PREDEPARTURE INFORMATION FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

COMMENTS FROM ISRAELI RETURNING STUDENTS

A. ACADEMIC ADJUSTMENTS/DIFFERENCES:

Q: How many hours a week did you spend on readings?
A: Lots of reading is involved. Students are expected to keep up with all bibliography readings assigned at the beginning of the semester.

Q: Can you describe the atmosphere in your classes? Did your study habits in and outside of class differ from your American counterparts?
A: You are expected to participate actively in class. 20-25% of one PhD's first year's grade in a Sociology class at Colombia University was based on class participation. He didn't know that and hardly spoke up during the year until the professor made him aware of this before final grades.

Q: Please discuss the concept of writing papers in the U.S.
A: Many professors have on file samples of the kinds and level of papers they expect. It is a good idea to check.

Q: Did you receive a TA/RA? How, if at all, did it affect your graduate program?
A: A TA is a great experience and gives you a chance to improve your English, but it can slow down your academic progress.

Q: Can you describe faculty-student relationships?
A: More formal, less flexibility in timetable professor gives.

Q: What academic tips can you offer to departing students?
A:
- Be involved in conferences!
- Understand the university "Honor" code and the dangers of plagerism.
- Take advantage of ESL classes and writing labs.
- Start taking notes in English from the beginning. Do not translate back into your mother tongue.
- Remember that a paper you turn into to a professor is expected to be the final, best product you can produce. Nothing should be hand written.
- University study is considered a "full-time" job in the States. Faculty expect study to be your first priority.


B. ARRIVAL AND LIFE ON CAMPUS:

1. You must attend campus orientation and registration. To get the classes you want at the times you want, get there early!

2. Books are expensive. You are expected to buy and read all books assigned. You can buy many books second hand if you arrive on campus early before they run out.

3. Many campuses have activity clubs where you can learn a great hobby such as one student at UC-Berkeley who learned flying and sailing!

4. It is important to get to campus early (at least one month before) if no arrangement for housing has been made.

5. It is recommended to live on campus at least one semester until you know your way around; you then may wish to move off campus.

6. Pets are not allowed in campus housing. Off campus housing may allow pets, but each apartment complex has its rules.

7. Most American undergraduate students are much younger than their e.g. Israeli counterparts. Living in an undergraduate dorm can therefore be quite a cultural awakening!

8. Sororities and fraternaties: there cannot be found any cultural equivalents for those.

9. Safety and AIDS awareness should be discussed in pre-departure sessions, according to returning students. One male PhD student at Harvard said he chose to pay a much higher monthly rent in order to live in a safer neighborhood.

10. Get a local driver's license as soon as possible even if you don't need it for driving since it serves as a good I.D.

11. The drinking age in many states is 21 and ID is required to get into bars.


C. FINANCES: (tips from students)

1. Banking in the USA is different than in Israel. No overdraft is allowed; no post-dated checks can be written.

2. It's not a good idea to open an account with a small bank. You should "shop around" for the best deals. Understand the difference between credit and charge cards.

3. Be careful to write the dates correctly on your checks American style; i.e. month/day/year and not day/month/year. Checks have been returned and fines paid to the bank for such mistakes.

4. Students should know that everyone on an F-1 must file a 1040, even if you earned nothing. In Israel, there is no need to file if you are a salaried employee because taxes are automatically deducted from your salary.

5. Get careful guidance about tax laws and how they affect your grant! One PhD student got 10% deducted automatically from his grant due to taxes.

6. Car purchase: No need to buy car in big cities with good public transportation. Not a good idea to buy from a dealer. Check ads. Car insurance varies from state to state. One student mentions that "car insurance can be a large expense, even more than t he price of a car. One should consider this expense when choosing his residence location, as the price of insurance can vary between different areas in the same city. AAA offers a relatively cheap insurance policy (about $500/year) but only for 1 year and only for holders of J class visa (not F class).

7. Sometimes grants take time to kick in and until your social security number is settled. Bring extra money at the beginning.

8. If you bring in $10,000 or more, you must declare this at US Customs upon entering. Keep this receipt because it will be useful and help explain where this money came from when you go to open a bank account and for US tax purposes as an exemption.


D. CULTURE SHOCK:

1. It's a good idea to make international students and American friends and mix.

2. Get used to using the language from the beginning.

3. Learn politeness and to behave according to American mores.

4. Be aware of political correctness.


E. HEALTH INSURANCE:

1. Have as many medical tests, check ups, x-rays, dental work, etc. done in your home country before departure since it is much cheaper and may not be covered in the States. Check to see if the university require certain shots for mumps, diptheria and rub ella.

2. It is not a good idea to take out long term local health coverage.

3. Be aware of the J-1 health insurance regulations!


Prepared by: Evelyn Levinson, Director, Educational Information Service, Tel Aviv, April 1995 U.S.-Israel Educational Foundation (USIEF)

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