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Classroom Culture

Cultural Differences in the Classroom 

Educational systems vary from country to country. Here are some things you need to know about academic life at Ohio State.

In many cultures, there is a great difference in status between students and teachers. Students listen quietly, not questioning what the teacher says. In the United States, it is acceptable for students to ask questions and discuss topics with the instructor.

During the first class meeting, your teachers will give you a syllabus, which lists office hours and when and how the professor can be reached. If you have a problem with the material presented in class, it is expected that you will see the teacher during office hours and ask for help. The syllabus also tells when assignments are due.

Dress is informal in U.S. classrooms. Smoking is not permitted in classrooms or in university offices. Some professors permit students to have food and beverages in the classroom.


You are expected to talk in class. How often? A good rule to follow is to raise your hand to ask a question or to make a comment each week. If a professor calls on you to answer a question, you should say something—you could even say that you do not know the answer. In most classes, it is okay to give a wrong answer. Participation may be included in your grade.

Missing Class

You are expected to go to class on time, to notify your teacher ahead of time if you will be absent, and to participate. It is better to be late to class than to skip class. If you must miss class because of illness, you may need a doctor’s excuse, especially if you have a long illness and you must miss several classes. You can ask for a doctor’s note at the Student Health Center after you have seen the doctor. Ask your professors for their policies on missing class. They may also be included in the syllabus.

If you are feeling stressed about your course work:

Continue to go to class
Attendance records are kept for some classes, while in other classes attendance is optional. The biggest mistake that international students can make in the classroom is to stop attending class because they feel overwhelmed. This will make your situation even more difficult.

See your professor
Many professors complain that, although they have office hours, none of their students visits them. You can make Ohio State seem like a much smaller place if you go to visit your professors throughout the quarter. You don’t have to wait until you feel overwhelmed.

Hire a tutor
Some departments and even residence halls have tutors for free. If you need help with writing, you can go to the Writing Center (4120A Smith Lab) or hire (pay for) a tutor.

Take time to enjoy your life
International students often feel a great deal of pressure to succeed or excel in classes. However, it is not possible to succeed if you feel too much stress or anxiety. Try to spend time meeting new friends and enjoying sports, movies, and other activities at Ohio State or in Columbus.