Summary of Overseas Advising Survey on Pre-Departure Practices

The issue of U.S. culture preparation and organization of orientations/predeparture sessions for our students is a very important issue for those who are working with students and scholars (i.e., what works, what doesn't, what could be improved?).

The Questionnaire "OSEAS Survey On Predeparture Practices" was conducted for the Analysis of the Situation in OSEAS American Educational Information Centers to present at the session "Preparing International Students and Scholars for Interactions with Americans" at the 2003 NAFSA Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Thirty-five U.S. educational advisers from thirty-two countries took part in the work and sent in information about their experiences concerning their predeparture practices. They answered nine questions.

We needed to get the answers to the following questions:

1. What kind of predeparture orientations do you organize in your offices? (workshops/sessions, round-table talks, lectures, individual consultations, etc.)

2. What materials do you use for your predeparture orientations? (booklets, brochures, folders, websites, videos, etc.)

3. What topics are typically covered?
Check those issues you are discussing. Add issues that are not mentioned in the list.

  • A Checklist of Things You Must Do Before Departure
  • Visa issues
  • Some Factors Important to Successful Intercultural Adjustment
  • Predeparture preparations: Packing, etc.

U.S. Cultural Issues:

  • Housing in the United States
  • Banking in the United States
  • Budget Items While Studying in the United States
  • Health Insurance in the United States
  • Postal Services in the United States
  • Telephone Services in the United States
  • Shopping in the United States
  • Understanding U.S. Citizens
  • Academics in U.S. Colleges & Universities

4. Do you organize any surveys?
If yes, where could we read the results of the survey made on the cultural component of OSEAS orientations?

5. What other resources do you use to help international students prepare for living in U.S. culture?
a) What materials about U.S. culture do you use?
b) What are the key cultural points that you include?

6. Do you involve community volunteers as resources for predeparture orientations and/or for ongoing cultural problems (including U.S. professors, visiting scholars, other U.S. students, etc.)?

7. What other materials do you distribute?

8. Do you have a list of the suggested resources including Internet resources?

9. Do you have a bibliography of published resources on understanding U.S. culture?
If possible, please send/attach the reference sheet.

10. What can be done differently for our international students for their support in orientation to the U.S. culture and reentry program for adaptation to their own culture in the future?

Methods of work

Individual consultations and sessions  72%
Group sessions and workshops  68%
Lectures, including interactive ones  35%
Roundtable talks  27%
Panel Discussions  1%
Games (Money, Monopoly)  1%
Quizzes  1%

There was a suggestion to organize separate orientation sessions for different groups of students: high school students with parents, undergraduates, graduates, athletes, and Fulbright grantees.

Materials Used for Predeparture Orientations

Booklets (82%)

  • "If You Want to Study in the USA," a series, Getting ready to go: Practical Information for Living and Study in the United States, Department of State, IYWIS, 2001.
  • Portrait of the USA
  • This is America

Brochures (74%)

Handouts (48%)

Videos (48%)

  • Exploring New Worlds
  • Graduate Studies in the USA
Watch this short video piece in which David describes his experience in the intercultural field beginning when he was eighteen months old at which time his family packed up and moved for a three year assignment to Taipei, Taiwan. He takes the audience through a quick and fun exercise demonstrating the awkwardness of speaking a foreign language and goes on to describe the services which WhenCulturesMix offer.

Internet Resources (39%)

Folders (40%)

Manuals (5%)

Guides (5%)

Predeparture Handbook - The U.S.-UK Fulbright Commission: An essential guide for anyone who has been accepted into a U.S. university programme. Covers practical matters of visas, international and domestic travel.

CD (5%)

  • Maximizing the use of the Internet in advising, 2002

Books (87%)

  • Peterson's The Ultimate College Survival Guide, J Farrar Worthington and R. Farrar, Peterson's 1998.
  • U.S. Geography
  • U.S. Government
  • Predeparture Orientation books JUSEC (Japan Exchange Center)
  • Predeparture Orientation Book for Peace Corps
  • Understanding Cultural Differences by Edward T and Mildred Reed Hall, Intercultural Press Inc., 1989.
  • Old World / New World: Bridging Cultural Differences by Craig Storty, Intercultural Press Inc., 2001
  • American Ways: A Guide for Foreigners in the United States by Garry Althen, Intercultural press, Inc, 1988
  • Crossing Customs: International Students Write on the U.S. College Life and Culture by Andrew Garrod and Jay Davis, RoutledgeFalmer, 1999.
  • Making of the Most of the College by Prof. Light. 

REAC Packets (87%)

Information provided by EducationUSA for the REACs.

Handbooks (1%)

Training (1%)

Newspapers & Magazines (78%)

The Topics to be Discussed

  • A Checklist of Things You Must Do Before Departure (98%)
  • Visa & Immigration issues (100%)
  • Some Factors Important to Successful Intercultural Adjustment (92%)
  • Predeparture preparations: Packing (89%)
  • Travel tips
  • Information about the place you visit, news

U.S. Cultural Issues:

  • Housing in the U.S. (91%)
  • Banking in the U.S. (100%)
  • Finances, Taxes, Tips in Restaurants
  • Budget Items While Studying in the U.S. (79%0)
  • Health insurance in the U.S. (97%)
  • Postal Services in the U.S. (52%)
  • Telephone Services in the U.S. (69%)
  • Shopping in the U.S. (65%)
  • Understanding U.S. Citizens (99%)
  • Male - Female Relations: Sexual Harassment, Dating.
  • U.S. Specific Behavior
Verbal and Non-verbal Communication (Eye-to- Eye Contact, Greeting, Handshaking, Hugs, not appreciating long silence during the talk, Social & Physical Distance), Individuality, Time management, Punctuality, Going out and Going in, Socializing, Geographical mobility, Optimism, Work Ethics, Be concrete and clear, Making Friends, Appearance (Personal Hygiene), Positive Image, Asking questions, especially if you want some help, Team work, Queuing for services.
  • Academics in U.S. Colleges & Universities (100%)
Academic Year Calendar; Grading System; Credits, Student-Professor Relations; Library; Research Work; Plagiarism; U.S. Campus Supporting System for International Students: International Students Office, Academic Adviser, International Adviser; Security and Safety on U.S. Campus; Work, Lectures and their Specific Features, Deadline for Submitting the Term Papers, Presentation Skills, Cheating.
  • All About U.S. Education
  • Smoking, Drugs, Alcohol Restrictions
  • provides free virtual campus tours of over 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities.
  • For better cultural adjustment advisers suggested: cultural shock phases; what skills needed; what attitude & behavior to have; how to rent or buy a car; and holidays.
  • Surveys for internal office use: YES-7% - France, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Russia. Most advisers offer evaluation forms. 

Additional Topics to Discuss

  • Whom to address in emergency situations or when you have problems: list of Embassy places and Consulates
  • Tourist places to visit
  • E-mail addresses of students who are in the U.S. Universities
  • For high school students and undergraduates, how to use different electric appliances, how to use exchange machines, telephone cards.

Community Volunteers & Visitors Involvement

  • Yes - 87%
  • No - 13%
  • Returnee Students
  • U.S. Visitors
  • Fulbright Visiting Professors
  • U.S. Embassy Officers: PAO
  • Corporate Partners: City Bank, STA TRAVEL, Insurance Companies

Material Distribution

  • Yes - 64%
  • No - 36%

List of Suggested Resources

  • Yes - 48%
  • No - 52%, but wanted to have

Bibliography Resources

  • Yes - 38%
  • No - 62%

Suggestions for Future Work

  • Network for the U.S. students with previous OSEAS experience and U.S. alumni who want to become mentor alumni.
  • Videos and handouts, booklets, articles including interviews with international students that are currently enrolled in a U.S. school or are U.S. university alumni. The interview should include the questions in order to release concerns about the U.S. university life safety and possibility of encountering racism (Arab students). In the past there were some videos of that kind produced by USIS.
  • Booklets with new regulations after September 11, 2001, INS registration procedures.
  • The educational advisers need the list of Internet Resources and the bibliography of the books that could be used at orientation sessions.
  • To think over how to overcome stereotypes that OSEAS students get through video production and TV commercial channels.
  • For improvement, the work at the reentry sessions and workshops overseas advisers suggested to advise the students to have constant communication with their friends and families at home, to write their resume and to take the letters of recommendations from their U.S. professors, and to involve the OSEAS American Educational Advisers informing them about the returnees.

This analysis was done by Lyubov Kichigina, director of the American Educational Information Center, Tomsk, Russia, OSEAS Liaison to NAFSA, Coordinator, Internet Center for U.S. Educational Exchange Programs Alumni, IATP, Supported by Project Harmony Inc., Moscow; and Darla Deardoff.In conclusion we would like to express our thanks for supervision to Evelyn Levinson, Jane Dunham and all COMSEC LEADERS! Special thanks to Diana Lopez, Kathleen Harrington, Marti Thompson, Josephine Griffin, Kristen Cammarata, Allison Hawley, Carol Sorrenti, Rosemarie Arens, Kathleen Alam, Nancy Keteku, Terhi Topi and all advisers who sent the answers to the questionnaire and some handouts.Thanks to all of you for your attention and your answers to the suggested questions.