compared to the US, there is more freedom and flexibility in dorm living while having an emphasis on personal responsibility and mutual respect.

Campus Resources

Utilizing Resources

Universities in the US offer plenty of resources to support students academically, socially, and personally. Knowing how to use these resources can make your university experience much better.

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    • Libraries: Visit the libraries to study, access research materials, and borrow books.
    • Writing Centers: Seek help with writing assignments and improving your writing skills at writing centers or clubs.
    • Tutoring Services: Get extra help from talented students about subjects you find challenging.

Health and Wellness

Maintaining your health and wellness is crucial for a fruitful and memorable university experience. Most universities provide various health services to support students' physical and mental well-being.

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    • Health Services: Visit the campus health center for regular medical check-ups and treatment.
    • Counseling Services: Utilize mental health services for counseling and support.
    • Fitness Facilities: Take advantage of gyms and recreational facilities to stay active and healthy.

Finance

Keeping your finances secure and healthy is key for a worry-free university experience. Universities most of the time have ATMs where you can conveniently withdraw your money if you’re in a pinch. 

If you’re someone who’s about to move to the US for the first time, you must have an account open so you can establish your financial standing as early as possible.

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    • Opening an Account: For convenience, create your first account from trusted fintech companies, like Adro. With the use of the app, you can create an account even while outside the US and use it the moment you arrive. You only need a passport, SSN, or ITIN so you can create your account. 
    • Go Cashless: Most universities in the US have now adopted cashless technology to pay for all of their expenses. Fortunately, Adro also has this feature, which allows you to use the app to pay for your coffee, food, and other purchases on campus.

Also, it’s worth noting that when checking out in store, it’s best that you get your wallet or card out while waiting in line so you don’t hold people up and seamlessly pay for your items.

Comparing Social Cleanliness Practices With Other Countries

Campus resources can vary significantly across countries. Understanding these differences can help international students appreciate the resources available in the US. Like in India, Campus resources might be more limited, with less emphasis on comprehensive support services. 

Students often rely on external coaching centers for academic help. In the US, you can experience comprehensive and easily accessible resources that support all aspects of student life.

Extracurricular Activities

Sports and Fitness

Your university can be equipped with the best facilities and equipment for your physical fitness needs. Always remember that your health is always your priority in college, as a fit and healthy body can result in better performance academically.

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    • Take Care of the Equipment: Clean or wipe the equipment and fitness machines after you use them. This gives a good impression to others that you’re being mindful of everyone in the gym.
    • Use Headphones: Unless permitted by the gym instructor to use speakers, it is advisable to use headphones while working out so you can focus more on your workout while not being a distraction to others.
    • Be Responsible: Not only should you clean the equipment after using it, but make sure you also return it to its proper place.
    • Be Mindful to Others: If you’re not using equipment, like dumbbells for example and you’re resting between sets, move away from the equipment so others can use it as well.

Comparing Extracurricular Activities With Other Countries

Extracurricular activities can differ between countries, each with its emphasis on different interests and opportunities. While the US encourages active participation in extracurricular activities and other events, countries like China emphasize academics more, and students might have fewer opportunities or less encouragement to participate in extracurricular activities.

In wrapping up, we learned everything you need to know about proper campus etiquette in the US. From classroom etiquette to extracurricular activities, these are important for you as an international student to know so you can appreciate and respect the cultural norms of different countries. Learn how to embrace and respect cultural differences and your time in the US will be a memorable experience.

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