Activity Information
Recommended Audience
International Students
Length of Time
1 hour
Number of Facilitators
Professional staff plus 3-4 returning international students
Source of Activity
To introduce international students to US cultural situations

Culture Busters

Program Development Timeline – This is designed to be added to a pre-existing orientation program. The timeframe to prepare opening and closing comments, arrange for orientation leaders (assuming you have such) to practice their skits and debrief, should be four weeks in advance of orientation.

Basic Budget – The only costs associated with this are photocopying skits for the leaders, photocopying any handouts you wish to provide to offer cultural coping tips or other resources, and of course, the cost of your time in implementing this.

Advertising – Again, as designed, this is to be part of an international student orientation, so there are no stand-alone costs associated in advertising this.

Evaluation – If you have the luxury of orientation leaders, it is imperative that they have the opportunity to practice and especially debrief the skits with you. I like to take notes of their debriefing comments, so in case they forget points in the post-skit discussion (this is if it is done as one large group) I can prompt them. If you do not have orientation leaders, it might be worthwhile to try to find three or four returning student to volunteer specifically for this project. Hearing the experiences of returning students adds an important dimension to the session. Although you could have new students read the skits, so much would be lost without the commentary of returning students, that I would not recommend that route.

It is also important to ensure that the vocabulary is clear to the students. Some of the slang may need to be explained (and adjusted to what is used locally).

Following are a series of skits, which are designed for an international student orientation program. We have had orientation leaders act out the skits (reading the script) although if you do not have leaders, you could request returning students to volunteer. It is very helpful to meet with them in advance for a few hours to read through the skits, debrief each one, and let them select the ones that they think work best. That serves another purpose, in that it makes it easier for the leaders to then lead discussion in small groups or offer comments to the large group from the stage, because they will be familiar with the material.

The skits need to be prefaced by a general overview of culture, values, and stereotypes vs. generalizations. The cultural iceberg analogy is a helpful visual to use during the opening remarks. I also emphasize to students that the behavior in the skits is somewhat exaggerated and hopefully done in a humorous way.

Before each skit, there are a few general questions you can ask the students. They should have “categorized” answers, so you can have them do a show of hands. Following each skit are more open-ended questions, for the orientation leaders and students to provide commentary. When done for a group of newly arrived students, the leaders will likely need to take the lead in the commentary. If the group is solely or includes transfer students, they may be comfortable reflecting on their experiences. A great way to foster post-skit discussion, if you have enough volunteers, is to have an orientation leader assigned to a table of ten or so students to facilitate discussion. Debriefing can be done as one large group or several small groups, depending on your resources.

It’s not likely you will want to do no more than three or four skits in a session. To complete the session, it is helpful to provide information on cultural adjustment and what resources the campus offers for students to prepare for what is ahead.

Is punctuality important in your home country?

What does being “on time” mean in your home country? Arriving early? Arriving at that exact moment? Within 5 minutes? Within 15 minutes? Later?

Several Scenarios:

1. No Time to Waste

Here we find two friends who are making plans to socialize over the weekend. One is a U.S. student, the other is a foreign student. It is taking a lot of planning for them to set a date. Then, something happens when they are to meet. See if you think they have the same understanding of the function of time.

U.S.: Okay, ______, so let’s figure out a good time to meet. I’m eager to try the new coffee place in Soho. What works for you?

Foreign: Well, I’m going to the movies with my roommate Friday. Otherwise, I have no plans – besides study. When do you want to meet?

U.S.: (s/he pulls out his palm pilot) Let’s see, Friday night is no good. Saturday morning I’m planning to work out at Coles, just started pumping iron, so I have to stay on schedule for that. And then my Mom wants to meet for lunch, but Saturday afternoon looks good – oh wait, no, I have to go watch my brother’s baseball game. Hold on here, hold on. (In the meantime, _____ is starting to look a bit – amused? Impatient?)

Foreign: Maybe we should schedule the coffee for one month from now!

U.S.: No, no, I’m sure we can do it this weekend. Let’s see, Saturday night I have a date, Sunday morning is church, here, why don’t we meet Sunday? I get out of church at 11:00 a.m., so I can meet you at 11:30 in Soho. How’s that?

Foreign: Fine with me, see you on Sunday!

It is Sunday and ____ (U.S.) is in the coffee shop at 11:25. He looks around.

U.S.: Gee, it’s almost 11:30. I wonder where ____(foreign) is. I hope she gets here soon.

He waits some more, looking impatient. Finally, it is 11:30.

U.S.: Okay, now it’s 11:30. I’m sure she’s on the way, but let me call her, just in case. (He pulls out his cell phone and calls, getting her machine.) Oh – answering machine – _____, it’s _____. It’s 11:30. I hope you are here soon. I’m waiting. Okay, bye.

Time passes and now it’s 11:35.

U.S.: I can’t believe this. She’s going to stand me up. How could _____ do that? She’s my friend and she knows how busy I am. I’ll give her two more minutes.

U.S.: Well, it’s 11:40. I’m supposed to go to a study group this afternoon, plus I have a tennis class. I hope ____(foreign) is okay, but I just can’t wait any longer. (S/he gets up and leaves.)

A minute later _____(Foreign) walks in and sits down.

Foreign: Wow, I can’t believe I’m here first. Won’t _____ be surprised when he gets here. I guess I’ll go ahead and order a cappuccino while I wait.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you think this is typical behavior for a U.S. student to act towards his/her friends?
  • Is punctuality important in your home country?
  • What does being “on time” mean at home?
  • Is the U.S. student’s behavior typical?

Discussion Point:

What U.S. value is being examined here?

In the U.S., time is valuable and something to be used, measured, and controlled. U.S. Americans are action oriented and like to be well organized…even in their leisure time! They value being efficient and even though ______ might have been a little impatient, people in the U.S. expect promptness, especially in formal or business settings.

In your country, do classmates normally socialize together outside of class or do people tend to have different friends to go out with?

2. Meeting and Greeting Americans

In this skit, we see how two classmates – an American and a foreign student – interact. ____ is the U.S. student and _____ is the foreign student. The foreign student is trying to make friends with the U.S. student. S/he is doing this by sharing concerns about class, which is their common topic. See if you can tell by the response if the U.S. student wants to be friends.

The first day of class, new foreign student is already seated, when an American student comes to sit next to _______.

U.S.: Hi, is this seat taken?

Foreign: No, I don’t believe anyone is sitting here.

U.S.: Great, I always like to be near the front. By the way, my name is _____.

Foreign: Hello _____, my name is _____.

U.S.: So, I hear this class is pretty hard, but the professor is really good. I’m looking forward to it.

Foreign: Well, it sounds quite interesting from the description. I’m ready to study a lot.

U.S.: Me too, well, we’ll have to make some study dates together. Oh, here comes the professor.

At the end of class, one of ______ (U.S.) friends comes up to talk to him/her. _____ (foreign) leaves feeling happy, that s/he has met a US student who could be her/his friend.

The next time the class meets, ______(Foreign) is sitting in the same seat. ______ (U.S.) arrives and sits next to _______ (Foreign).

Foreign: Hello ______.

U.S.: Oh hey, how’s it going?

Foreign: Well, I’m feeling a little bit worried about the reading assignment for this week. I’ve only read the first chapter and it’s pretty confusing and I…

U.S.: Don’t worry about it, I’m sure you’ll do fine.

Foreign: Well, I was wondering, you said yesterday we could make a study date and

U.S.: Oh yeah, sure, we can get together sometime. Oh, there’s my friend Pam, I need to run tell her something.

_____(Foreign) sits and looks dejected as ______ (U.S.) hurries away.

The third day in class, ______(Foreign) is once again seated when _____ (U.S.) walks up.

Foreign: Hello _____, how are you?

U.S.: Hey there, I’m doing all right. How about you?

Foreign: Oh, I am fine.

U.S.: Great. Boy, I was up late finishing the paper for today, but I got it done. How about you?

Foreign: Yes, I did the best I could. I’m not sure if it’s acceptable.

U.S.: Oh, I’m sure it will be fine. Well, I’m actually going to go sit by my friend Pam today, she helped me out last night on the paper and I need to touch base with her. So look, I’ll see you around.

Foreign: Okay. Well, I do hope we can make that study date still.

U.S.: Oh definitely, I’ll give you a call. See you.

Discussion Questions

  • What did _____ (the foreign student) want?
  • What did ______ (the U.S. student) want?
  • What happened?
  • At home, do classmates socialize or do people tend to have different friends to socialize with?

Discussion Points: Some foreign students find Americans’ mannerisms to be superficial, with a surface friendliness.

Value: Informality – U.S. Americans believe that people are equal (in theory) and act in a very informal manner to others. This informality can feel friendly and sometimes a foreign individual can feel “misled” by an American’s casual and open behavior. U.S. Americans also tend to use the term “friend” in a very broad way. U.S. Americans tend to call friends people they know in an array of situations, but they may only speak to that person in that situation. For example, the American student may consider the foreign classmate in this skit to be her “class friend” but not someone she would socialize with outside of class. People in the U.S. “compartmentalize” friends…study friends, tennis friends, childhood friends, etc.

As in any culture, U.S. Americans can say things to be polite that they do not mean literally. Since they tend to be more literal and direct than many cultures, this can be surprising for the foreign visitor to encounter. Unless they are good friends, a U.S. American doesn’t expect a “real” answer to the question, how are you. There aren’t many conversation rituals in the U.S., but there are a few and these are some of the most common phrases : “let’s get together” “I’ll call you” and “let’s do lunch.”

As a student in your home country, how is important information conveyed – in person? In writing? Over the telephone? Over the computer?

3. Going into an Office

In this scene, we will see one example of how a staff person and a student interact. The student is trying to get help and the staff person is answering the phone and the student’s questions. How does the student express that s/he needs help and is the staff member helpful? The student is played by ___________ and the staff member by ____________.

Staff: Hello, can I help you?

Student: Yes, please. My name is _________. I’m a new student from South Africa and I just arrived last week. I’m studying at the business school and...

Staff: Excuse me please, I need to get the phone. (Staff is busy for several minutes while the student looks around. Finally, returns attention to the student.)
Yes miss, now how can I help you?

Student: Well, as I was saying, I’m a new student at the business school and

Staff: I’m sorry, but can you tell me what your question is?

Student: Oh, well, I wanted to know the deadline to submit my application.

Staff: Okay, that is easy to answer. Please review this sheet of paper, it has all the deadline information on it.

Student: So, the deadline is September 15?

Staff: Yes, that is the final deadline.

Student: And what items do I need to bring for the application?

Staff: There are five things you need to submit. They are listed on the back of that handout.

Student: Oh, I see, and do they need to be original documents or are photocopies acceptable?

Staff: Miss, please sit and read that handout entirely. I’m sure everything you need to know is on there. Then, if you have questions you can ask me.


  • Was the staff member rude?
  • Was s/he helpful enough?
  • Did the student need too much help?
  • What can you do or say if you need more help than you are receiving?

Discussion Point:
What is the U.S. value being examined in this skit?
In the U.S., there is a strong emphasis on self-help. This was an example. The staff person was providing the information to the student and wanted the student to then help him/herself by reading the material. In the U.S., you are often expected to investigate for the information you need on your own. Also in the U.S., it is common that much important information is put in writing, so you do not have to speak to someone directly to find out something vital. Therefore, it’s important to realize that in this culture, someone may be providing you what they believe to be acceptable help by handing you written instructions or referring you to a Web site.

Efficiency is another value linked to this. The information was provided for a general audience in writing, with the idea that that would provide the most assistance to the most people.

Do students generally share grades in your country?
Do you believe students in home country are competitive with each other?
Do you expect it to be more or less competitive in the U.S.?

4. Individualism

In this skit, two classmates are talking after receiving their graded exam. _____ is a U.S. student, _____ is a foreign student. It seems the American student is very interested in comparing grades, while the foreign students is less so. The foreign student, on the other hand, is interested in studying together and helping each other, which is not in the mind of the U.S. student. Let’s see what happens.

U.S.: Hey _____, I’m glad we got our tests back, I can’t believe it took him a week to grade them.

Foreign: Well, they were very complicated. It was a long and difficult test.

U.S.: You can say that again. My parents don’t understand how much time I spend studying. They want me to come home every weekend and I tell them I have to stay at the library. But then, they didn’t go to college – I’m the first in our family.

Foreign: I can understand why your parents would want you to come home to visit. But it’s good that you are so serious about your studies.

U.S.: I sure am, I have an idea for a new dot com business and I plan to be a millionaire before I’m 25. But for now, study study study. Anyway, so how did you do on the test?

Foreign: Okay, I think. I could have done better.

: Well, I basically aced this test. I made a 95 out of 100! The professor said only two people scored in the 90s, I’m sure I must have been the top grade. I should do fine if the others are like this. I need to get an A in this class.

Foreign: We have another test next week, maybe we should study together to help each other.

U.S.: I don’t know. I studied by myself for this test and did well. I don’t think I really want to do a study group. By the way, what was your score?

Foreign: Oh, I don’t think you want to know, really.

U.S.: Look, there’s nothing to be ashamed of, just tell me.

Foreign: If you insist – I made a 98.

U.S.: Hey _____, let’s make a study date for tonight!


  • Are these two students friends?
  • What do you think about the U.S. student’s goals and ideas, is she modest?
  • Is it common that students share information about their grades in your home country?
  • How would you describe the classroom environment at home?

Discussion Points:
What U.S. values are touched on in this skit?

Individualism – The U.S. student distinguishes herself from her family, that she is pursuing a college education and they did not. U.S. Americans like the idea of someone “pulling him/herself up by his/her bootstraps”, doing better than their parents did, and as you can see, she indicates she is doing this without the support or at least, full understanding of her family. What may be seen as vain or bragging behavior in another culture can be a sign of self-confidence and self-promotion, again connected to individualism.

Privacy – The U.S. values privacy so much that it is embedded in the laws, for example, there is a privacy act that protects student’s records from anyone else viewing them…even their parents…without the student’s permission.

Directness – The U.S. student clearly wanted to share her score with the foreign student. Grades (especially if they are good) are often an area where U.S. college students may share information.

Competition – You can see that at first, the U.S. student did not want to study with the foreign student, because she thought it would hurt her and help the foreign student, since she assumed she did better. In general, students in the U.S. may be more competitive and less cooperative in their approach to studies than some other countries. They may not engage in group study, unless it is required by the professors. Certain disciplines tend to be especially competitive, such as in the business area and science for undergraduates. For example, students have shared stories of not being able to borrow notes from a classmate if they missed a class.

Is it common for college students to live in university housing?
Do you expect to be friends with your roommates?

5. Private Sector

______ and _____ are new roommates. _______ is a U.S. student, _______ is a foreign student. They are unpacking their belongings for their new home. As they do so, issues come up about sharing possessions and how to share the space in a room. Let’s see if the two roommates share the same view in this area.

Foreign: (holding out a picture) Here’s one of my favorite views from home. Why don’t we hang it up over here?

U.S.: Oh, that’s nice, but why don’t you keep it on that side, by your bed?

Foreign: All right, that is a good idea.

U.S.: (talking to herself) Darn, I’m not sure if my stereo will fit on the bookshelf above my desk.

Foreign: Oh, why don’t you put it here, on this table in the middle of the room?

U.S.: Well, actually, the stereo is a birthday present and I am very careful about it. I was hoping to keep it on my side of the room, you know, it’s new.

Foreign: Oh, I see. Well, it’s getting close to lunch. Would you like to join me? I’m going to eat with Rebecca, who lives down the hall. She just arrived here from California.

U.S.: No thanks. I was going to eat lunch with a few friends from high school. You know, last year, my roommate and I didn’t really hang out together – we just lived together. I think that’s a good arrangement.

: Well okay. I think I’ll go get ready for lunch now. (Walks away, shaking her head.)


  • How would you describe the U.S. student’s behavior?
  • Do you think she wants to be friends with the foreign student?
  • Do you think the U.S. student wants to be roommates with the foreign student?

Discussion Points:
U.S. Americans value privacy – and that includes ownership of their things. One person is not supposed to use another person’s possessions without permission. The U.S. student made it clear that she did not want the foreign student to use her stereo.
As an extension of that, U.S. Americans value space. When sharing a room, it is almost as if the room is divided in half and any shared furniture, like a table or desk, is divided. Americans like to be very clear about what is their space.

Another thing you might have noticed, which was of course exaggerated for the skit, is the tendency in the U.S. to compartmentalize friends. They may have a friend they study with, a friend they play tennis with, and so forth. For some U.S. students, a roommate may be someone they live with, but not someone they socialize with.

Compared to your home country, is the U.S. more-same-less materialistic?
Many U.S. college students also have part-time jobs, is that true in your country?

6. Material Girl

____ and ________ are roommates. ______ is a foreign student, ______ is from the U.S. They are spending a Saturday in mid-November cleaning their dorm room. As the American, _______, goes through her possessions, what attitude does she express? See if you can figure out the values conflict between the two roommates.

U.S.: You know what time it is, don’t you?

Foreign: 11:00? No, what time is it?

U.S.: Time to put away fall clothes and get out winter clothes. It will be cold soon.

Foreign: Your fall clothes look quite warm.

U.S.: They are, but the winter ones are even warmer. Now, let’s see (she opens a box of clothes) here’s some pants I bought last year, but they’re kind of an odd color. I think I’ll get rid of them.

Foreign: You’re going to throw those away? Why, they look like you’ve hardly worn them?

U.S.: I didn’t, but hey, they’re out of style. And this sweater – look, it even has the tags on it. I don’t know why I bought it. It has to go.

Foreign: I can’t believe this. If you keep this up, you’ll give away all your clothes

U.S.: Oh that’s okay, it’s a new season – a new year. Plus, I just got my very first credit card. Let me hurry up with this, so we can go shopping at Macy’s!


  • Do you think the U.S. is more or less materialistic than your home culture? Can you give examples?

Discussion Points:

Materialism – People in the U.S. place a high value on what they own and how it reflects their status…which is one reason why people in the U.S. have such high personal debt. It is seen as high status to have the newest version of something, whether it’s a car or a computer.

Related to that are two other values – change and choice Change is seen as good and positive. It ties into the U.S. value of looking to the future, instead of being connected to the past – or present.

Also, U.S. Americans prefer choice. You will see that even for the simplest product – aspirin or paper towels – that there are many brands offering different features at a wide range of cost. Sometimes, too much choice can be overwhelming – even for those who grew up with this!

Do universities in your home country offer some kind of psychological counseling service to students?

7. Act Now, Be Later (The U.S. role is written for a woman.)

_____, a foreign student, sees his friend _____ in the hallway between class. ____ is American. They stop to talk. The American student has a problem. Listen for the way she expresses it to her friend and what she plans to do. Is this familiar to how someone at home would approach a problem? Foreign: Hi ____, how are you?

U.S.: Okay, and you?

Foreign: I’m fine, thanks.

U.S.: Well, actually, I’m not so good.

Foreign: What’s wrong?

U.S.: Roger broke up with me. He told me I was too serious – about him and life. Can you believe that?

Foreign: Oh, you must be upset. I’m sorry that happened. Do you want to go get a coffee sometime and we could talk about it?

U.S.: Oh sure, let’s hang out. But you know, I decided he was right in some ways. So, instead of sitting around all the time studying and crying, I’ve signed up for a salsa class at Coles, I’m rollerblading in Central Park every Saturday with a club, and I’m thinking about taking training for a marathon. What do you think about that?

: Well, it certainly sounds like you’re busy, I hope you are happy.

U.S.: It’s just there’s no point to sit around and mull over things. After all, I’m only twenty – there’s a lot I have to do and there’s lots of men out there. So, I figure the faster I can get over it, the better for me. You never know who I’ll meet tomorrow. Anyway, I’m late for class. Why don’t we meet here at 4:00 for coffee?

Foreign: Sure thing, see you then. (Watches ______ rush off)


  • How is the U.S. student handling her problems?
  • What resources would college students use at home to solve problems?

Discussion Points:

What values are being explored here?
Action orientation – U.S. Americans would rather act than be…for example, when faced with a crisis, they would rather take steps to make it better (see how the U.S. student is re-designing her life) instead of just letting something happen…and thinking about it.

Also, this skit offers a look at how people in the U.S. have a future orientation that tends towards optimism. Even though her boyfriend broke up with her, the U.S. student is already thinking about how her next boyfriend could be better and sees the future as something to look forward to, not be scared of.

Do universities in your home country offer off-campus outings for the students to participate in?

Are events for students in universities in your home country….all free? Have a charge? Are open to all students? Are limited to a small group of students?

8. First Come, First Served

At an unnamed university, the international office is sponsoring a very big event. It’s a trip to Disneyland and all the students want to go, but there is a limited number of tickets. Let’s see what happens between two foreign students and a member of the staff on the day of the event.
The staff member is played by ____________, the students by ___________ and ________.

Staff: Good morning! As you come into the room, please let me check your ticket so I can mark you off the list.

Student 1: Here is my ticket, I am so lucky, I bought the last one.

Staff: Let me check, yes, number 600, that’s the last ticket. I’m glad you were able to get one. This event sold out quickly. Please have a seat and fill out this form.

Student 2: Oh hello, is this for the trip to Disneyland? Here’s my $1000 for the trip.

Staff: Don’t you have your ticket?

Student 2: No, I want to buy my ticket now.

Staff: I’m sorry, this event sold out one month ago. I do not have any extra tickets to sell. I’ll be glad to add your name to the wait list, there’s only 300 students signed up ahead of you.
(Both students get upset and speak in louder voices to the staff person, one right after the other.)

Student 1: Excuse me, I do not understand this form. What is it and why do I have to sign it? Does it mean this trip is dangerous? Why does the university offer a trip that is dangerous?

Student 2: But I’m a student at this school and this event is for students. I don’t understand why you won’t sell me a ticket. I only need one space, I can stand up on the bus, it won’t be a problem, it’s only 2000 miles.

Staff: You must fill out the form, it’s university policy! There are no more tickets, we sold all 600 in one hour. I’m sorry, if you will both take a seat, I will try to explain this to you further, after I help the other 599 students in line.


  • What is happening in this scene?
  • Is the first student asking for too much information?
  • What about the second student, what are his/her expectations?
  • Is the staff person providing enough assistance?

Discussion Points


Individualism- Responsibility is placed on the individual to find out information they need. The student is handed information and expected to read it and understand it him or herself. Likewise, the other student was expected to find out about when the tickets were on sale for the event and inquire about it before the event took place. If the individuals did not take these actions, it was determined to be “their problem” not that of the organization.

Competition – There are scarce resources (in this case tickets) and people are expected to figure out what their needs are and take actions to secure what they need.

Equality – Tickets are sold on a “first come first served” basis for events. For some events, reservations can be made and tickets paid for at the actual event, but usually, tickets must be paid for in advance. In general, tickets are not obtained by who you know, but by going through a process that has been set up in advance and is usually not flexible.

Legalistic – The United States is a society of laws, which is seen as a way to ensure fairness and equality, values we touched on before. There is a societal concern with liability for the safety of another person, so often one receives written warnings or signs forms stating that the conditions of the event, purchase, etc. are understood.

What kind of resources would a college student use in your country if s/he was anxious, depressed, or just had a big problem that was hard to resolve? Who would s/he likely talk to?

9. A Positive Spin on a U.S. Value

> _____ is a foreign student, her/his roommate ______ is from the U.S. The two get along well and go to the Coles Sports Center together once a week to a yoga class. They are both Ph.D. students and have a lot of pressure to do well in their studies. ____, the U.S. student, has noticed that ____, the foreign student, doesn’t seem to be as happy the past week. _____, the U.S. student finally takes the opportunity to talk to _____, the foreign student.

U.S.: Hi _____, I was waiting for you to get back from the library. You know our yoga class is in thirty minutes. I’ll wait for you to get ready. Foreign: Hi _____ Actually, maybe you can go to the yoga class without me.

U.S.: What do you mean? We always go to class together! It’s our stress break!

Foreign: I just don’t have the time today.

U.S.: I am worried about you. You’ve been very quiet this past week and spending more time at the library. I’ve hardly seen you. I really want to spend time together. Are you mad at me?

Foreign: No, I am not mad at you. I am just busy.

U.S.: I am worried something is wrong. Do you want to talk about it?

Foreign: No, thank you. I don’t want to discuss it.

U.S.: You may not want to talk to me, but did you know there are counselors here you can talk to?

Foreign: Oh, I am able to solve my problems on my own. Thank you for your concern.

U.S.: Really, counseling can be good. I went last year when I was worried about my grades. They are very nice and it’s totally confidential.

Foreign: Well, even if I did go there, I wouldn’t ever want anyone to know.

U.S.: They won’t! The counselors are forbidden to share information with anyone else about your visits there. Not even your family can find out about it.

Foreign: Really, not even my parents? Even though they pay my tuition? Well, maybe I will think about this. Thank you for the suggestion.


  • What happened here?
  • Is the U.S. student being helpful?
  • How did the foreign student react to the advice of the U.S. student?

Discussion Points:
Confidentiality as defined and carried out in the U.S. may be much more protected and formalized than in other cultures. The value of confidentiality comes from the sense of individualism.

Value: People are individuals and have the right to privacy and independence. This value can be taken to what some may see as extreme measures, preventing family or friends to obtain information about someone without their written consent, for example, physical or mental health records.

Another value is self-help. The U.S. student is trying to think of ways that the foreign student can get better by taking action on her own.