Handbook for International Students
International Student Office
Office of Diversity and
International Education and Programs
The University of West Florida
The University of West Florida used The University of Iowa’s Handbook for International Students and Professionals by Gary Althen as its model. Our book is organized according to Mr. Althen’s handbook modified for The University of West Florida and Pensacola area. Sections on Culture Shock, the Monetary System, U.S. Health Care, U.S. Educational System, Getting Along With Americans, and Holidays in the U.S., were taken directly from the model. The Handbook for International Students also refers to the International Student Handbook compiled by the Student Affairs staff assisted by Dr. Linda Dye and graduate students Shawn Hipsley, Angiel Wells, and Abdelhay Moudden. We hope that the handbook assists you and is used as a reference book during your stay in Pensacola. Mr. Greg Chapman contributed sections on alcohol and drugs and assisted with the revision of the section on slang. The Office of Diversity and International Education and Programs is here to assist you should any questions or problems arise during your educational endeavors at the University of West Florida. This edition of the Handbook was revised fall 2008. *The University Catalog – The University of West Florida catalog lists the current curriculum, educational plans, offerings, and requirements and should be used as a reference for academic information. ** The Student Handbook ‐ lists the student services and activities available on campus. 2
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page Chapter One Introduction
History of Pensacola………………………………………………………………….. 5 II.
Location and Climate…………………………………………………………………. 5 Chapter Two Getting Settled
Housing……………………………….……………………………………………………. 6 Buying………………………………………………………………………………………. 9 Dealing with “Culture Shock”……………………………………………………. 11 Adjusting to a New Culture……………………………………………………….. 13 Thinking about Going Home……………………………………………………… 14 Chapter Three Education and Student Life
Keys to Academic Success………………………………………………………… 15 II.
Understanding the Academic System…………………………………….... 16 III.
Student Services………………………………………………………………………. 23 IV.
Student Activities………………………………………………………………..…… 25 Chapter Four Legal Information
Summary of Your Legal Responsibilities………………………..…………. 27 II.
Enforcement of Immigration Laws……….………………………………….. 28 III.
Basic Travel Documents…………………………………………………………… 28 IV.
Types of Visas and Regulations………………………………………...…….. 29 V.
Becoming a Permanent Resident………………………...…..…………..... 32 VI.
Income Tax……………………………………………………………………………… 33 VII.
Social Security ……………………….………………………………………………. 34 VIII.
Tax Clearance for Departing the U.S........................................... 35 Chapter Five Pensacola Living
Management of Money.................................................................. 36 II.
Medical Care and Expenses............................................................ 40 III.
Services...................................................................................... 42 IV.
Housekeeping............................................................................ 46 V.
Recreation................................................................................. 46 VI.
Activities for Spouses and Children........................................... 47 VII.
Cars and Bicycles....................................................................... 49 VIII.
Getting Along with U.S. Americans........................................... 51 IX.
Holidays in the United States.................................................... 60 3
Appendix I Expressions/Slangs....................................................................................... 63 Appendix II Sizes,
Weights, and Measurements........................................... 69 4
Welcome to the Pensacola Community. The information in this handbook should help you become more oriented to the physical facilities, as well as the social, cultural, and recreational offerings of the area. We hope that you find your stay in Pensacola both pleasurable and educational. I.
History of Pensacola Pensacola was founded by Don Tristan de Luna, colonizer under King Phillip of Spain, on August 14, 1559. This was six years before the settlement of St. Augustine which is the oldest continuing city in the United States. Two years after the founding of the Pensacola settlement, it was abandoned because of dissension among its inhabitants and was not reestablished until 1696. In 1718, Pensacola was captured by the French and within two years the Spanish were again in control. Later in the century, it was given to the British and subsequently, returned to the control of the Spanish in 1781. The year 1821 saw the cession of Florida to the United States. During the Civil War, the city once again changed hands when Pensacola was under the control of the Confederate Government. At that time, Union Forces evacuated Fort San Carlos and Fort Barrancas in favor of the more defensible Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island. In 1862, the Confederate Government abandoned the city to the Union Forces, and once again Pensacola flew the flag of the United States. Pensacola remembers its history through its choice of a nickname, the City of Five Flags. This history is celebrated during the month of June in a week‐long pageant known as the “Fiesta of Five Flags.” This pageant is much like the Mardi Gras, complete with balls, parades, a treasure hunt, cultural and sports events, and a masked Don Tristan de Luna debarking from his boat onto Santa Rosa Island. II.
Location and Climate The city of Pensacola is located in Escambia County, in the extreme northwestern part of Florida. The University of West Florida is approximately twelve miles from downtown Pensacola and nine miles from the municipal airport, while Pensacola Junior College is approximately two blocks from the airport. Escambia County extends from the Gulf of Mexico to the Alabama‐Florida border, a distance of 50 miles. Pensacola is situated in a warm temperature zone, and its climate is typical of the region along the upper Gulf Coast. The winters are mild and the summer heat is tempered by the southerly prevailing winds from the Gulf of Mexico. Winter temperatures (from December through February) average 54°F, and summer temperatures (from June through August) average 87°F. You will find it necessary to have some heavy clothing for the winter months. 5
Housing In general, inexpensive off‐campus housing that is within walking distance of the campus is relatively rare. When deciding where to live, you will want to consider such factors as those given in the chart on page. Types of student housing at UWF include private and two‐student housing for single students in University residence halls. The University also has a limited number of apartments available for married students. All of the rooms in University residence halls are furnished. Residence Halls (usually called “dormitories” or “dorms”) New students frequently live on‐campus because dorms are inexpensive and convenient. They are close to academic buildings and are already furnished. Some of the residence halls are equipped with the facilities necessary for students to prepare their own meals. Such communal cooking facilities are located in a residence hall or hall cluster and consist of a stove, sink, and microwave. Dorms also afford excellent opportunities to interact with U.S. American students. Dorm space is in heavy demand and may not be available at the opening of the fall or spring semester for those who have not applied early enough. Up‐to‐date information about residence halls including rates, rules, furnishings, activities and optional services, is available from the Office of Housing in Building 21. Married Student Housing On‐campus family housing is available only to those married couples who have no children, or one child under the age of one year old. Family housing is in heavy demand and is frequently unavailable at the opening of the fall and spring semesters. There is generally a waiting list. Off‐Campus Housing Rooms – A “room” has facilities for sleeping and studying. It may be in a private house, or it may be in a “rooming house,” where there are many sleeping/studying rooms. In either case, bathrooms are usually shared with other residents. There may be or not be “kitchen privileges,” meaning access to cooking facilities. Rents range from $100‐$200 monthly. Apartment – An apartment is a complete living unit, with no facilities other than laundry machines that must be shared with other residents in the apartment building. An “efficiency apartment” has two rooms: a bathroom and another large room that serves as a kitchen, bedroom, and living room. It is suitable for one or perhaps two people. There are also one, two, and three bedroom apartments. “Unfurnished apartments” have only a refrigerator, stove, and window covering, and the renter must acquire all other furniture that is needed. A “furnished apartment” includes all furniture, but not linens (towels, sheets, etc.) or cooking and eating utensils. Since unfurnished apartments cost less, and inexpensive, second‐hand furniture is easy to buy and sell in Pensacola, students who will be here for at least one or two years, may find it to their financial advantage to rent an unfurnished apartment and buy used furniture for it. A furnished apartment costs more but eliminates the need to 6
buy furniture. A renter or “tenant” usually has to pay for his/her own utilities (electricity, gas, water, telephone), although the monthly rent may include some of these. Finding Off‐Campus Housing The office of Housing, located in Building 21, has information about apartments in the Pensacola area. Check ads in the Voyager, local newspapers, and on campus bulletin boards. The Lease – A lease is a written agreement between a tenant and landlord describing the rights and responsibilities of each. It is a binding legal document which among other things, makes the tenant responsible for minimal care of the rented property and for the monthly rent of the stated amount. It specifies the landlord’s responsibilities for maintenance and repair of the housing unit. A lease may or may not contain provisions concerning its early termination. When you sign a lease, you will usually have to pay a “damage deposit” or a “security deposit” which may amount to as much as one month’s rent. The deposit is returned to you when you leave if you have not damaged the quarters and if you have cleaned them adequately; otherwise, the landlord keeps the deposit. What to look for in a lease – Make sure that you can keep the room or apartment for as long as you wish and that it is not binding for a time period longer that you anticipate needing the housing. See whether the lease is renewable by the month or the year. See whether you, the renter, can “break” the lease with a month’s or two month’s notice to the landlord. In the absence of such a provision, you may be required to pay rent until the end of the period covered in the lease if you move out and live elsewhere. Many unpleasant disputes arise between landlords who want to keep their property rented and student renters who, after signing a lease, decide for some reason that they wish to live elsewhere. Or, if the lease allows it, you may be able to “sublet” your room or apartment. That means, essentially, that you find another tenant to replace yourself. See what utilities you are responsible for. Ask the landlord or a current tenant what the average utility costs are because they will be added to the rent. With this information, you will be able to determine your monthly housing cost and properly budget your money. Be sure that proper winter temperature control and monthly insect extermination are guaranteed in your lease. Many restrictions and inclusions may be in a lease. Common ones pertain to children and pet animals. Some landlords allow neither; most landlords do not permit pets. Questions about leases – Any questions about landlord‐tenant relationships can be directed to the Escambia County Landlord and Tenant Office at telephone (850) 436‐5260. This association assists both tenants and landlords. For more information, the pamphlet, Landlord, Tenant and the Law may be obtained from the Division of Consumer Services, 110 Mayo Building, Tallahassee, Florida 32301, and telephone (800) 435‐7352. 7
FACTOR Availability Convenience Location Furnishings Cooking Cost (Continuously changing—see information) Condition of Housing Privacy Educational Legal Obligations RESIDENCE HALL In very short supply at opening of fall semester, somewhat more available later; temporary quarters usually available Very close to academic buildings and campus activities Supplied U.S. American style meals provided on a fixed schedule on‐campus by University Food Service Total costs lower than for more expensive room or apt. and average or above average food costs Clean, well‐kept Many fellow residents; sometimes considerable noise Unlimited opportunity to use English and interact with U.S. Americans “Contract” for entire academic year—contract can be broken only in very unusual cases OFF‐CAMPUS HOUSING Rooms or apartments that are reasonably priced and relatively close to the campus are in short supply; quarters that are more expensive or further away are also scarce, especially at the opening of the fall term. May be within walking distance of the campus, public transportation route; if not, a car may be needed Sometimes supplied Shopping (for groceries) and cooking must be done, but you can prepare the kind of food you are accustomed to eating More expensive than a dorm, you can find inexpensive room and spend less than average on food or share costs with several people living together Less expensive, frequently old and in need of repairs but can be made comfortable Quieter, more privacy Restricted opportunities to use English and interact with U.S. Americans (unless you have a U.S. roommate) “Lease” nearly always required—leases have varying terms II.
Buying Most items can be purchased form a variety of stores. Since prices and quality may vary, it is helpful to become acquainted with those stores where you can shop most conveniently and economically. Such information is available from people who have lived in Pensacola, from advertisements in newspapers, and from the “yellow pages” section of the telephone directory. You can ask a store employee whatever questions you wish about a product without being obligated to buy anything. Prices in stores are fixed. A shopper does not “bargain” with the store employee for a lower price. Many stores operate on a “self‐service” basis. In these stores, the shopper uses available a basket or a cart and selects the merchandise desired. The merchandise is then taken to the cashier who totals the amount of the purchase and adds the appropriate sales tax. If you need help in making your selections, you have to find a clerk to help you. Sometimes it is difficult to find the clerk. When you buy something other than food, it is advisable to keep the receipt you get when you pay for the item. You will need the receipt in case you need to return an item which is defective or unsatisfactory to the store where you bought it. The receipt proves you made the purchase. The remainder of this section of the Handbook is intended to give an idea where different kinds of merchandise are available for purchase. It is advisable to ask someone who is familiar with Pensacola when you have doubts about where to go to buy something. FOOD There are two general kinds of food stores, “supermarkets” and “convenience stores.” A supermarket is a large store which sells not only groceries but also paper goods, kitchen supplies, and health and beauty aids. Supermarkets in Pensacola include Food World, Winn Dixie, Albertson’s, and Publix. Convenience stores are smaller, have far fewer non‐food items, sometimes have longer hours of business, and charge somewhat higher prices. Convenience stores include “Circle K,” “Tom Thumb,” etc., and they are usually open 24 hours a day. Most people do nearly all their food shopping at the supermarket most convenient for them and go to convenience stores only to buy one or two items needed quickly. Food items from your country may not be available in the supermarket, but it may be available from a specialty food store in Pensacola. Ask other students here from your country where they buy such items.
CLOTHING Clothing is for sale in clothes stores (usually separate stores for men’s and women’s clothing), department stores (which have “departments” for selling everything, not only clothing, but hardware, appliances, furniture, material and sewing supplies, kitchen utensils, shoes, books, records, and toys) and at second hand stores such as the Salvation Army (which sell used merchandise at low prices). FURNITURE Buying furniture for a new apartment can be a large undertaking. So this section includes extensive information on place to look for less expensive furniture. Furniture stores, department stores, and second‐hand stores all sell furniture. In addition, used furniture is often available from private individuals who have “garage sales” at their homes or who advertise items they wish to sell in the classified section of the newspaper. Advertisements about garage sales or items for sales by private individuals are found in the Voyager which advertises both new and used goods, not only furniture but household goods, cars, etc., and the Pensacola News Journal under “classified advertisements.” These are organized under headings such as “autos,” “household goods,” “furniture,” and “miscellaneous.” You can purchase used furniture at the following places: • Brother’s Used Furniture 1717 N. “T” Street 433‐7030 • Carroll’s Furniture 2001 N. “T” Street 433‐2740 • Garrett’s Used Furniture 3501 Fairfield Drive 433‐1388 • Salvation Army 2600 N. “T” Street 434‐1453 The Loan Closet through the Student Affairs Office at UWF (474‐2384) is a place where you can borrow items and return them when they are no longer needed or at the time of leaving UWF. Items include kitchen utensils, blankets, and a few electrical appliances. Drug Stores and Pharmacies sell many things besides drugs. There is always a registered pharmacist on duty to fill a doctor’s prescription. There is a drug store open in some part of the city everyday from as early as 7:30 a.m. to as late as 10:00 p.m. Supplies for babies, sanitary good, patient medicines, first aid supplies, toiletries and other items of a similar nature may be found in a drug store. Hardware Stores specialize in building supplies and household repair items. Here you will find paint, varnish and light tools. Variety Stores all carry a wide selection of inexpensive items. Here you will find plastic articles, some dishes and glassware, household items, cooking utensils, paper goods, some clothes and toys. Some of them also have small hardware items like nails, screws, nuts and bolts, small hammers and other light tools you might use around the house. (Wal‐Mart, K‐Mart, etc.) 10
BOOKS The main supplier of textbooks in Pensacola is the University Bookstore in the Commons. There is also Lemox Book Store (478‐2081) located at 1014 Underwood Avenue which sells used and new textbooks. You may also choose to purchase your books online. ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES Beer is sold at most supermarkets, convenience stores, many gas stations, and most liquor stores. Wine is sold at supermarkets and liquor stores. Liquor is only sold at liquor stores. Florida law prohibits anyone who is not 21 years or older from possessing, consuming, buying, selling, giving, serving, or permitting to be served any kind of alcoholic beverage. Bars, taverns, cafes, lounges, clubs, nightclubs, and some eating establishments sell alcoholic beverages by the drink. Many places in the Pensacola area, where beverage alcohol by the drink is sold, will allow an underage person (anyone who is not yet 21 years old) to enter but will not serve, sell or allow the consumption of beverage alcohol by the underage person. There are no minimum age restrictions to go into any eating establishment that may also serve beverage alcohol by the drink, as long as you are going into the establishment to eat. Many establishments that offer entertainment and serve beverage alcohol to drink, do have minimum age requirement to enter which is 18 years or older. Proving that you are 21 years old is done by showing an acceptable form of identification such as a Florida driver’s license, a Florida identification card or an official passport. SHOPPING CENTERS Malls or shopping centers are places where a number of small stores are clustered together for the shopper’s convenience. Some of the larger shopping centers are: • Cordova Mall 9th and Bayou Boulevard • University Mall Davis Highway and I‐10 III.
Dealing With Culture Shock A. What It Is “Culture Shock” refers to a feeling of disorientation or confusion that often occurs when a person leaves a familiar place and moves to an unfamiliar one. Coming to Pensacola from another country, you no doubt encountered a multitude of new things. The buildings look different, and so do the trees and the birds. The food is not the same as it was at home, and the people look, speak, and act differently from the people at home. Your English might not serve you as well as you expected it would. You might not be able to convey your full personality in English, with the result that you think other people see you as a child. And your family and friends are far away. As a result of all this, you may feel confused or unsure of yourself, 11
and you may have some doubts about the wisdom of your decision to come here. B. Symptoms Some people are more affected by culture shock than others. Those who do experience it tend to become nervous and unusually tired. They want to sleep a lot and write many letters home. They may feel frustrated and hostile toward their host country. They may get excessively angry about minor irritations. It is not unusual for them to become very dependent on fellow nationals who are also in a new country. All of these feelings may make it difficult to deal with the residents of the host country and to use their language. C. Coping with Culture Shock Different people react differently to culture shock. Some become depressed, while others are stimulated by the new experiences that are open to them. Here are some ideas that might be helpful. 1. Maintain your perspective. Try to remember that others have come to Pensacola from other counties and have survived. 2. Evaluate your expectations. Your reactions to the United States and to Pensacola and the University are products both of the way things are here and the way you expected them to be. If you find yourself feeling confused or disappointed about something, ask yourself, “What did I expect?” “Why?” “Was my expectation reasonable?” If you determine that you expectations were unreasonable, you can do much to reduce the amount of dissatisfaction you feel. 3. Keep an open mind. People in Pensacola might do or say things that people at home would not do or say. But the people in Pensacola are acting in accordance to their own set of values, not yours. Try to find out how they perceive what they are saying and doing, and try to avoid evaluating their behavior using the standards you would use in your own country. 4. Learn from the experience. Moving into a new culture can be the most fascinating and educational experience of your life. It gives you the opportunity to explore an entire new way of living and compare it to your own. There is no better way to become aware of your own values and attitudes and to broaden your point of view. Here are some questions that you might try to answer as you encounter the local people: How do they make friends? How do friends treat each other? Who respects whom? How is respect shown? What attitudes do they have about their families? What is the relationship between males and females? Why do people spend their time the way they do? How do they deal with conflicts or disagreements? What do they talk about? When and with whom? How often do they “take turns” during a conversation? What kind of evidence do they seek or use when evaluating an idea or trying to win an argument? There are countless other questions you can ask. You can compare the answers you get to the answers you would get to the same questions in your country, and you can thereby help yourself develop a better understanding of your own society and of the one where you are living now. 12
5. Visit the International Student Advisor. A discussion with the International Student Advisor can help in achieving a useful perspective on culture shock and the learning possibilities it implies. IV. Adjusting to a New Culture Since you are in a new setting, you will have to make certain adjustments or adaptations in your usual behavior and attitudes. It is instructive to observe your own reactions to being in a new culture and to compare your reactions with those of other people who are here from different countries. These observations can result in increased understanding of yourself and of the various factors that have made you the kind of person that you are. Furthermore, if you are able to keep the perspective of a person who is observing himself or herself while undergoing an unusual experience, you will be able to help prevent yourself from becoming extremely anxious or depressed. You will learn more from the intercultural experience you are having. Many factors influence the way different people adjust to a new culture. One of these factors is, of course, the individual’s personality—degree of self‐confidence, sense of humor, ability to interact with other people, ability to tolerate ambiguous situations or frustrating situations, and so on. Other factors influencing people’s adjustments to a new culture are the nature and quality of the differences between their own culture and the new one; the comparative status of their own country and the new one; the nature of the person’s past experience in foreign cultures; and the nature of the particular setting in which the newcomer to a culture is situated. Social scientists who have studied the phenomenon of adjusting to a new culture have identified four phases of adjustment through which newcomers to a culture commonly pass. As summarized but the social scientist Marjorie Klein, those phases are as follows: Spectator Phase: The new person is excited and optimistic. Stress and Adaptation: Problems, disappointments, and internal conflicts emerge. Coming‐to‐Terms: Increasing involvement with the host society reduces the foreigner’s generalized hostility and disappointment, and helps him or her find a relatively comfortable, or at least acceptable, position in society. Decision to return home: This is a period of excitement and self‐examination. If the foreigner has become detached from his or her own society, this phase brings about tension and feelings of ambivalence. If the foreigner still identifies strongly with his or her home country, this phase brings a feeling of release and pleasant anxiety. This is only one way of looking at the “phases of adjustment.” Not everyone goes through all of these phases, and different people spend different amounts of time in those through which they do pass. It can be interesting for you to see whether you yourself will go or have gone through phases like these. 13
Thinking about Going Home When you first arrive in a new country, it is natural to spend much of your time thinking about the new country and your reactions to it. It is helpful to try to keep in mind that even though you are preoccupied with thoughts about your new setting, you will eventually be going back to your own country after a certain period of time. Remember that you will change while you are in the new country. You will learn new ideas, adopt new attitudes, and begin to behave in new ways. This may happen so gradually that you are not aware of it. Be aware that while you are changing, things will be changing at home also. Your family members, friends, and professional colleagues will have experiences that you do not know about, and they too will develop new ideas, attitudes, and ways of behaving. Social, political, and economic situations may change as well. This means that when you go back home, things will not be as you remember them. You will have to adjust again, this time, to your own culture. This readjustment is easier if you realize it is going to be necessary. You can prepare yourself for it, try to keep your expectations realistic, and try not to pass judgment on the people and situations you encounter after you go home. 14
Education and Student Life
Keys to Academic Success The U.S. American academic system differs from all others in the world. To succeed in it, you will need to learn how it is organized and works. You will need to learn, as the U.S. Americans say, “how to play the game.” Listed below are some suggestions that you should keep in mind as you begin your studies. (Some of these suggestions as well as the ideas about study skills, which appear later in this chapter, were contributed by Edward English of the University of Iowa Counseling Service.) You will learn more about the informal rules for academic success as you take courses and have the opportunity to talk with experienced students in your field of study. The more you discuss topics such as these with experienced students, the sooner you will be able to develop a helpful understanding of the way in which your academic department functions. a. Evaluate Your Expectations Keep in mind that a period of adjustment to a new educational system is necessary before you will be able to perform to the best of your ability. In general, international students earn lower grades during their first semester in this country. Then, as they become accustomed to the system and their English improves, their grades improve as well. International students generally cannot expect to do outstanding academic work during their first semester here. b. Select Your Courses Wisely Especially during your first semester, do not take more courses than you must. Make sure you have a combination of more demanding and less demanding courses, rather than only “difficult” ones which require unusually heavy amounts of work. When arranging your course schedule, consult not only with your academic advisor but also with experienced students who are familiar with available courses and teachers. You may be tempted to take more courses than necessary in order to complete your degree faster. The usual result of taking too many courses is discouragement and a poor academic performance. c. Work Hard from the Beginning It is not possible, in the U.S. American system of higher education, to wait until the latter part of the semester to begin studying. If you do not begin studying on the first day of classes, you are likely to get behind and to experience academic difficulty. d. Know How to Study The study habits that were appropriate for the educational system in your country may not be appropriate here. You may have to learn to approach your studies in a different way while you are studying at a U.S. institution. This chapter of the Handbook offers some suggestions on “study skills” that can be helpful here. e. Talk With Your Teachers Teachers here expect students to ask questions in class or immediately following the class. They expect students to go see them in their offices when problems begin. If you are not 15
doing well in a class and you do not go see the teacher to discuss the situation, the teacher is likely to assume that you are not really interested in his or her class. In other words, most teachers will have a negative or at best indifferent evaluation of a student who never raises questions in the class, or who does not visit the teacher outside of class to discuss academic difficulties he or she is experiencing. f. Ask Questions Any time you feel unsure of what is expected of you in class, or of some aspect of the material being presented, ask the teacher and/or some of your fellow students about it. If you do not ask, it will be assumed that you do not understand everything or that you are not interested. g. Open Your Mind to the Values of the System From your past experience in other educational systems, you have developed certain assumptions about the nature and purpose of education, and about the way your field of interest should be studied. For example, you may have been taught to view education as a process of absorbing information and ideas from scholars who know a great deal about a body of knowledge that somehow “exists” in the world. In the U.S. educational system, by contrast, you will find that education is viewed more as an effort to acquire more information about and a greater understanding of things that are not yet known or understood by anyone. You may have been taught that it is important to be able to memorize large quantities of information that are provided by professors, authors, or other experts. Here, by contrast, you may find that being able to memorize material is less important than being able to synthesize (that is, bring together and mix in a new way) material from many sources, developing your own ideas and viewpoints. (U.S. faculty members tend to agree that learning how to approach studies independently and to develop one’s own approaches and ideas is the most difficult task facing new foreign students, especially at the graduate level.) It is important for you to realize that differences of this kind exist between the U.S. and other education systems, and that you will have to adjust your thinking if you are going to succeed academically. Whether or not you personally accept the values of the education system here, you will have to act in accordance with them while you are here. II.
Understanding the Academic System a. Goals of the Academic System i. Broad education. The U.S. American academic system, as a whole, is intended to provide a broad education for as many people as possible. There is no screening examination which directs a student at an early age, into an academic or non‐academic area. A high proportion of the population completes secondary school—and secondary school is not as challenging as it is in countries where access to education is more limited. A high proportion of the population attempts some kind of post‐secondary education—and post‐secondary education study, at the undergraduate level, is again not as challenging as it is in some other systems. You may be disconcerted to find that U.S. Americans who have completed many years of formal education do not seems as well educated as people at home who have had a comparable amount of education. 16
ii. Specialization. The U.S. American educational system also produces specialists, people who have studied a limited range of topics in depth. Specialization comes later in the U.S. system than it does in most others. It is not until the third (“junior”) year of undergraduate work that a student concentrates on the study of his/her own “major” field. There is further specialization in graduate work, especially as students undertake research for a thesis. iii. Evaluation. It is considered important here to evaluate the work that students do. Therefore, there is a “grading system” (see next page) which is used to rank and compare students academic work. A student’s grades receive considerable attention in competition. b. Organization of the Academic System This discussion is limited to higher (post‐secondary) education. i. The semester system. The academic year at the University is comprised of two semesters of approximately 16 weeks in length. In addition, there are three summer sessions, one for 12 weeks, and two sessions of six weeks each. ii. Credits. The quantity of academic work a student does at the University is measured in “credits.” The number of credits a course is worth usually depends on the number of hours per week that it meets. A “three credit course,” for example, will meet three hours weekly for one semester. It might meet for three fifty‐minute sessions, as undergraduate classes normally do, or for one three‐hour session, the more common pattern in graduate classes. At the end of the semester, the student who has achieved a passing grade in the course has earned “three credits” or “three credit hours.” The student must earn a specified number of credits in order to graduate. This number varies for undergraduates and graduates, and it varies among departments of the University. Information about graduation requirements can be found in the University’s catalog. The catalog lists all University course offerings and requirements. (You can see one in your department’s office, or you can obtain a copy at the Admissions Office in Building 18.) iii. The grading system. The quality of a student’s academic work is measured by means of “grades.” There are four “passing” grades, A, B, C, and D. There is one “failing” grade, F. (At the graduate level, only A and B are considered passing grades.) • Each grade carries a designated number of “points” per credit, as follows: Grade Definition Grade Points per Semester Hour An Outstanding 4.0 A‐ 3.7 B+ Above Average 3.3 B 3.0 B‐ 2.7 C+ Average 2.3 C 2.0 C‐ 1.7 D+ Below Average 1.3 D 1.0 F Failure 0.0 17
A student’s “grade point average” (or GPA) is calculated by dividing the number of credits earned into the number of grade points earned. For example, if a student has taken three courses, each for three hours of credit, and the grades include one A, one B, and one C, the GPA would be 3.00. The calculation is like this: Grade Credits Points Total Points A 3 X 4 12 B 3 X 3 9 27÷9 = 3.00GPA C 3 X 2 6 9 27 The “cumulative GPA” is the GPA a student has earned for all studies undertaken at the University. Each teacher at the University has his or her own philosophy and methods of grading, Some use fixed grading scales, whereby each assignment or examination that is graded can receive a fixed maximum of points (e.g., 10 or 100), and the number of points accumulated a the end of the semester is converted unto a letter grade (e.g., 450‐500 points is an A). An alternative to this method is that of “grading on the curve,” whereby a formula is used to assure that there will be a certain number of A’s, a certain number of B’s, and so on. Under this system, the students in the class are competing with each other for high grades. You will notice the absence of cooperation among students in these classes. It is helpful to learn about the philosophy and method of grading that each of your teachers uses. iv. Graduation requirements. Graduation requirements specify the number of credits you must earn, the minimum GPA you must achieve, and the distribution of credits you must have form among different departments or fields of study. In addition, it is necessary to “apply for graduation” well in advance of the term that you will be completing your graduation requirements. Since graduation requirements vary among various divisions of the University, you should consult the catalog and your current Schedule of Courses for information. Questions can be addresses to your departmental office or to your academic advisor. v. Academic Advisor. Your academic advisor is a faculty member who helps you to plan your program of studies in a way that will best enable you to fulfill your graduation requirements and at the same time tailor your studies to your interests. Undergraduate students do not work especially closely with an advisor, even though the advisor must sign forms for registration and changes in registration. Graduate students, on the other hand, work very closely with their academic advisor. The advisor is ordinarily the chairperson of the student’s examining committee. He or she helps the student assess his/her interests and choose courses which will develop them. The graduate student is likely to spend many hours in the office or laboratory with his/her advisor. You will notice that relations between students and their advisors are less formal than they are in many other countries. c. Methods of the Academic System i. Lectures. The most common method of instruction here is the classroom lecture. The lectures are supplemented by classroom discussion by reading assignments in 18
textbooks or library books, and perhaps by periodic written assignments. It is important for the student to contribute to the discussion in the classroom. In some countries it is “disrespectful” for the student to question the teacher. In this country, by contrast questioning or challenging the teacher is viewed as a healthy sign of interest, attention, and independent thinking. In many classes, your grade will be determined in part by your contribution to class discussion. If you sit in “respectful” silence, it is likely to be assumed that you are not interested in what is being said in the class, or that you do not understand any of it. When the class is too large to permit questions and discussion, or if for some other reason you do not have the opportunity to raise questions in class, you can visit privately with the teacher during his or her office hours or make an appointment to see him or her in the office. Teachers usually announce their office hours at the first meeting of class. ii. Seminars. The seminar is a small class, typical at the graduate level. It is likely to be devoted entirely to discussion. Students are often required to prepare presentations for the seminar, based on their independent reading or research. iii. Laboratories. Many courses require work in the laboratory, where the theory in a classroom is applied to practical problems. iv. Term papers. In many courses you will be required to write a “term paper” (often called simply a “paper”). A term paper is based on study or research you have done in the library or laboratory. You teacher will usually assign a term paper in the early part of the course. You are expected to work on it during the semester and submit it near the end. The grade you receive on the term paper may constitute a significant portion of your grade for the course. It is wise to complete term papers in advance of their due date do there is time to ask another person to review your paper and suggest revisions. There are books available in bookstores which explain the format of a term paper, including the use of footnotes and bibliographies. If you have any questions about a particular term paper assignment, you should discuss them with the professor. v. Examinations. You will have many examinations. Nearly every class has a “final examination” at the end of the semester. Most have a “mid‐term examination” near the middle of the semester. There may be additional “tests” or “quizzes” given with greater frequency, perhaps even weekly. All these tests are designed to assure that students are doing the work that is assigned to them, and to measure how much they are learning. There are two general types of tests: 1. Objective examinations. An objective examination tests the student’s knowledge or particular facts. International students often have great difficulty with objective examinations, not because they do not know the material on which the test is based, but because they are unfamiliar with the format of the test and because their knowledge of English is not sophisticated enough to enable them to distinguish subtle differences in meaning. There are five different kind of questions commonly found on objective examinations. You will want to learn to deal with each of them: a. Multiple choices. The student must choose from among a series of answers, selecting the one (or more) that is most appropriate. 19
b. True and False. The student must read a statement and indicate whether it is true or false. c. Matching. The student must match words, phrases or statements from two columns. d. Identification. The student must identify and briefly explain the significance of a name, term, or phrase. e. Blanks. The student must fill in the blanks left in a phrase or statement in order to make it complete and correct. 2. Subjective examinations. Sometimes called “essay questions,” subjunctive examinations require the student to write an essay in response to a question or statement. This kind of examination tests a student’s ability to organize and relate his/her knowledge of a particular subject. You should not look at other student’s papers during an examination. To “cheat” on an examination by getting answers from other students or from materials illicitly brought to the test can result in a “zero” grade for the examination and in disciplinary action. (See the section on “academic honesty,” in Part E) d. Study Skills. Different academic systems reward different kinds of mental activity. For example, you may come from an academic system where the successful student was the one who could memorize the largest quantity of material, or the one who could master, in greatest depth, the work of one particular scholar or philosopher. Thus you may be skilled in memorizing or in thoroughly analyzing particular books. Since the U.S. academic system differs from the one to which you are accustomed, the mental skills the brought you academic success at home might not be as useful here, and you will probably have to learn different skills in order to succeed here. In general, the U.S. educational system rewards students who can study a large amount of material concerning a broad range of subjects, who can synthesize (that is, combine into a meaningful whole material from many sources), and who can take examinations effectively. These activities require skills that can be learned. Some of these skills are mentioned and briefly discussed here. For additional ideas or assistance with “study skills,” you can go to the University Counseling Center and say that you are interested in help with study skills. i. Organizing your time. You will have a large amount of work to do and a limited amount of time in which to do it. In that situation, you need to use your time effectively. A good way to use your time effectively is to make yourself a schedule. You can start with a schedule covering one week’s time. Indicate the time periods devoted to sleeping, eating, personal activities, and attending classes. That will leave time that could be used for studying. ii. Reading effectively. When you see the length of the reading lists your instructors give you, you will realize that it is not possible to memorize all of your reading materials for the semester, or even to study them in reasonable depth. That is 20
not what you are expected to do. In general, you are expected to familiarize yourself with the main points from each reading and often be able to relate what one writer has said to what another writer has said. To draw the main points form a large number of readings, here are some things you can do: 1. Skim. “Skimming” means looking over a reading quickly, paying attention to the table of contents if it is entire book, the titles of the chapters, the heading of the various sections of the chapters, the “topic sentences” that begin most paragraphs, and the summary paragraphs or sections. 2. Read. Go over the material again, this time more carefully, looking for the main points, the conclusions, the contentions. Write down notes about the main points, following the outline of the reading itself. 3. Question. Rather than passively accepting what the writer has written, ask yourself questions about it. “Why is the writer saying this?” you might ask. “What is the evidence for that?” “Does that agree with what this same writer said earlier, or with what another writer on the same subject said?” 4. Review. Skim it again. Look at your notes again. Try to retain in your mind the main points of the readings. iii. Deriving as much as possible from classes. Since attendance at and participation in classes is such an important part of the academic system here, it is prudent to try to gain as much from your classes as you can. Here are some suggestions that will help you do that: 1. Read in advance. If you have reading assignments that relate to a lecture you will hear in a class, do the reading before class, so you will understand the lecture better. From the reading you might have questions to ask in the class. 2. Take notes. Write down the main points that the lecturer makes. Many lecturers will use phrases that will help you identify the points they think are important and that you should therefore note. Examples of such phrases are “There are three major reasons for this. The first is...,” “The next major development was...,” and “”The main thing to keep in mind about this is...” 3. Review. After the class, go over your notes. Fill in things you left out. Mark things you still have questions about. 4. Get help if you need it. If you have specific questions or if you are having general difficulty understanding what is happening in a class, get help. Talk to teachers. Try to find another student in the class who seems to understand better and who is willing to answer your questions. If you are having serious difficulties, consider going to the office of the appropriate academic department to see if they can help you identify a “tutor,” that is, a person you can hire to 21
work with you privately on the material that is being covered in the class. 5. Try not to be discouraged. International students, especially new ones, will inevitably have some difficulties understanding what is happening in at least some of their classes. Many things contribute to this: the teacher talks to fast, and/or does not give well‐organized presentations; fellow students’ comments are incomprehensible because they use so much slang; the entire setting seems strange and confusing. As time passes and you have more experience, these difficulties will diminish. 6. Coping with quizzes and examinations. Here are some suggestions that can help you cope with the many quizzes and examinations you will have at the University: a. Keep up‐to‐date with your studies. If you fall behind on your readings or assignments, you will have difficulty preparing adequately for tests. b. Schedule time to review. Before the test, go over your notes form lectures and readings. Try to anticipate what the instructor will ask on the test by recalling the points that were emphasized during lectures. c. Rest before the test. Most people perform better on tests if they have had adequate sleep the night before. d. Read test instructions carefully. Notice how much time you have, what choices you have among questions, and which questions count more than others. Notice whether you are allowed to use scratch paper, calculators, or dictionaries. Follow instructions carefully. e. Schedule your time. Decide how much time you can afford to spend on each question. Avoid spending all your time on only one or a few of the questions. (Some instructors will allow international students additional time to complete examinations, it is appears that a language problem rather than a lack of knowledge of the subject matter is the factor that prevents the student form completing the examination in the allotted time.) Some instructors will not allow international students extra time. If you have a language problem that is keeping you from “showing what you know” on a test, you can ask the instructor for additional time. e. Academic Honesty Many students in the U.S. get into trouble for what is called “cheating” or “plagiarism.” Cheating means getting the type of help a student is not supposed to get on an assignment, quiz, or examination. “Plagiarism” refers specifically to the practice of copying from a book or other publication and not acknowledging that the words or 22
ideas used are someone else’s, and not the student’s. i. What is cheating? In general, students in the U.S. academic system are expected to do their own academic work without getting excessive assistance from other people. This does not mean that you cannot ask other students to help with class work. It is permissible and sometimes even advisable to seek help in understanding what is happening in a class and what a specific assignment is about. It is not considered proper, though, to have someone else do an assignment for you, or to copy answers or information from a publication in a way that makes it appear that the answers are ones you devised and composed yourself. That would be considered cheating. Here are some other things that are considered cheating: 1. Copying other student’s assignments 2. Copying other students answers to examination questions 3. Taking notes or books to an examinations and secretly referring to them for assistance in answering examinations questions. ii. Possible consequences of cheating. Some students cheat and are not punished for it, either because the cheating is not detected or because the faculty member in whose class the cheating takes place prefers not to take any action against the student who has cheated. In most cases, though, cheating is detected and has negative consequences for the student who does it. These consequences might be a failing grade for the assignment or examination on which the cheating took place; a failing grade for the course in which the cheating occurred; expulsion from (being required to leave) the course; or expulsion from the University. Student Services a. International Student Advisor (ISA) – Building 71, Room 147 This office provides counseling on personal, social, and financial matter; information about immigration regulations and University procedures; liaison with sponsoring agencies (IIE, LASPAU, USAID, etc.); certification of student status; miscellaneous problem‐solving; information about vacation activities in the U.S. and employment opportunities abroad; sponsorship of activities with international themes and development of intercultural educational programs. To help clarify the role of an ISA, an editorial on that subject from the March, 1975 issue of the Foreign Student Newsletter is reprinted here: THE FSA: WHOSE SIDE IS SHE/HE ON? It is easy to understand why foreign students might be confused about the role and responsibilities of a Foreign Student Advisor. Most have never heard the term “foreign student advisor” until they have contact with a U.S. educational institution, since FSA’s exist in very few countries of the world. And within the U.S. itself, there is a great variety in the postures assumed by different FSA’s. At the one extreme are those FSA’s who believe completely in the absolute goodness and reliability of every foreign student, and who are ready to do battle on any foreign student’s behalf, whatever the merits of his/her case. At the other extreme are those very skeptical FSA’s who believe that foreign students should be treated warily because 23
they are out to abuse the system to the maximum extent possible in order to advance their purely selfish interests. Of course, the outlooks of most FSA’s fall somewhat between these two extremes. But these extremes do exist, so it seems warranted here to outline the basic assumptions upon which the University of West Florida FSA, (and probably most FSA’s) bases his/her work. In general terms, the FSA’s job is to advance what can be called “international education” at his or her institution. This means assisting qualified international students to derive the maximum possible benefit from their stays at the University, while enduring the minimum possible number of the difficulties which can mane life uncomfortable for any foreigner. It also means assisting the university (faculty, staff, and students) in deriving the maximum possible benefit from the presence of representatives of other countries. An FSA has almost no power in the sense of being able to make things start or stop. An FSA can only seek to influence students, faculty, administrators, governmental agencies, and sponsoring agencies. An FSA’s ability to exert influence depends on the amount of respect in which he or she is held, and that in turn depends on the judgment and integrity he or she displays in carrying out his or her work. An FSA’s effectiveness will be limited, at best, if he or she serves unquestioningly as a supporter of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Admissions Office or the Housing Office of the University, the international student who has willfully let his/her permission to stay expire and has knowingly accepted employment without permission, or any other single agency or person. The effective FSA must draw a balance between the interests of particular students, international students as a group, and the offices or agencies with which international students interact. Of course, the FSA’s primary commitment is to international students, whose advocate and spokesperson the FSA is intended to be. What he or she can do for international students is to provide information about many, many topics; interpret institutional and governmental procedures, rules and regulations (without necessarily agreeing with the moral foundation of those rules, etc.); plan and implement educational programs; try to influence institutional, local and national governmental policy in ways that will benefit students, and support particular international students who find themselves in difficulty due to circumstances beyond their control. At the outset of these comments we indicated that there is among FSA’s wide range of beliefs about international students. Similarly, there is among international students a wide range of beliefs about the FSA’s. At the one extreme, there are those international students who see the FSA as a law enforcement officer, working for the Immigration Service to harass and frustrate non‐U.S. Americans. At the other extreme are those international students who believe the FSA should fight on their behalf no matter how negligent, devious, or dishonest their own behavior has been. These comments have been intended to indicate that neither of these extremes are valid, and the effective FSA is somewhere between the extremes trying to draw a judicious balance. b. Financial Aid – Building 18, 474‐2400 Most financial aid available for international students is in the form of assistantships in their departments. You should apply through your departmental office if you want an assistantship. It is very rare for undergraduates to have assistantships. 24
The Financial Aid Office assists students who are seeking part‐time employment, both on campus and off‐campus. When you seek such assistance, you should realize the opportunities for part‐time work are very limited and you should be sure you have or can obtain proper permission to work off‐campus. The Foreign Student Advisor has no information on specific employment opportunities within the United States. (The Job Placement Office on campus does have a directory that lists job opportunities within the U.S. In the back of the directory is a list of companies that hire foreign nationals.) You might also get help in locating employment from faculty members in you department (if you are a graduate student) and friends who have found jobs. If you have questions concerning your University bill, see a cashier, Building 20E. If you have questions concerning a scholarship you have been awarded, or funds that are to be credited to you by your sponsoring organization, see the Controller in Building 20E. c. Counseling Center – Building 19, 474‐2420 The Center will help you with personal problems, decisions about vocations, and study problems. If you are having difficulty in studying effectively – in concentrating, organizing your time, or just feeling that your studying does not produce the results it should – the Counseling center may be able to help you improve your study skills. d. Career Center – Building 19, 474‐2259 Information about employers and the kinds of employees they are seeking; assistance in preparation of resumes and letter to prospective employers is available. Before seeking work, make sure you have or can obtain legal permission. Check with the FSA about Immigration and Naturalization rules. e. Registration and Records – Building 18, 474‐2249 This office handles changes in registration, name changes, grade reports and transcripts, and affixes the official UWF seal. f. Library – John C. Pace Building (32), 474‐2414 The Library offers services to the students on writing term papers, how to do research for a paper, and how to use the library. For information call 474‐2414. IV. Student Activities a. Student Clubs The International Student Association (ISA) meets on the campus of the University of West Florida under the direction of the Foreign Student Advisor. The club sponsors international sales, dinners, discussions, and parties. All international students and U.S. American students attending the University are welcome. The Asian Student Union (ASU) also meets on the campus of the University of West Florida. The club has dinners, parties and also sponsors one of the most festive nights of the year, Chinese New Year Celebration. 25
The Latin American Student Association (LASA) seeks to share the Hispanic culture with the University community. See the FSA for the club’s contact person. International Friendship Family Program involves Pensacola area families who are interested in spending some time with students from other countries. International students who want to become acquainted with a U.S. American family can fill out a form at the FSA’s office and be put in contact with a family. The Friendship Family Program enables international students to see an important aspect of U.S. American life, one that they do not see if they confine themselves to academic pursuits. In some cases, it enables them to establish close relationships with U.S. Americans. 26
Summary of your Legal Responsibilities Like all other countries of the world, the United States has laws and regulations governing foreigners who are temporarily within its boundaries. These regulations may sometimes seem bewildering. Below is a summary of the essential things you, as an international student, are responsible for doing. Further information about them is contained in subsequent sections of this chapter. After reading what the Handbook says about whatever questions you have, you may want to consult with the Foreign Student Advisor. • Keep your passport valid for at least six months into the future. • Maintain your full‐time enrollment during the academic school year (enrollment in the summer session is not required for most students). • Do not accept off‐campus employment without official permission. • Report your new address to the FSA within 10 days, if you move. • DO not take even a brief trip outside the United States until you are certain that all your travel documents are in order. • Pay your income tax, if you are required to do so. • Give truthful answers to any questions an Immigration and Naturalization Service officer might ask you about your student status or other matters. According to an article in the Asian Student Orientation Handbook: “...foreign students have the constitutional right to express their views freely, to join together with others in expression of those views, and to participate fully in the propagation and publication of ideas, popular of unpopular, so as long as those expressions are made in an orderly and peaceful manner. They have the same rights to free speech and are subject to the same limitations of freedom of action as are U.S. American citizens.” And “... Some foreign students fear that if they are convicted – or even accused ‐‐ of a violation of any law they will be deported immediately and automatically. That is not true. In most cases, conviction of a single misdemeanor or minor offense will have no effect on a student’s immigration status. Conviction of a more serious offense can result in deportation. For example, if a student is convicted of petty theft, disturbing the peace, drunkenness, or a similar minor offense, it will not affect her/his immigration status. He/she can be deported if convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude for which he /she is sentenced to at least one year in confinement. Immigration law provides for the possible deportation of any person who is a “narcotic addict” or who is “convicted of a violation of... any law or regulation relating to the illicit possession of or traffic in narcotic drugs or marijuana.” 27
Enforcement of Immigration Laws Enforcing U.S. Immigration laws and regulations is the responsibility of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. The USCIS, as it is usually called, is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Like most U.S. government agencies, the USCIS has headquarters in Washington, D.C. For administrative purposes, the USCIS has divided the U.S. into a number of regions and “districts.” Most international students and scholars in the U.S. deal with the USCIS district office that has jurisdiction over their place of residence. The address of the USCIS district office that has jurisdiction over international students and scholars at The University of West Florida is” United States Immigration and Citizenship Service Federal Building, Box 35044 400 West Bay Street Jacksonville, FL 32202 904‐232‐2624 It is not the responsibility of the International Student Advisor to enforce immigration laws. The ISA is required to notify the Immigration when a student has failed to maintain his or her status or is no longer attending the University. Otherwise, the ISA’s responsibility in this area is to assist students in fulfilling their legal obligations in such a way that they maintain there legal status. III. Basic Travel Documents a. Passport i. What it is. Your passport is your own government’s permit for you to leave and re‐enter your own country. Most passports contain a date of expiration. In place of a passport, some students have a Certificate of Identity (often called a “CI”), which is roughly equivalent to a passport. ii. Extending your passport. Your own consulate or embassy in the U.S. must extend your passport. Consult with them to learn what forms and fees, if any, are required. If you are required to supply a letter affirming that you are a student at the University of West Florida, you can request such a letter from the ISA. Your permission to remain in the U.S. can never extend beyond the date your passport expires. In the case of some countries, the expiration date of the passport must be six months later than the end of the intended stay in the U.S. If you are unsure where your nearest regional consulate is located, consult with the ISA to learn where you should write to extend you passport. b. Visa i. What it is. The visa stamp put in your passport by the U.S consul abroad was needed to enter the United States. The visa shows the latest date on which you can apply to enter this country. It does not show how long 28
you can stay here. It also indicates the kind of visa you have – usually F‐1 or J‐1. When you arrive at the “port of entry,” the U.S. Immigrations Inspector examines your passport, your visa, your Certificate of Eligibility (if you have an F‐1 visa) and determines whether you are admissible to the U.S. (Citizens of Canada do not need a passport or visa to enter the U.S.) ii. Extending your visa. It is necessary to extend your visa only if (1) you plan to leave and re‐enter the U.S. after your visa has expired and (2) when you leave, you are going somewhere other than Canada, Mexico, or any of the islands in the Caribbean Sea. If it is necessary for you to extend your visa, you may do so by visiting the U.S. consul in the country to which you are traveling. It is not possible to extend an F‐1 visa while you are in the U.S. c. Arrival‐Departure Record (Form I‐94, or “Permit to Stay”) i. What it is. Your I‐94 shows that you have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. Your I‐94 is usually stapled onto the U.S. visa page of your passport. ii. Expiration. All students with F‐1 visas are admitted for the duration of status (D/S) which is defined as (1) the time during which you are pursuing a full course of study and making normal progress toward complete that course plus (2) the time you may be working in authorized “practical training” after you complete studies (if you qualify and are so authorized) plus (3) 60 days to depart the country. iii. Extending your stay. If your permission to stay is going to expire and you need to remain in the U.S. beyond its expiration in order to continue your program, you are responsible for extending your stay. No one will remind you when it is time to apply for an extension. You may apply two months before your stay expires. For instructions concerning the procedure, read the information about “Extension of Stay” that is in the Handbook section concerning the kind of visa you have. Consult the ISA if you have questions. IV. Types of Visas and Regulations a. F‐1 Student Status i. Qualifications 1. The student must be accepted for full‐time study by a U.S. institution of learning. The school sends the international student a Form I‐20 (Certificate of Eligibility) which is used to obtain an F‐1 visa form a U.S. American Consul. 2. The student must pursue a full‐time course of study. 3. The student must be fluent enough in English to pursue a full‐time course of study (unless he or she is admitted to study the English language, or to study in a language he or she understands) 4. The student must show proof of financial ability to pursue full‐time study. Having shown this proof, there should not be any need to work during the 29
student’s first year in the U.S. 5. The student must submit a Health Form, including proof of immunity to measles, mumps and rubella. ii. Regulations for F‐1 status 1. Full‐time study. With few exceptions, F‐1 students must be full‐time students each semester until they receive their degrees. “Full‐time Study” for international students at the University means a minimum of nine credit hours for graduate students and twelve for undergraduate students. Any deviations form this should be discussed with the ISA. Exceptions are possible in the case of health problems or in the case of a student who has completed course requirements for an advances degree and is preparing for comprehensive examinations or working on a dissertation. See the ISA concerning the documentation of these circumstances. F‐1 students are not required to register for the summer session. 2. Maximum length of stay. The “completion of studies” date in Item #5 on the most recent INS Form I‐20 you were issued, is the date by which the INS expects you to complete requirements for your current program. If you are unable to complete your program of study by that date, consult the ISA at least 30 days before reaching the I‐20 completion date. If you are eligible for an extension of your time limit, the ISA will assist you to comply with the extension requirements. 3. Extension of stay. You may apply for an extension of your study program if: a. You have not yet exceeded the time limitation placed upon your study by the expected completion of studies date in Item #5 on your Form I‐20 and b. You have continuously maintained lawful F‐1 status and c. The delay in completing program requirements has been caused by compelling academic reason (such as changes of major field or research topics, or unexpected research problems), or compelling and documented medical reasons. Delays in completing program requirements which are caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons of extension of a program of study. See the ISA to obtain a certification form for an extension of stay. If your completion of studies date has expires or if you do not meet the eligibility requirements to apply for program extension, you may need to apply for “reinstatement” to lawful F‐1 status. IN this case, immediate consultation with the ISA is necessary. 4. Travel outside the United States. Students wishing to travel outside the U.S. should always consult the ISA first. Always have your passport with you when making inquiries about traveling outside the U.S. a. Your passport must be valid beyond the date on which you plan to re‐enter the U.S. b. Your visa must be valid for “multiple entries” into the U.S., and 30
must be valid beyond the proposed re‐entry date. Exceptions to this rule are for short visits to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean Islands. For such trips you will need only your passport, a current from I‐94 and an I‐20, if you are going for a period of less than 30 days. In the case of trips to other countries, if the visa is valid for only one entry, or has expired, a new visa can be obtained from the U.S. American Consul in the country you are visiting by presenting the properly endorsed Form I‐20. You should allow sufficient time to obtain a new visa and should be prepared to present documents verifying the adequacy of your financial support. c. All students in F‐1 status must obtain the ISA’s signature on page four of his/her current I‐20 form in order to re‐enter the U.S. Please give the ISA advance notice. Reentry and an extension of stay can be granted simultaneously upon re‐entry to the U.S., if appropriate. 5. Transfer of Schools. An F‐1 student is not required to obtain INS permission before transferring from one U.S. educational institution to another. A simple notification procedure is done by the international student advisors of the two schools involved. The student must present his or her new I‐20, old I‐20 and passport to the ISA at the new school within 15 days of the first day of classes to process the transfer. 6. Employment. Employment opportunities for international students in the U.S. are restricted by law and regulations. These laws and regulations are intended to protect job opportunities in the U.S. for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, by minimizing the number of international students who are taking jobs that might otherwise be filled by U.S. Americans. a. General regulations. No permission is required when a full‐time students is doing paid work as part of the terms of a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship, since such work is considered to be part of the student’s academic program. However, the work cannot qualify as part of the student’s registration for full‐time study. b. On‐campus employment. An F‐1 student may work for the University without having to obtain permission from anyone. If you are in F‐1 status, you may work as many as 20 hours per week as long as the job does not interfere with your ability to continue as a full‐time student or take away an employment opportunity from a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. A memorandum from the ISA is required for the hiring department. c. Off‐campus employment. U.S. immigration regulations require an F‐1 student who wishes to accept employment‐off‐campus to have prior written permission to do so. If you are in good academic standing and have been in lawful F‐1 status for at least one academic year, you may be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). 31
d. Practical training. Students in F‐1 status may be granted permission by the USCIS to remain in the Untied States to undertake full‐time employment (called “practical training”) for up to 12 months after graduation or completion of studies. The ISA has an information sheet with up‐to‐date requirements and procedures concerning practical training. It is wise to apply for practical training permission one of two months before the end of your final academic term at the University. iii. F‐2 Status. The spouse or child of an F‐1 student enters the U.S. in F‐2 status and is admitted for the same length of time as the “F‐1” person. If the spouse or child does not accompany the student to the U.S., but intends to arrive later, the student’s U.S. institution must prepare an I‐20 for the spouse’s use, giving the expiration date of the student’s authorized stay. Any student wishing to bring a spouse and/or child to the U.S. should visit the ISA to discuss the financial implications of the action, and to have the I‐20 form prepared. Persons in F‐2 status are prohibited from all employment! V. Becoming a Permanent Resident Some non‐immigrant students in the U.S. decide they would like to remain here for an indefinite period of time. That is, they decided that they would like to become “permanent residents” or “immigrants” in the U.S. The requirements and procedures for becoming a permanent resident are too complicated for inclusion in this Handbook. What is included here is brief, general information that should be taken into account by anyone considering an application to “adjust” to permanent resident status. The ISA can answer some of the questions of non‐immigrants who are considering immigrating and who believe they are qualified to do so, but it is not the function of the ISA to give extensive assistance in these cases. a. Who Qualifies? In general, the purpose of the laws concerning immigration to the U.S. is to protect employment opportunities in the U.S. for American citizens or people who are already permanent resident aliens. Exception to this general concern is usually made in the case of non‐U.S. Americans who have close family relationships (i.e., spouse, parents, brothers, sisters) with people who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. An exception is sometimes made in the case of persons who would suffer persecution for political, religious or racial reasons if they were compelled to return to their home countries. Thus, in general, those who might qualify for immigrant status are people (1) who are closely related to a person who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or (2) who can demonstrate that they would be subject to persecution upon their return to their home country, or (3) who can obtain a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor affirming that they have employable skills that are in short supply among U.S. American citizens or permanent residents. (There are specific procedures for applying for a “Labor Certification.”) 32
b. Procedures The procedures for applying for immigrant status vary depending on the basis upon which the application is made. The purpose of these procedures is to demonstrate that the applicant (1) is the person he or she claims to be, (2) has the qualifications he or she claims to have (e.g., being the brother of a U.S. citizen or having a Labor Certification), and (3) does not have characteristics (e.g., past conviction for certain kinds of crimes) that would make him or her ineligible for permanent resident status. VI.
Income Tax a. Who Files an Income Tax Return? Nearly everyone who works in the United States must pay federal income tax. Some states also collect taxes. There are some exceptions. However, U.S. legislation requires all international students in F‐1 and J‐1 status to file the Form 8843 – even if the student did not work at all. Contact the local Internal Revenue Service office for further assistance in completing the appropriate forms. There may be a current, tax treaty between your country and the United States. That treaty may exempt your income from taxation. b. When to File your Income Tax Return. April 15 is the deadline for filing a return on the income earned during the preceding calendar year. Sometime during January each year, your employer will send you a “W‐2 Form,” showing the amount you have earned during the preceding year and the amount of federal and state income tax that has been withheld. The W‐2 form is used in the preparation of you income tax return. The amount withheld often exceeds the amount you would be required to repay, so failure to file a tax return may result in a financial loss for you. After leaving the U.S., you can get a tax return form from the nearest U.S. consul for use in filing your tax form for the calendar year during which you left the U.S. These forms become available in the January after your departure. c. Where to Get Tax Forms Tax forms and instructions are available on the IRS website, www.irs.gov. If you have previously filed an income tax return, a new one will be mailed to you in the following year. d. Documentation It is a very good idea to keep complete records of your financial transactions. Without good records, completing your income tax returns can be difficult. If you seek assistance from someone else in the preparation of you income tax returns, that person will have to have thorough records of your income and expenditures. Keep a copy of any income tax for you submit. e. Getting Assistance in Filing Tax Returns The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. agency responsible for the collection of income taxes. You may address questions to the IRS by calling 800‐241‐3860, toll free. 33
There are a number of businesses which, for a fee, will assist taxpayers in the preparation of their income tax returns. You can find them in the yellow pages under “Tax Return Preparation.” The ISA cannot provide assistance in preparing tax returns; however, the International Student Office provides a free tax workshop for international students each March. Income tax laws and procedures are too complex and ever‐changing. Only a trained person whose business is to remain up‐to‐date concerning those laws and procedures can help. VII. Social Security a. What is it? Briefly, “Social Security” is the U.S. government’s social insurance plan. It is intended to benefit retired people and certain people who are injured, disabled, or left without adequate means of financial support. It is financed by means of withholdings from employees’ pay and employers’ contributions. Virtually all U.S. Americans have a “social security number” which designates their account with the Social Security Administration. b. Obtaining a Social Security Number If you are employed in the U.S., you will need a social security number even if your pay is exempt from Social Security withholdings (see next paragraph). To get a social security number, you must have an offer of employment from an on‐campus employer, unless you are participating in practical training. Once you have an offer of employment, please notify the International Student Office so that a letter can be given to you to take to the Social Security Administration to procure your Social Security Number. This typically takes about two weeks. c. Social Security Taxes In many cases, holders of F‐1 visas are exempt from withholdings for Social Security. The University does not withhold for Social Security in the case of currently enrolled students, foreign or U.S. American. If you hold an F‐1 visa, and you are working, and you are not currently a student, you are responsible for making certain your employer knows that you are exempt from Social Security withholding. VIII. Tax Clearance for Departing from the U.S. a. What it is Like most governments, the U.S. government wants assurance that aliens leaving the country do not owe any taxes. It therefore has a requirement that most departing aliens obtain a “Certificate of Compliance” (also called a “sailing permit” or “exit permit”) before they leave. The sailing permit is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as evidence that the alien’s income taxes have been paid. b. Who is Required to Get a Sailing Permit Students who have F‐1 visas and who have not been employed while in the U.S. are not required to obtain a sailing permit. F‐1 students who have been employed are supposed to obtain a sailing permit. 34
c. Procedure for Obtaining a Sailing Permit i. When to Get the Permit. It is not possible to get a sailing permit more than 30 days before departure from the U.S. The IRS recommends that sailing permits be applied for between 15 and 30 days in advance of departure. ii. Where to Go. It is possible to get your sailing permit at any IRS office but it is advisable to get yours at the IRS office which serves the Pensacola area. That office is located at 220 W. Garden Street, 4th Floor, Century Bank Towers Building, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and requires a personal visit. iii. What Documents to Take. The documentation requirements for obtaining a sailing permit are extensive. Listed below are the documents which will generally enable international students to get a sailing permit. Sailing permit applicants should keep in mind that they may be asked to provide additional documents, and that personnel at the IRS office will not make telephone calls to confirm information that is given to them orally. Thus, applicants need to have all required documents with them. These documents include: 1. Your passport and Form I‐94 (Arrival‐Departure Record, the small, white card usually kept in the passport) 2. Your ticket for departing from the U.S., or evidence of the date you intend to depart 3. Copies of your income tax returns for the three previous years, and wage and tax statements (W‐2 forms) for that period 4. Canceled checks showing payment of taxes paid in three previous years (if taxes were required) 5. A wage and tax statement from your employer for the current calendar year (if you are employed by the University of West Florida, you get a wage and tax statement from the Payroll Office), or evidence that you have had financial support that is not taxable. Such evidence might be an official letter from your sponsor showing the terms of your award. 6. Receipts for the sale of any personal possessions which have been sold at a profit. 35
I. Management of Money Most international students, like large numbers of U.S. American students, live on limited budgets. It is important to manage your money wisely in order to make sure it lasts as long as possible. It is important to be cautious about spending money until you have become accustomed to the value of the dollar and have developed a thorough realization of what your essential living expenses will be. (In thinking about the value of the dollar, it helps to realize that students working part‐time on campus generally earn about $6.79 per hour. At that rate, it would take more than four hours of work to buy a $25 book, and about eight hour of working to buy a $35 pair of shoes. Other prices can be considered in relationship to the amount of work that would be required to purchase the item.) It is not wise to carry large amounts of cash with you, or to keep it at your residence. Instead, deposit it in a bank. a. United States Currency i. Coins. U.S. American coins com in two colors and six sizes. Unfortunately smaller‐sized coins are not always lower in value than larger coins. • The penny, or cent, worth 1 cent, is the only copper‐colored coin. • The nickel, worth 5 cents, is silver‐colored and larger than a penny. • The dime, worth 10 cents, is silver‐colored and is smaller than any other U.S. coin. • The quarter, worth 25 cents, is silver in color and is larger than the nickel. • The half‐dollar or 50‐cent‐piece, silver in color and larger than the quarter, is not in common use. • The silver dollar comes in two forms, neither of which is very often seen in circulation. The Susan B. Anthony silver dollar is about the size of a quarter; the older silver dollar is the largest U.S. coin. ii. Paper Money. All U.S. paper money is the same size and same color. Denominations include $1 (fairly commonly called a “buck”), $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 and larger amounts. b. Banks and Banking Services i. Opening an account. To open any kind of bank account, simply go to the bank of your choice and tell the receptionist that you would like to open an account. The receptionist will direct you to a person who can explain the kinds of accounts that are available and can open one for you. Married persons can open a “joint account” which either or both of them can use. There are periodic changes in the kinds of accounts and the other services that banks offer. Banks have “customer service” personnel whose job it is to answer customers’ questions and assist with problems that have to do with banking services. ii. Checking account. (Called a “current account” in many countries of the world). There are three kinds of checking accounts available, the “special,” the “regular,” 36
and the “checking with interest.” The kind of account you should open should depend on the number of checks you will write each month and/or the amount of money you will retain in your checking account: 1. Special checking account. If you have a special account, you will be assessed a “service charge” for each check you write. If you are not able to retain a prescribed minimum balance in your account (usually $100 or $200, depending on the bank), and you will be writing fewer than 10 checks per month, you should open up a special account. 2. Regular checking account. With a regular checking account there are no service charges if you keep a “minimum balance” in your account at all times. The minimum balance is $300 at some banks and $500 at others. If you have a regular account and your balance goes below the required minimum, you will be assessed a service charge of $8.00 to $10.00 for the month regardless of the number of checks you write. The exact amount of the service charge varies form bank to bank. Thus you should open a regular account if you are able to maintain the minimum balance, and thereby avoid all service charges. c. Checking with Interest No interest is paid on money deposited in a special or a regular checking account. Interest is paid on money deposited in a checking‐with‐interest account. (Different banks have different names for these accounts.) There is a small monthly maintenance fee for checking‐with‐interest accounts unless you maintain a minimum balance of $1,000 or more in the account. It is very important to keep a running balance of your account each time you write a check. A charge is levied each time you “overdraw” your account, that is, each time you write a check which is not covered but the amount you have deposited in your account. Most people pay their bills by means of personal checks, sometimes delivered personally but usually sent through the mail. (Cash should not be sent in the mail.) Sending checks through the mail and paying online are the most convenient ways to pay your bills. Your canceled checks, returned to you periodically by your bank after they have been cashed by the person to whom you wrote them, are legal receipts for payments you have made. i. Types of checks. When you open a checking account, you will be asked to decide whether you want “personalized checks” or “line checks.” Personalized checks have your name, address and student identification number or other information you choose printed on them. In addition, they are numbered consecutively. You must pay a few dollars for your supply of personalized checks. Line checks, by contrast, are free. All that is printed on them is your name. Thus they contain less personal identification, and in some cases are more difficult to cash, especially if you are out of Pensacola. Whether you choose personalized checks of line checks is a matter or personal preference. Some people prefer lone checks because they are free. Other people prefer personalized checks because it saves the inconvenience of writing their address and telephone number on each check that they cash or use to make a payment at a store. 37
ii. Writing a check. Here are steps to follow when writing a check (refer to the examples on the next page): 1. Write the date on which you are “issuing” the check. 2. Write the name of the person or business to which you are making the payment. 3. Write the amount of the payment in Arabic numerals. 4. Spell out the number of dollars included in the payment, and write the number of cents in the form of a fraction. (e.g., 50/100 means 50 cents out of the 100 cents in a dollar.) 5. Sign your name as it is printed on the check. 6. Note the purpose of the payment. If you are using line checks that do not have serial numbers printed on them, be sure before you write anything else on the check that you have assigned it a number in the space provided in the upper right‐hand corner. The number facilitates your record‐keeping. Immediately after you write a check you should record all the information for it on your check register (see the example). This includes the check number, the date the check is written, the name of the payee (that is, the person or business to whom the payment is being made), amount of the check, and the fee for the check, if there is one. Then calculate the balance remaining in your account. In the accompanying example, a check for $4.50 was written on an account with a balance of $50.00. There was a 20‐cent fee for the check. The new balance is $45.30. When you add money to your account (“make a deposit”), you should, of course, record that also. The accompanying record shows an example of a $30.00 deposit. For your convenience, the Bank of Pensacola is located on campus. There are also several other banks located within five miles of campus. iii. Savings account. A savings account earns interest at a higher rate than an interest‐bearing account. If you have several hundreds of dollars above your routine living expense, a savings account is a safe way to invest this money. You can withdraw any amount form a regular (or “passbook”) savings account whenever it is necessary. If you have a savings account and a checking account in the same bank, you can telephone and ask the bank to transfer funds from your savings to your checking account. Banks also offer “certificates of deposit” and “money market certificates” which require specified minimum deposits and earn higher rates of interest than regular savings accounts, but which must remain on deposit for designated periods of time. A certificate of deposit or money market certificate is a prudent investment if you are certain that you will not need money until the designated time period (which can be 90 days, one year, or more) has elapsed. Most banks have an “automatic teller machine” (ATM). The automatic teller is a computerized device through which bank customers can make deposits or withdrawals at any time of day, any day of the week. To operate an automatic teller, the customer needs a particular plastic card that the bank provides. Instructions for operating the automatic teller are given on the teller itself. Automatic tellers are located at the banks themselves and at some other locations in the community. 38
iv. Traveler’s checks. Traveler’s checks provide a safe way to carry money when traveling in the U.S. and abroad. They can be replaced if they are lost, and they are more easily accepted by businesses away form your own area of residence. Banks sell travelers checks for a small fee. d. Money Management Hints (prepared by New Zealand student, J. Ross Barnett, and his wife, Pauline) i. Budget carefully. You know how much your income and basic expenditures are, so pay bills immediately at the start of each month, and you will know exactly how much remains. ii. Keep accounts. Keeping track of expenditures in various categories (food, books, etc.) can pinpoint areas of high spending which might surprise you. Done on a monthly basis, this can give you quite an incentive to economize in certain areas. iii. Tax returns. Many students earn so little that any income taxes withheld might well be refunded. Examine all options for exemptions or rebates and do not hesitate to seek advice from the Internal Revenue Service. Keep records of expenditures throughout the year so that filing out returns will be easier. iv. Transportation. Recognize that a few extra dollars for a near‐campus apartment can save hundreds of dollars each year on a car. This is part of the “U.S. American Dream,” and it takes some courage to realize that the automobile is expensive, poorly constructed and in many cases unnecessary. Many young U.S. Americans are rejecting the traditional values of their parents and turning to bicycles and buses as primary means of transportation. You can always rent a car for a trip if need be. It is much less expensive in the long run. v. Credit. For many of us this is the first exposure to credit on any scale. For those of us who arrive in the United States with few household possessions, it is a lifesaver, but be aware of over‐extending yourself. Remember that you may be paying from 18 to 21 percent per year in interest on some accounts. It is sometimes useful to have a credit card, but it is difficult to get one’s first card, since one has no “credit rating” to establish reliability in the eyes of the creditor. vi. Buy used. Garage and yard sales advertised in newspapers are frequent events, and you can buy used appliances and household goods at very reasonable prices. Sell them the same way when you leave. vii. Eating out. If you do not live in a dormitory where meals are included, it is very tempting to eat out regularly rather than preparing your own food. Eating out can double your food bill. If you doubt it, keep track of your expenditures for a month. viii. Take advantage of “sales.” Newspaper advertisements will tell you when a store is having a “sale” on something, meaning it is being sold at a lower price than usual. The periods when there are the most and largest sales are around Independence Day (July 4) and Christmas (December 25). 39
II. Medical Care and Expenses a. General Nature of the U.S. Medical Care Delivery System The medical care delivery system in the U.S. has two characteristics that distinguish it from many others in the world. First, it devotes very considerable resources to efforts to prolong the lives of people with serious illnesses or unusual injuries. It is less concerned than some other systems with preventive health care for the general population. The U.S. system involves enormous investments in research, medication, and technology. Second, there is no general governmentally supported system for paying individual’s medical costs. That is, there is not a national medical care program or a national insurance program. The result of these and other factors is that medical costs in the U.S. are extremely high, and they must be paid by the individual incurring them. Individuals can buy health and accident insurance which will pay some of their medical expenses. No health insurance plan readily available to students covers all medical expenses. Subsequent paragraphs give more information about health insurance. b. Health and Accident Insurance i. Need for Health Insurance. To avoid having to pay high medical bills that result from illness or injury (e.g., nearly $200 daily for staying in a hospital; more than $1,000 for a routine hernia operation), it is prudent to buy health insurance. Insurance protects against the need to meet the entire burden of high medical expenses by spreading the cost among a group of people, not all of whom will suffer injury or illness that will result in medical bills. ii. Coverage provided by health insurance. Health and accident insurance does not cover all medical expenses. In general, it covers higher costs that result from accidents and serious illnesses, with attendant hospitalization, medical tests and the services of doctors and nurses. It does not cover the costs for routine visits to a doctor, medication a doctor might prescribe for normal illnesses, routine dental work, vision examinations or eye glasses. These costs must usually be met by the individual even if he or she has health and accident insurance. The coverage afforded by various health insurance policies varies. Literature coming with each policy describes what it covers. Of course, policies that are more comprehensive in their coverage are more expensive. iii. Health and Accident insurance for students and their dependents. Students may purchase health insurance through a health insurance company contracted out with the University of West Florida. Policy information and applications are available in the International Student Office. If you have a health insurance policy from your home country, you must have that provider complete the Health Insurance Compliance Form. Your health insurance coverage from your home country needs to meet the State of Florida regulations. The State University System of Florida requires all international students and their families to have adequate health and accident insurance. If you do not have insurance that is provided to you by a sponsoring agency, you should buy either the policy sold through the University or one of the policies that is designed for international students in 40
the U.S. c. Health Care Facilities i. Health Center: All students registered at the University are eligible for free doctor’s services at the Health Center. The Health Center is located in Building 63 behind Residence Hall 62 (Telephone: 474‐2172). Hours of operation are: Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nurses are available each day of the week. The doctor’s hours vary each semester. Students must have their Nautilus Card with them when going to the Health Center. Students have to pay for lab fees and medication prescribed by the student health physician. The Health Center also functions as an information resource center for community health related agencies. ii. Medical Care: Private Doctor. You may wish to ask someone you have met here to recommend a doctor or dentist, or you may simply look in the yellow pages of the telephone directory under “Physician” or “Dentist” for the name of a doctor you could contact. You should always telephone a doctor or dentist to make an appointment. It is common for families in the U.S. to select a “family doctor” whom they visit when they need examinations or medical care. In time, the family doctor becomes familiar with each family member as an individual. The Escambia County Health Department is a public institution which provides a variety of health services and can also give you additional information about health care in the Pensacola area. Their office is located at 2251 N. Palafox Street (telephone: 435‐6500), and they will be happy to answer any questions you may have. There are four hospitals in Pensacola: • Baptist Hospital 1000 Moreno Street (434‐4011) • Sacred Heart Hospital 5151 N. 9th Avenue (474‐7000) • West Florida Hospital 8383 N. Davis Highway (478‐4460) iii. Dental Clinic: University students and their families may benefit from the use of the Dental Clinic which is staffed by students who are training to become dental hygienists. The Dental Clinic is primarily a learning institution. The fees are minimal and usually reflect only the cost of materials used ($8.00 for a cleaning, fluoride treatment, and exam X‐rays are free). Health insurance does not cover dental care unless an accident has injured the teeth or mouth. The Dental Clinic is located off West Highway 98 in Warrington at the Pensacola Junior College West Campus. The telephone number is 453‐6608. The Clinic is open Monday through Friday, but the hours may vary. So, be sure to call first. Dental examinations and work may be performed by private dentists for a higher but reasonable fee. You may call the Health Center on campus for suggestions of dentists’ names, or you can consult the yellow pages found in the back of the telephone directory. 41
III. Services Transportation within Pensacola. The buses in the City charge $1.00, payable upon entering the bus. You must have the exact amount of change. Maps of all bus routes are available at www.goecat.com Also, the University Parking Services will provide enrolled students with 2 free bus passes per day. There are the Blue and White Taxi, Red and Gold Taxi (477‐5514), Yellow Cab of Pensacola (433‐3333) and more companies available in Pensacola. Taxi service is generally far more expensive here than it is in many other countries. Taxicabs have meters which register the fare a passenger must pay. It is customary to pay an additional 15 percent of the fare as a “tip.” a. Outside Pensacola i. Bus. Greyhound‐Trailways Bus Lines is located at 505 West Burgess Road ii.
(476‐4800). Buses leave for places as far away as San Francisco, New York, Minneapolis, etc. Greyhound offers special tickets which permit unlimited travel in the U.S. for periods of 7, 15, or 30 days. Such a ticket is called an “Ameripass.” Air. The airport is about 15 minutes from UWF. The major airlines which serve Pensacola are Delta (432‐9871), U.S. Air (434‐1771), and American (800‐433‐7300). The telephone numbers of other major airlines are listed in the yellow pages of the telephone directory under “Airline Companies.” Reservation for air travel may be made directly with an airline or through a travel agency. (See in the yellow pages under “Travel Agencies and Bureaus.”) Trains. Train travel is best arranged through a travel agent. The railroad line, known as Amtrak, stops in Pensacola. Train service in the U.S. is not of the high quality of train service in Japan or Europe. Efforts are being made to improve it. Private Car. In the Commons (Building 22) is a bulletin board where students who need or offer rides in private cars can post their names, telephone numbers, and destinations. It is common, especially during vacations, for students to take trips with other students, sharing the expenses of the drive. Argus also lists students and staff who are interested in carpooling. Car Rental. You may wish to rent a car for a limited time. Prices vary, so you should call a number of agencies and ask about their charges. Find the agencies in the yellow pages under “Automobile Renting and Leasing.” You must have a major credit card to rent a car. Hitchhiking. It is common on U.S. American highways to see people hitchhiking, that is, standing by the side of the road and indicating with a thumb or a sign that they want a ride in a passing car. Hitchhiking is illegal in many states, and is considered by some people to be dangerous. Students are warned not to hitchhike. Driving. A valid driver’s license is necessary to drive any car. Information 42
can be obtained from the Division of Drivers License located at 100 Stumpfield Road, (453‐5393), and is open from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. After obtaining a driver’s license, extreme care should be taken in either renting or buying a new or used car because of the expenses of maintenance and insurance. viii. Newspapers. The local newspaper is the Pensacola News Journal (435‐8500) published in the morning. Its advertisements are often helpful for learning about “sales” at local businesses. The Pensacola News Journal is available at dispensers on sidewalks outside many stores (and the Commons). University students publish the Voyager once a week when the University is in session. It is a good idea to read the Voyager, which is a free publication, to keep informed of events and activities on campus. The Fountain is a publication mainly for staff and faculty published biweekly throughout the year. Extra copies are located at the Information Desk in Building 71 or in the Commons (Building 22). The New York Times carries more national and international news than any other U.S. paper. You can purchase the Sunday edition from most bookstores. A number of newspapers, U.S. magazines, and journals are received at the main library of the University. The library subscribes to 62 newspapers; about ten are from other countries. ix. Telephone. Most people have a telephone in their residence. Telephones can be installed easily and quickly. Much more business is transacted by telephone in this country than in many other countries where there are fewer phones and the telephone is not as efficient. Having a telephone costs about $20 each month. That amount covers an unlimited number of local calls, that is within the Pensacola, Pace, and Gulf Breeze areas, and few other surrounding communities. There is an additional charge for each long distance call. The telephone directory is very useful. It contains the name, address, and the telephone number of each telephone subscriber. In addition, it includes in the first few pages, emergency telephone numbers and instructions for making various kinds of telephone calls. It has a map of the area it serves. Finally, the “yellow pages” section, at the back of the book, lists all local services and businesses, according to the kind of service or business involved. The University publishes a telephone directory with the names and addresses of all students, faculty, and staff. To order telephone service from BellSouth, visit the company’s website at www.bellsouth.com. A new telephone subscriber (one who has never had a phone in the U.S.) or a person who has had a phone here but has not paid his/her bills promptly will be required to pay a deposit to have a phone installed. Return of the deposit can be requested after 12 months if the subscriber’s bills have been paid promptly during that time. Students can purchase telephones at Wal‐Mart, K‐Mart, Sears, etc. or from the 43
telephone company. When you visit the company’s business office to order a telephone, the person to whom you talk with will probably try to induce you to order a more elaborate telephone than the standard desk model, and may not mention the less expensive models unless you specifically ask about them. The monthly charge for the more elaborate telephones is higher than the monthly charge for the standard model, so the telephone company will often try to persuade new customers to order one. You can be assured that the standard model telephone, which comes in a variety of colors, is adequate for making any kind of telephone call. Compare prices at several stores before buying a telephone or ask the advice of a friend. Using telephones. Telephone numbers in the U.S. have seven digits. For example the number of the University is 474‐2000. In addition there is a three digit “area code” designating the segment of the country in which the phone is located. The area code for Pensacola is 850. Area codes are used only for making long‐distance calls. For long‐distance calls refer to the instructions on the front of the telephone directory. You will dial a “1”, then the area code, then the seven digits. Caution: Long‐distance calling is comparatively simple here, and it is easy to run up a large telephone bill by making many and/or lengthy long‐distance calls. Direct dialing is the least expensive way to make a long‐distance call. If you dial the wrong number, report it to the telephone operator immediately by dialing “0” and telling him/her what happened. Then you will not be charged for the call. Charges for the direct dialed long‐distance calls vary according to the time of day when they are made, with lower rates for late night, weekend, and holiday calls. Refer to the telephone directory page on “long‐distance rates” for more information. Also, pre‐paid calling cards are available for purchase in the University Bookstore in $5‐$50 amounts. x. Calling through the operator. Dial “0” and tell the operator the area code and number you want to call. He or she will dial it for you. This is a more expensive way to make a long‐distance call. There are two general reasons for using this method. 1. Calling person‐to‐person: If you want to speak only to one particular person, the operator will dial the number and ask for that person. If the person is not available to talk to you, you are not charged for the call. The person‐to‐person long‐distance call is the most expensive kind. 2. Calling “collect”. If you wish to have the call billed to the person you re calling, rather than paying for it yourself, you can call collect. A collect call may be either person‐to‐person or station‐to‐station (whereby you speak to whoever answers). When you place a collect call, the operator will ask the person who answers if he or she is willing to pay for the call. 44
If you have any questions about how to use a telephone or make a particular call, dial “0” or 411, the “information” number used to get a phone number that is not listed in the directory. For emergencies requiring police or ambulance assistance, students living off campus can dial 911. Students living on campus in the residence halls should dial 474‐2415. b. Mail Mail is delivered to the post office boxes on campus Monday through Saturday, once daily around 9:00 a.m. There are two take outs daily at 8:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. You should notify the Post Office and the International Student Advisor whenever you change your address. If you must get a letter or package delivered to anywhere in the U.S. the following day, a service called “express mail” is also available. Call the Post Office on campus for pick up time. Express mail is expensive, but often times speed is more important than expense. The Post Office, on campus, is located in the Building 22A, next to the Commons. Its telephone number is 474‐2441. It is open from 8:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Main Office is located at 1400 W. Jordan Street (434‐9127) in Pensacola. The station nearest to the University is at 7150 Tippin Avenue (476‐7936). Postal rates change periodically. To get information about them, ask someone who lives here or call the Post Office. For mailing parcels overseas, different countries have different regulations governing the parcels they will receive and handle in their mail. The regulations concern such things as the contents of the parcels, their weight, their dimensions, and the manner in which they must be wrapped. Mailing books is comparatively inexpensive, whether they are being sent elsewhere in the U.S. or to another country. (Flammable materials such as perfumes cannot be mailed even in the U.S.) The Post Office has information on the postal regulations of various countries. To avoid delays, it is wise to visit the Post Office and request information about the requirements for mailing any package you wish to send out of the U.S. c. Laundry and Dry Cleaning Students usually wash their own clothes. There are washing machines and drying machines (called “washers” and “dryers”) in every UWF residence hall and most apartment buildings. People who live in places without washers take their clothes to Laundromats, where large numbers of washers and dryers are available. To locate the Laundromat nearest you, ask a neighbor or look in the yellow pages under “Laundries – Self Service”. If you have never used such machines before, it is a good idea to ask someone which of your clothes can safely be put into washing machines, how they should be sorted, how much to put into a machine, and how much soap to use. 45
IV. Housekeeping Many people coming to the United States have never faced the need to do their own chopping, cooking, and housecleaning. These things have always been done by parents and/or housekeepers. If these activities are new to you, you will have to realize that in the U.S. it is completely acceptable for people who are not servants or women to shop for groceries, to cook, wash dishes and clothes, clean house, and take care of the children. Most U.S. Americans, all U.S. American landlords, and the staff in the Office of Housing think it is important that living quarters be kept reasonably clean. The concern for cleanliness is evident in the supermarket, where you will see large numbers of liquids, powders and sprays designed to help or clean or polish dishes, floors, windows, toilet bowls, walls, furniture, ovens, and so on. In addition, you will see brooms, mops, dust mops, dish rags, sponges, scouring pads, and various brushes, all for cleaning purposes. You will not need all of these products. You should ask someone who lives here, and who’s living quarters seem clean, to help you select the cleaning supplies you will need. MAJOR APPLIANCES Stoves. Kitchen stoves may be gas or electric. In either case, it is important that the burners and oven be kept clean so they will work safely and effectively. You should wipe the burners after each use to keep soiled food from hardening on them. The oven should be cleaned periodically, using ammonia or special oven cleaner. When using oven cleaner or any other specialized cleaning product, read the label carefully and follow instructions. Many cleaning products are harmful if inhaled or swallowed or come into contact with the skin. Disposal of Trash and Garbage. Ask your landlord what you should do with trash and garbage. Refuse is collected twice weekly by employees of the Department of Public Works. If you live on campus each residence hall cluster has a nearby dumpster. You must empty your garbage there. If you live in a dorm with a kitchenette, it is wise to keep the area clean. Wipe down the appliances after use, make sure that you do your dishes, and air out the room and spray with a room deodorizer. U.S. Americans who are not accustomed to foreign foods often find the different seasonings and spices strong. V.
Recreation For their recreational and social activities, U.S. Americans are likely to go somewhere and do something. They do not sit and talk with friends as frequently as people in many other countries do. One of the most outstanding recreational attractions of the area is Pensacola Beach, where local residents as well as visitors enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, water skiing, and surfing. The beaches are open all year. Pensacola’s colorful heritage is easily seen in the landmarks and museums located in the Pensacola area. Some of these include: Hispanic Museum, Pensacola Historical Museum, Transportation Museum, T.T. Wentworth Museum, Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas, Gulf Island National Seashore Park, Naval Aviation Museum, Christ Church, Seville Square, and many others. The University also has a Recreation and Sports Program, which is available to all students. Many international students have participated in the past. If you would like further 46
information, contact the Office of Recreation, Bldg. 72, or call 474‐2586. Sports include soccer, tennis, volleyball, swimming, fencing, and much more. You should check the listings in the University and local newspapers for concerts by the Pensacola Symphony orchestra, plays by the Pensacola Little Theater, exhibits and workshops by the Pensacola Art Center, and foreign films and art exhibits at the Pensacola Museum of Art. The Student Activities Center is located in the Commons Building. The telephone number is 474‐2406. This office has information about student organizations, concerts, dances, and other performances at the University. VI. Activities for Spouses and Children SPOUSES The spouses of international students are sometimes discouraged by the fact that they are left alone for such long hours with nothing to do. It can be improved somewhat if the spouse has the opportunity to participate in some activities of his/her own and to meet some people. It is quite possible, for a spouse who can manage some English and who is interested, to become extremely involved in educational and social activities in Pensacola. Here are some possibilities: The International Women’s Club, an organization of international and U.S. American women. For information, call 455‐4876. The Pensacola Public Library has a number of branches: • Headquarters 200 W. Gregory 435‐1760 Reference Service 435‐1763 th
• Belvedere 5740 N. 9 Ave. 476‐3969 • Milton 805 Alabama St. 623‐5565 • Gulf Breeze 1060 Shoreline Dr. 932‐5166 The Library offers services to children such as: A Summer Reading Session, a story hour once a week, films on Saturday, and art and crafts sessions. A library card may be obtained by showing some sort of identification of your present home address. If you do not have a driver’s license, then a bill from Gulf Power or a checking account in Pensacola will suffice. The card is good for one year and may be used at any one of the branches. Books may also be returned to any one of the branches. Call the main office for further information. a. Child Care Center (on‐campus) telephone number is 474‐2195. The Center is open from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays during the school session. It serves the children of faculty, staff, students, and alumni from 6 months to 5 years of age; although during the summer session they will take children up to 10 years of age. It is wise to register as there is usually a long waiting list. b. Volunteer Work is available through the hospitals in Pensacola (see listings under health care). In addition, Volunteer UWF office is located in Bldg. 19 and is an excellent resource for volunteer opportunities (474‐3115). 47
c. Take some courses. Many international wives here want to study. Spouses may take courses which are avocational or recreational in nature. However, spouses may not engage in full time study. d. The Instructional Media Center, Building 37, has video tapes and films to be viewed there on a first come, first serve basis. e. Television is a good aid to learning English. Children’s programs such as “Sesame Street” and “Dora the Explorer” are usually good for beginners. f. Physical fitness has become a U.S. American obsession. You will find under “Health Clubs” in the yellow pages, a list of available centers that have exercise equipment, saunas, Jacuzzis, etc. Many offer specials for newcomers. Be sure to check with the University Recreation Office as they offer aerobic classes, free weights, machine weights, sauna, indoor swimming for free to all UWF students. Discounts can be applied to dependents of students. CHILDREN a. Pre‐schools and day care centers (for children younger than five, the age at which a child begins kindergarten). You will find a number of pre‐schools listed in the yellow pages of the telephone directory under “Day Nurseries and Schools—Nursery and Kindergarten—Academic”. These schools vary considerably with respect to cost, philosophy of instruction, pupil‐teacher ratio, and schedule. Generally, a pre‐school has shorter sessions where children can receive care while their parents are otherwise occupied. b. Public schools (for children five and older). Public schools in the U.S. provide free education for children between the ages of 5 and 18. Schools in Pensacola are divided into three levels: elementary schools—kindergarten through 5th grade (ages 5 to 10); junior high schools—6th through 8th grade (ages 11 to 13); and senior high schools—9th through 12th grade (ages 14 to 18). To register, a child must be 5 years old on September 15 of the year he or she enters kindergarten, or 6 years old to enter the first grade. It is not necessary for a student to know English in order to enter the Pensacola public school system, but there are not foreign language teachers at the elementary school level. In order to register your child, the school will need a transcript of grades from schools previously attended and a birth certificate or other identification of the grade level at which the child should be placed. Children usually attend the public school nearest their place of residence. To find out which public school is nearest to your place of residence, call the Myrtle Grove Instructional Center at 456‐8631. However, different schools offer different kinds of programs, and children may wish to attend a school other that the closest one. To find out about the programs offered by the various public schools, call the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum at 432‐6121. c. Babysitting. A babysitter is a person whom you pay to stay with and care for your children for a given period of time while you are away from your home for some reason. Babysitters usually receive between $6 and $10 per hour. Ask friends for recommendations or check under the classified ads in the paper. 48
d. Safety. Cleaning products in the U.S. (e.g., laundry detergent, floor and car waxes, oven cleaners, etc.) may be different from those you are accustomed to using. Cleaning products are usually harmful and can be fatal if not used properly. They are particularly dangerous for children, who may play with them or eat them if the products are left within reach. Good safety tips are: i. Keep harmful products where your children cannot reach them. Simple things like detergent are poisonous if eaten. ii. Carefully read the directions and warning on the label of anything you use. The label will tell you how dangerous the product is, and what to do it someone accidentally eats it or is burned by it. This information is often incomprehensible even to U.S. Americans. If you do not understand it, get someone to translate it for you before you use the product. iii. If your child has played with or eaten something you think might be harmful to them, follow the directions on the label of the product. Sometimes you should not make the child vomit what he/she has eaten. Call Poison Control (1‐800‐282‐3171). It is open 24 hours a day at no charge. iv. Other things which can be harmful to children are certain household plants, which may have poisonous leaves or berries. Watch out for plastic bags especially ones that wrap the clothes from the dry cleaners. Small children can smother if they pull a plastic bag over their heads. VII. Cars and Bicycles It may seem to you that everyone here needs a car and has one. Owning a car is expensive and can be very troublesome because cars often need to be repaired, and automobile repairs are costly and frequently unreliable. Cars require expenditures for license plates, insurance, and fuel. Unless you have ample supply of money, it is advisable to be cautious about buying a car. a. Driver’s License Anyone living in the state of Florida and driving a car here must have a Florida driver’s license. An international driver’s license is not valid for more than 30 days after you take up residence in Florida. To get a Florida license, you must go to the Division of Driver’s License located at 100 Stumpfield Road (484‐5015). You will need to present your passport, visa and I‐94 card when you apply. You will be required to take a written examination concerning driving laws and practices, and you may also be asked to drive your car while accompanied by a driver’s license examiner. Before going to take the driver’s license exam, you should study the Florida Driver’s Handbook. The booklet contains all the information needed to pass the written part of the test. This is available at the Division office. The hours are 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. 49
Florida laws, and the laws of every other state, prohibit the operation of any kind of motor vehicle, while under the influence of alcoholic beverage or any other drug. Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a very serious offense, even if you are not involved in a motor vehicle crash. Conviction of a DUI offence will mean suspension of your license, cost you hundreds of dollars in fines and court costs, possibly send you to jail, and can impact on your staying in this country. Even though you will see and hear of many people who drink and drive, it is not smart, safe, or legal. Florida law prohibits the consumption of, or the transporting of, any kind of alcoholic beverage in an open container that can be drunk from in motor vehicles. This law applies to the operator of the vehicle as well as any passengers in the vehicle. Violations will cost you dollars in fines, and if you are the operator, it will add points to your driver’s license. If you want to transport alcoholic beverages in your vehicle, do not open the container or break the seal, and if appropriate, keep the beverage in the locked trunk of your car. Florida law requires the operator of a motor vehicle as well as any passengers in the front seat of the vehicle to buckle up their seat belt (sometimes referred to as a safety belt) at all times. Violation of this law can cost you dollars in fines. Numerous studies and research projects have proven that buckling up your seat belt greatly improves your chances of avoiding serious injury to yourself if you are involved in a motor vehicle crash. Always buckle up for your own protection and insist that your passengers buckle up too. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO LEARN AND FOLLOW TRAFFIC REGULATIONS. Regulations concerning driving speed, turning and parking are used to control automobile and bicycle traffic in the U.S. Most people generally adhere to those regulations, and the regulations are enforced by the police. Violations of traffic regulations are punished by fines, jail sentences, and/or loss of driving privileges. Cars which are parked in violation of regulations may be towed away, and the owner required to pay a fine, towing costs, and storage costs. In some countries, driving regulations are not as detailed or as strictly enforced as they are here, and driving habits may be shaped more by competition with other drivers than by laws. In still other countries, the laws regulating traffic are detailed but much different from the ones in the U.S. People who have learned to drive under other circumstances, may easily but unintentionally violate driving regulations here and then be penalized for their violation. b. Buying a Car You will probably be buying a used car either from a car dealer or from a private individual who has advertised a car for sale. In any case you should have with you a U.S. American acquaintance that is both knowledgeable about cars and skeptical by nature. Such person could help you evaluate both the condition of the car and the claims made by the person who is trying to sell it. These evaluations are essential because buying a car, especially a used one, can be very tricky. When you buy a car, the “certificate of ownership” or “certificate of title” must be transferred to you from the previous owner. Automobile registration. If you buy a car, you must register it and obtain license 50
plates for it. This is done at the Tag Office in the Court House on the corner of Palafox and Government Street (436‐5820). Requirements for registering a car vary depending on whether the car is new or used and, if used, how old it is. To find out what you have to do to register a particular car, visit the Tag Office. Automobile Insurance. IT IS ESSENTIAL AND THE LAW REQUIRES YOU TO HAVE AT LEAST MINIMAL INSURANCE COVERAGE IF YOU OWN A CAR AS YOU ARE FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE IF YOU INJURE ANOTHER PERSON OR DAMAGE SOMEONE ELSE’S PROPERTY. Liability Insurance is the most basic type. It protects you if your car kills or injures someone else or damages someone else’s property. Collision Insurance protects your car in case of collision with another car. Comprehensive Insurance covers losses caused by storms, thieves, and vandals. In the yellow pages section of the telephone directory, you will find a long list of insurance agents under the heading “insurance”. Unless a friend can recommend a reliable agent to you, you should talk to at least two agents about your insurance needs. The amount of insurance you buy for your car should depend on its value. Insurance rates vary from company to company, and they depend also on the value of the car, the amount it is driven, the age of the drivers and the past driving records of the drivers. c. Bicycles In the recent past, bicycling has become extremely popular as a sport and means of transportation in the U.S. Therefore, many of the bicycle for sale here are very elaborate ten‐speed racing models. If you are using a bicycle for transportation only, you may not need such an expensive model, depending on how far you have to travel and how many hills you have to climb. Used bicycles are advertised in the Voyager and Pensacola News Journal. If you are unfamiliar with bicycles, try to find someone who knows about them to examine a used bicycle for you. You do not have to register your bike with the city of Pensacola or with the University. It is very important to lock your bicycle securely whenever you leave it. Ask the person who sells you a bicycle to recommend an effective lock for it. You should lock your bicycle into a bicycle rack. UWF also offers a “Yellow Bike” program where students can use marked yellow bikes for free around campus for no charge. When you are finished with the bike, you leave it at the nearest bike rack for another student to use. VIII. Getting Along with U.S. Americans Like any other society, U.S. American society includes people who are friendly people and who are not, ones who are intelligent and ones who are not, and so on. Also, U.S. American society includes people representing large numbers of ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, age, occupational, and other types of groups. It includes a number of people referred to as the “counter‐culture.” These people, many of whom are university students, profess a set of values counter to those they see in the society at large. People in any of these various groups are likely to have ideas and opinions that differ from those people in other 51
groups. Even with this diversity, it is possible to mention certain characteristics which, in general, describe attitudes and practices that are common among U.S. Americans and that tend to distinguish U.S. Americans from people who have grown up in other cultures. Keep in mind that the following remarks are generalizations, and that you will find individuals who are exceptions to any or all of them. a. Notable Characteristics of U.S. Americans i. Individuals. U.S. Americans generally believe that the ideal person is an autonomous, self‐reliant individual. Most U.S. Americans see themselves as separate individuals, not as representatives of a family, community, or other group. They dislike being dependent on other people, or having others depend on them. Some people from other countries view this attitude as “selfishness”. Others view this as a healthy freedom from the constraints of ties to family, clan or social class. ii. Informality. U.S. Americans are taught that “all men are created equal”. While they continually violate that idea in some aspects of life, in others they adhere to it. They treat each other in very informal ways, for example, even in the presence of great differences in age or social standing. From the point of view of some people from other cultures, this kind of behavior reflects “lack of respect.” From the point of view of others, it reflects a healthy lack of concern for social rituals. iii. Limited “friendships.” Friendships among U.S. Americans tend to be shorter and less intense than those among people from many other cultures because they are taught to be self‐reliant, because they live in a very mobile society, and for many other reasons as well, U.S. Americans tend to avoid deep involvements with other people. Furthermore, U.S. Americans tend to “compartmentalize” their friendships, having their “friends at work,” “friends at school,” a “tennis friend,” and so on. The result of all this is sometimes viewed by foreigners as an “inability to be friends.” Other times it is seen as a normal way to retain personal happiness in a mobile, ever‐changing society. These remarks are not intended to discourage international students from attempting to establish friendly relationships with the U.S. Americans. They are only intended to point out that U.S. Americans’ ideas about friendship might be different from ideas about friendship that predominate elsewhere. iv. Time Consciousness. U.S. Americans place considerable value on punctuality. They tend to organize their activities by means of schedules. As a result, they may seem hurried, always running from one thing to the next, and not able to relax and enjoy themselves. International observers sometimes see this as being “ruled by the clock.” Other times they see it as a helpful way of assuring that things get done. v. Materialism. “Success” in U.S. Americans society is often marked by the amount of money or the quantity of material goods a person is able to accumulate. A person accumulates money and goods by means of such valued qualities as hard work, cleverness, and persistence. Some foreigners see all this as a “lack of appreciation for the spiritual or human things of life.” Others recognize it as a way of assuring a comparatively high standard of living in the country. 52
b. The “Communicative Styles” of U.S. Americans The preceding paragraphs concerned some values that generally prevail among U.S. Americans. Another way of describing differences between people from diverse cultural backgrounds, besides comparing their values, is comparing their communicative styles. According to the communications scholar, Dean Barnlund, (writing in Public and Private Self in Japan and the United States), “communicative style” refers to: • The topics people prefer to discuss, • People’s favorite forms of verbal interaction (ritual, repartee, argument, self disclosure), • The depth of involvement people seek from each other, • Communication channels people tend to rely on (vocal, verbal, physical), and • The level of meaning to which people are generally attuned (the factual or the emotional content of messages). When people with differing communicative styles interact, they frequently feel ill‐at‐ease, and they often midjudge or misunderstand each other. To help understand why that happens, and to try to reduce the communication problems that arise when it does happen, it is helpful if foreigners (anywhere, not just in the U.S.) know something about the communicative style of the local people, and the way it compares with their own communicative style. With that knowledge, the foreigners will be better able to understand what is happening when they are dealing with the local people and will know some of the ways in which the local people are likely to misunderstand or misjudge them. Here are some generalizations (subject to exceptions) about the communicative style of U.S. Americans: i. Preferred topics. In casual conversation (what they call “small talk”), U.S. Americans prefer to talk about the weather, sports, jobs, people they both know, or past experiences, especially one they have in common. As they grow up, most U.S. Americans are warned not to discuss politics or religion, at least not with people they do not know well, because politics and religion are considered controversial topics. Sex, bodily functions, and perceived personal inadequacies are considered very personal topics, and are likely to be discussed only between people who know each other very well. (Younger people generally discuss sex more freely than older people do.) By contrast, people in some other cultures are taught to believe that politics and/or religion are good conversation topics, and they may have different ideas about what topics are too “personal” to discuss with others. ii. Verbal interaction. In the typical conversation between U.S. Americans, no one talks for very long at a time. Participants in conversation “take turns” frequently, usually after the speaker has spoken only a few sentences. U.S. Americans prefer to avoid arguments if argument is unavoidable; they prefer it to be restrained, carried on in a normal conversational tone and volume. U.S. Americans are 53
generally rather impatient with “ritual” conversational exchanges. (Only very few of them are common: “How are you?” “Fine thank you, how are you?” “Fine.” “It was very nice to meet you.” “I hope to see you again.” People form other countries may be more accustomed to speaking and listening for longer periods when they are in a conversation; they may be accustomed to more ritual interchanges (about the health of family members, for example) than U.S. Americans are. They may enjoy arguing, even vigorous arguing, of a kind that U.S. Americans are likely to find unsettling. iii. Depth of involvement preferred. U.S. Americans do not generally expect very much personal involvement from conversational partners. “Small talk” – without long silences, which provoke uneasiness – is enough to keep matters going smoothly. It is only with very close friends (or with complete strangers whom they do not expect to see again) that U.S. Americans generally expect to discuss personal topics. Some people from other countries prefer even less personal involvement than U.S. Americans do and rely more on ritual interchanges. Others come from countries where much more personal involvement is sought as one wants to learn as much as possible about another person and keep the possibility of developing a relationship of mutual interdependence. iv. Channels preferred. The ideal among U.S. Americans is to be somewhat verbally adept, speaking in a moderate tone, using relatively few and restrained gestures of the arms and hands. They do not touch very often. By contrast, others might prefer even quieter conversation, less talking, and even more restrained gestures. OR they might be accustomed to louder voices, many people talking at once, vigorous use of hands and arms to convey meanings or add emphasis, and/or more touching between conversation partners. v. Level of meaning emphasized. U.S. Americans are generally taught to believe in the “scientific method” of understanding the world around them, so they tend to look for specific facts and physical or quantifiable evidence to support viewpoints. (Underlying this search for facts is the assumption that there are “truths” about people and nature that can be discovered by means of “objective” inquiry that is carried out by trained people using “scientific” means of measurement or observation.) Compared to U.S. Americans, people from some other countries might pay more attention to the emotional content or the human feelings aspects of a message, and be less concerned with what U.S. Americans would call “facts”. (They may not assume the existence of an objective “truth,” but may suppose that “facts” are relative depending on who is observing them. Many misjudgments and misunderstandings can arise from interactions between people who have different communicative styles. Here are some examples: • International visitors in the U.S. might hear little but “small talk” among U.S. Americans, and derive the erroneous conclusion that U.S. Americans are not intellectually capable of anything more than simple talk about such subjects 54
as the weather, sports, teachers or their own social lives. The conclusion that U.S. Americans are intellectually inferior is also reached by many people who regard argument as a favorite form of interaction and who find that U.S. Americans are often not very adept are arguing. • Responding to people who customarily speak little and who rely heavily on ritual conversation, U.S. Americans might use labels “shy,” “too formal,” or “too polite.” • Vigorous arguing (with raised voices and much use of hands and arms, and perhaps more than one person talking at a time) of the kind that is “natural” to some people may alarm U.S. Americans, who expect violence, or at least long‐lasting anger, to follow from loud disagreements. • What U.S. Americans might regard favorably as “keeping cool” – that is, not being drawn into an argument, not raising the voice, looking always for the “facts” – might be seen by others as coldness and a sort of lack of humanness. Conversely, U.S. Americans are likely to see those who do not “keep cool” as being “too emotional”. • Embarrassment or uneasiness almost always results when someone raises a discussion topic that the other person thinks is inappropriate for the particular setting or relationship. • U.S. Americans are likely to view a very articulate person with some suspicion. These are but a few of the many misjudgments that arise between U.S. Americans and people in the U.S. from other countries. It can be very helpful to be aware of the differences in communicative style that produce them. Talking about differences in communicative style, when such a difference seems to be causing problems, is usually a good way to reduce the negative effects of the differences. c. Guidelines for Practical Situations The comments in the preceding section are very general. This section provides some more specific information about behavior that U.S. Americans usually expect in certain situations. i. Shaking hands. Men usually shake hands with each other the first time they meet. Men usually do not shake hands with women unless the woman extends her hand first. Women do not usually shake hands with each other. After the first meeting, shaking hands is relatively rare. If someone offers his or her hand to you, though, you should shake it. In general, U.S. Americans avoid physical contact with each other. To them, physical contact frequently connotes sexual attraction or aggressiveness. ii. Use of names and titles. First names are used in the U.S. more frequently than elsewhere. People may call each other by their first names immediately after they have met. These general rules apply: 1. Address people of your own approximate age and status by the first name. This would apply to fellow students and neighbors. 2. If the other person is clearly older than you, you should use Mr., Mrs., Miss, or 55
Ms. and the last name. For example, you would address Marlon Brando as “Mr. Brando.” If the older person asks you to use his or her first name, do so. The older person will probably address you by your first name form the beginning. (A note on “Ms.” (pronounced “Mizz”): it is increasingly used for both unmarried and married females.) 3. If the other person has a title such as “Ambassador” or “Dean,” use the title and the last name. For example, you would address Senator Edwards Kennedy as “Senator Kennedy.” A faculty member can be addressed as “Professor,” whether he/she has the rank of assistant professor, associate professor or full professor. “Mister” or “Ms.” is equally acceptable. Again, the other person might ask you to address him/her by the first name, and you should abide by that wish. 4. U.S. Americans do not use a title followed by a first name. For example, you would not address Elizabeth Taylor as “Miss Elizabeth,” but as “Miss Taylor” or, if she asked you to, as “Elizabeth.” 5. The use of “nicknames” is fairly common among U.S. Americans. A nickname is not the person’s real name, but a name assigned to her/him because of certain physical characteristics, behavior patterns, or some other factor. International students often get nicknames if their own names seem long, unpronounceable, or just unusual, to U.S. Americans. For example, a student whose name is Nakagawa might come to be known as “Naka”. Being called by a nickname is not usually uncomplimentary. On the contrary, it may indicate that you are viewed with respect and even affection. 6. If you are in doubt about what to call a person, ask the person, “What shall I call you?” 7. U.S. Americans will sometimes be confused about what to call you. If you see that a person does not know what to call you, tell him/her. Say, “You can call me .” The U.S. Americans’ ready use of first names may make it appear to you that they are oblivious to differences in age and social status. They are not. There are subtle differences in vocabulary and manner, depending on the relationship between people involved. For example, a U.S. American is less likely to use slang or obscenities when speaking to a person who is older, whose social standing is higher, and/or who he/she does not know very well. iii. Ritual Greetings. When two people are first introduced, the dialogue goes, “How do you do?” “Fine, thank you. How are you?” “Fine, thanks.” After the first meeting, there are two kinds of greetings. The more formal is “Good Morning,” “Good Afternoon,” etc. The less formal is simply “Hello” or “Hi”. Any of these may be followed by “How are you?” The answer is usually “Fine,” whether you are fine or not. These ritual greetings are much shorter than those to which people from many other countries are accustomed. People from countries where ritual greetings are more elaborate may have a negative reaction to the U.S. Americans custom, thinking that it reflects coldness and lack of concern for other people. 56
The U.S. Americans ritual parting remark, “See you later,” means “Goodbye,” and does not mean that the person saying it has a specific intention to see you later. iv. Visiting U.S. Americans. You will probably have opportunities to visit a U.S. American’s home. The invitation may come about through the UWF Friendship Family Program, through someone you have met in class or elsewhere. The following paragraphs give a general idea of the behavior that is appropriate in such situations. Your prospective host will phone you, speak to you in person, or send you a written invitation. An arrangement made by telephone is expected to be kept, even if it is made far in advance of the actual event. A written invitation will include the date, time, place, and a description of the occasion. If at the bottom of the invitation it says, “R.S.V.P.” (Respondez, s’il vous plait), you should notify the inviter whether or not you plan to be present. If it says “Regrets only,” you should notify the inviter only if you do not plan to be present. It is polite to notify your hostess of any last minute change of plans and of any dietary restrictions you have. In the United States you should never say that you accept an invitation unless you truly intend to do so. If you do not know what clothing would be appropriate for the occasion, simply ask: “What should I wear?” Punctuality is usually essential, especially if you have been invited for a meal or for a cocktail party. You may be thought inconsiderate and impolite if you do not arrive at the appointed hour. Again, it is a very good idea to notify your hostess if you cannot avoid being late. Upon arrival, you may find that there is a cocktail hour before dinner. During this period hors‐d’oeuvres (small appetizers, usually with crackers) and cocktails are served. You will usually be asked what type of drink you would prefer. You may have an alcoholic or non‐alcoholic cocktail. If you would prefer a non‐alcoholic beverage and none is offered, it is acceptable to ask your host/hostess for one. At the dinner table, if there is ever any question of proper manners, simply follow the example of your host. If you have any dietary restrictions, you should inform your host/hostess of them at the time you accept the invitation. It is never necessary to bring a gift for any member of the family, unless it is a special occasion (such as a birthday or an important holiday, like Christmas). U.S. Americans do not usually expect gifts from their guests and may even be embarrassed by them. If you have visited several times, you may wish to bring a small token of appreciation for the hostess. Always bring a small gift when you are invited as a house guest for an extended visit. If you do wish to take a gift, a bouquet of flowers or a box of candy is nearly always appropriate. Unless a special party has been planned, it is polite to leave your host’s home from one to two hours after dinner is completed. If it is very late when you finish dinner, leave within an hour. If you are asked to stay longer, feel free to do so. It is never a bad idea to write a thank you note to your host/hostess after each occasion. An informal note expressing how much you enjoyed the evening and 57
the meal is sufficient. While it is not a bad idea to write a thank you note, it is not required either. A telephone call expressing appreciation for an invitation will suffice. These informal visits are for the pleasure of both guests and the hosts. You should feel free to ask for anything which would make you feel more comfortable. If the host/hostess is preparing the meal by himself/herself, it is polite to ask if you can help her/him with any preparations. Guests should offer their help in cleaning up after dinner. Your hostess will tell you whether she/he needs extra help or not. Always abide by her/his wishes. v. Gifts. In different societies there are different customs concerning the giving of gifts. Sometimes, in relationships between people from different societies, one person will give a gift when the other person did not expect to receive one. Or no gift will be offered when one was expected. Situations such as this can cause confusion and embarrassment. Here are some general (i.e., subject to variation and exception) ideas about gift‐giving customs in the U.S. Knowing them can help avoid awkward situations. 1. To whom are gifts given? As a rule, gifts are given to relatives and close friends. They are sometimes given to people with whom one has a casual but friendly type of relationship, such as a host or hostess, but it is not necessary or even common for gifts to be given to such people. Gifts are not usually given to teachers or others who hold an official position. The offering of gifts in these situations is sometimes interpreted as an effort, possibly improper, to gain favorable treatment from that person. 2. When are gifts given? Christmas is the only national gift‐giving day, when most U.S. Americans, with the exception of adherents of non‐Christian religions, give gifts. Otherwise, gifts are given on occasions which are special to the recipient—birthdays, graduation from high school or college, weddings, and child‐births. Gifts are sometimes given when someone has a new house or is moving away. Cards, rather than gifts, are given to acquaintances who are not close friends. This is especially true at Christmas, when it is common for people to send a card to most of their acquaintances and business or school colleagues. 3. What gifts are appropriate? Generally, an effort is made to select a gift which the giver knows or supposes is one the recipient needs, wants, or would enjoy. The amount spent on the gift is something the giver can afford; generally it is not expected that people on limited budgets will spend large amounts on gifts. Expensive gifts are to be expected only when the people involved have a very close relationship with each other. 4. How are gifts acknowledged? If a gift is opened in the presence of the giver (as is often done), a verbal expression of thanks is appreciated. If a gift is opened in the absence of a giver, a thank you note should be sent. The note should make specific mention of the particular gift that has been sent. 58
vi. Time Schedules. 1. Individuals and families. In general, you can telephone individuals or families between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. without awakening them. U.S. Americans eat breakfast shortly after arising, a small meal or sandwich called “lunch” at or near noon, and a large meal called “dinner” or “supper” sometime between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The meal schedule may vary on Sundays, when all meals may be taken later and the large meal may be in the afternoon rather than the evening. 2. Business hours. University business hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Most businesses open at 9:00 a.m. Closing hours vary. Many businesses always close at 5:00 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. Businesses in shopping centers away from the downtown section are usually open until 9:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Most businesses are open on Saturday, with varying hours. Some are open Sunday. This is obviously confusing. You can call a business to ask its hours. Your neighbors will often know when certain businesses are open. 3. Alcohol. You will find as you become more familiar with U.S. American society, that alcoholic beverages are a significant factor in many aspects of entertainment, dating, partying, and other leisure activities. America has many laws and customs concerning alcoholic beverages. If you are uncertain as to what is the custom, the tradition, the laws, in regard to alcoholic beverages, do not hesitate to ask questions. In America the majority of U.S. Americans drink alcoholic beverages. Many of them misuse and abuse alcoholic beverages; but you will quickly discover that the majority of U.S. Americans who do drink, do so in a responsible manner. If you do have an unpleasant encounter with a person who is under the influence of alcohol or another drug, stay calm and get help to assist you in dealing with the situation. Do not try to handle it yourself. 4. Drugs. Drugs in America fall into two categories. The first category is legal drugs. Legal drugs sold in drugstores, supermarkets, and convenience stores are called “over‐the‐counter” (OTC) drugs. These include many different drugs for treating colds, headaches, minor ills and ailments. Other legal drugs are called prescription drugs because a qualified doctor must write out a prescription for a specific drug to take care of your problem. You then take this prescription to a pharmacist at a drugstore to have it filled. You will find that America has thousands of legal drugs available through OTC sale or through a prescription. Always read the label and the instruction that comes with the drug to ensure that you are taking it correctly. If you are unsure as to what the effect of the drug may be, the effect of the drug when taken with another drug, with foods, or with alcohol, consult appropriate medical authorities. They will work with you to ensure that you take the drug in a proper manner. The other category of drugs in the U.S. is the illegal or illicit drugs. These include marijuana, cocaine, crack, LSD, PCP, speed, and many, many more. Many illegal drugs have different nicknames for them. An example is 59
marijuana which is also called pot, grass, and weed to name a few. The United States has a variety of laws related to illegal drugs, their use, distribution, manufacturing, and possession. As a guest in this country these laws can have a more serious effect on you than on a U.S. American. You will find that many U.S. Americans, including college students, use illegal drugs. For your own safety and protection, and to avoid possible deportation, never get involved in any situation that involves illegal drugs. Always ensure that any drug you do use was obtained by you in a legal manner. Never take an offer of any drug to help you out, to make you feel better, to assist you with a medical condition, unless the offer came from a qualified professional. 5. Tipping. Tips, or service charges, are not added to the bill in most U.S. restaurants. Nevertheless, tips are often expected and needed by employees. It is customary to tip the waiter or waitress 15‐18 percent of the amount of the check, if the service is satisfactory. Tips are not expected in cafeterias or the “fast food” establishments. In a hotel the bellhop who assists you to your room expects a tip, usually $1 or $2, depending on number of suitcases. Tip taxi drivers 15 percent of the fare. Holidays in the United States a. General Information The U.S. adopted legislation which moved the celebration of several holidays to the Monday nearest the date of the event the holiday commemorated. The purpose of this legislation was to create as many “three‐day weekends” (i.e., Saturday‐Sunday‐Monday) as possible during the year. Four principal national holidays – New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas – were not subjects of the date‐changing legislation. They are still celebrated on the same date each year. Another principal holiday, Labor Day, had traditionally been on Monday. Many businesses and all government offices close in observance of these holidays. Of the holidays on the following list, not all are celebrates throughout the U.S. and not all are celebrated by everyone. Some are holidays only for members of certain religions; others are for particular groups, such as lovers and children. b. Holidays or “special days” in the U.S. i.
January 1, New Year’s Day. Celebration of New Year’s Day usually occurs the night before, on “New Year’s Eve,” when it is common for groups of people to have a party to celebrate the coming of the New Year. It is customary to make loud noises at midnight when the New Year officially arrives; embracing or kissing others at the party at midnight is not unusual. It is a legal and business holiday. ii.
February 12 (or third Monday of the month), Abraham Lincoln’s 60
February 14, St. Valentine’s Day. A day for lovers to exchange cards and/or gifts. Children in primary school usually exchange “valentine cards” with their classmates. iv.
February 22 (or nearest Monday), George Washington’s Birthday. v.
Ash Wednesday (Date varies). Marks the beginning of the 40‐day period of Lent, a period of penitence and fast in some Christian denominations. On Ash Wednesday, some Christians attend a church service during which small ash marks are placed on their foreheads to symbolize man’s ultimate return to dust. vi.
March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. A day dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland. Many people wear something green on this day vii.
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. Easter Sunday (date varies). Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For children, baskets of candy and dyed, hard‐boiled eggs are hidden by a mythical “Easter Rabbit” or “Easter Bunny.” The children seek out the hidden eggs. ix.
Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May. Gifts, cards, and/or special attention are given to mothers and grandmothers. x.
May 30 (or nearest Monday), Memorial Day. A legal and business holiday when homage is paid to U.S. soldiers who have died in wars. xi.
Father’s Day, the third Sunday in June. Gifts, cards and/or special attention are given to fathers and grandfathers. xii.
June 14, Flag Day. Flags are flown to mark the adoption of the U.S. American Flag. xiii.
July 4, Independence Day (usually termed “the Fourth of July”). Parades, fireworks and flags to celebrate the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. It is a legal and business holiday. xiv.
Labor Day, the first Monday of September. A legal and business holiday noting the importance of labor and labor organizations. xv.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Both celebrated on varying dates in September and October. 61
October 12 (or nearest Monday), Columbus Day. Commemorates the landing of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus on the shores of North America. It is a legal holiday but not a business one. xvii.
October 24, United Nations Day. Speeches and events draw attention to the United Nations. xviii.
October 31, Halloween. A children’s holiday, associated with carving faces on pumpkins called “jack‐o‐lanterns” and making witches, cats and ghosts for decorations. Children often go to parties in costumes or go “trick or treating.” “Trick or treating” means going to a door in a costume, saying “Trick or treat” and being given a piece of candy or fruit. Young children are accompanied by a parent when trick or treating. xix.
Election Day, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Not a legal or business holiday, but people may leave work briefly in order to vote in municipal, county, state and/or national elections. xx.
Veteran’s Day, November 11. A legal holiday, honoring veterans of armed service. xxi.
Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November. A harvest celebration stemming from harvest‐time festivities in the original U.S. American Colonies. A legal and business holiday when, traditionally, families gather and have a large meal that includes turkey and pumpkin pie. xxii.
Late November or (usually) December, Hanukkah. An eight‐day Jewish holiday marking the rededication of the Temple. xxiii.
December 25, Christmas. The major U.S. holiday. It began as a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, but is now a widely celebrated day of feasting and gift‐giving. Preparations, including gift‐buying and decoration of homes and public places, begin as early as Thanksgiving. “Santa Claus,” a mythical figure, is said to visit the homes of children on the night of December 24 and leave gifts for them while they sleep. 62
As is true of any other people in the world, U.S. Americans have developed certain peculiarities in their everyday language. As a University of West Florida student, you are sure to encounter colloquialisms and “slang” terms which could not have been predicted by any English language textbook or teacher. Such words are often unique to a certain group of people (such as those within the University community) and are forever changing. The following is a list which will give you an idea of the more common of these usages. Also included are terms or vocabulary which you may not have encountered before, but which will prove useful to you during your stay here in Pensacola. No list of this type can even come close to being complete. For this reason, you must remember never to hesitate or be embarrassed about asking for clarification of a meaning or usage with which you are unfamiliar. U.S. Americans will enjoy helping you become familiar with the oddities of their language, and many acquaintances have begun with a shared good‐natured laugh over a misused or misunderstood idiom. U.S Americans like to abbreviate words when they talk. Thus, they are likely to say “ed. psych.” for educational psychology, “med school” for the College of Medicine and “bio” for biology. It would be impossible to list all such abbreviations here. If you hear one you do not know, ask someone what it means. Common Expressions Area code: Number on phone for local geographic are to which you are calling. The Pensacola area code is 850. Bar Lounge, Night Club, Club, and Cafe: Place where alcoholic beverages are served, sometimes dancing, entertainment, pool tables, and video games Big deal: Important event Blast: “It’s going to be a blast!” or “It’s going to be a lot of fun” Blitzed: Intoxicated by alcohol Blow, bomb: To be unsuccessful Blue: Depressed, Have the blues: feel depressed Bombed: Intoxicated by alcohol Booze: Liquor Bounce a check: Overdraw your checking account A buck: One dollar Buddy: Friend Bug off: leave immediately; “leave me alone” (command) Bum a cigarette: Borrow a cigarette Bummed out: depressed Bummer: unpleasant experience 63
Busted: to be caught by the police while using drugs, to be “broke” or out of money Butt: cigarette Buzz: to get high from alcohol or drugs, “to get a buzz on” BYOB party: bring your own booze or bring your on bottle to the party. (BYOL‐bring your own liquor) Cheap, cheapskate: extremely tight with money, derogatory Check out: (1) sign out materials from a library; (2) try to find something; (3) look over a situation Chill, chill out: take it easy Cop: policeman Cop out: not face an issue Cool: Nice, “with it” Cram: to study frantically the night before a test Creep: a boring, unintelligent, or otherwise unimpressive or unpleasant person; derogatory term Croak: die Cut it out: “stop it” Date: A pre‐arranged social activity involving at least two people, usually a male and a female. Dead: very tired Dime: coin worth 10 cents Don’t get smart, don’t be a wise guy: don’t try to be clever or funny Dope: Usually associated with heroin, can refer to other illegal drugs Double date: two couples who plan to go somewhere or do something together Down in the dumps: depressed Drag: to inhale a cigarette or marijuana cigarette; type of car race; something that is boring or tedious Drive one up the wall; drive one nuts: to make one very nervous or upset Drop in: to visit unexpectedly Dutch treat or to go Dutch or going Dutch: Each member of the couple on a date pays his or her own expenses; “going Dutch” is usually agreed on by those involved before the date Fed up or sick of: disgusted with, or tired of Flaky: silly; unable to concentrate Formal: Dress expected—a tuxedo or suit for men, a long dress for women. National dress is generally acceptable. Freak out: to lose control of oneself. Gay: homosexual Goofing off: acting silly Give up: quit Go bananas: to lose control of oneself Good stuff: illegal/illicit drugs Grass, weed, smoke, tote: marijuana Gross: something crude, usually unpleasant. Grossed out—made—or feel uneasy 64
because of something unpleasant someone has said. Often something to do with sex or other bodily functions Group: group of musicians Grungy: dirty, unclear Hang in there: keep trying; do not be discouraged Hang‐ups: Problems, personal maladjustments Have a date: Go out or get together for a planned activity; refers most commonly to an activity with someone of the opposite sex Hassled: troubled by; “What a hassle” “What a problem” High or stoned: under the effect of marijuana or alcohol or a number of other drugs Hit the sack or turn in: go to bed Hitch a ride: get a ride from another person Hitch hike: to get a ride from a stranger who is going to your destination Host family: A family which has volunteered to meet a foreign student because of an interest in sharing their home and activities with him or her Hung up: to be in conflict over a problem ID: identification card In a nutshell: very briefly and concisely Informal (dress): at most affairs, ordinary street clothes; at social affairs, sport coats and neckties for the men and dresses for the women Jock: an athlete of athletic person, especially one who is not very intelligent; a mildly derogatory term Joint: marijuana cigarette Loaded, plastered, plowed, bombed: intoxicated by alcohol Lost it: to lose control of oneself Macho: exaggerated concern with masculinity Messed up: confused, or not neat Mind your own business; get your nose out of my business: Do not ask questions or make statements about this matter; it is my concern and not yours Mixer: an organized activity to get people acquainted with each other, usually with refreshments and dancing National dress: some distinctive clothing that is typical of a country or culture, even though not commonly work today Nickel: coin worth 5 cents On the house: free, no cost On the spur of the moment: Done without premeditation or planning, to be open: to be accepting of something or someone; to speak frankly about yourself Out of one’s mind (head): Crazy; doing something ridiculous; out of it: “he’s really out of it,” he tired; his mind is on something else Pain in the neck: an unpleasant person or experience Pot: marijuana Psych up: to prepare oneself mentally or emotionally for something Pull one’s leg: to tease Pusher: one who sells drugs 65
Put someone on: to try to tease or fool To take a rain check: to postpone; accepting the same invitation at a later date R.S.V.P.: A reply is required telling whether of not you can attend a function to which you have received an invitation “Respondez, s’il vous plait” Schroom: mushrooms—the kind you eat to get high See eye‐to‐eye: have the same opinion Semi‐formal: usually formal dress or national dress for women, business suit or national dress for men Show: movie or film Shooter: ounce/ounce and a half of a liquor or combination of liquors, potent! Skinny‐dip: to swim in the nude Smashed, bombed, polluted, stoned, or wasted: drunk or intoxicated by alcohol Snow‐job: to convince someone of something that’s not necessarily true Snowed under: to have an over abundance of work Stag: “to go stag” is to go to a dance or party without a date. Term is usually used for men Street drugs: illegal or illicit drugs Tacky: in poor taste Thank you note: a short note sent to a hostess afterwards, in thanks for a mean, overnight stay or a gift of some kind To be crazy about: to like someone or something very much Turn over a new leaf: adopt a better course of conduct Uptight: worried, tense What’s up? What’s happening? What’s going on?: what event is taking place? What new news is there? Whole bit: entire thing Wine cooler: wine and sprite or 7‐Up, also bottled with a fruity flavor Wired: on a drug; “He’s wired” (he is under the influence of a drug) With it: current, hip in style, in fashion X‐TC: Ecstasy, an illegal drug Zero in on: focus or concentrate Zip code: last and very important part of address on a letter—a number telling what section of the U.S. the letter is going to; the University’s is 32514. Academic Terms Academic advisor: a faculty member appointed to assist a student in the planning of his academic career Add a course: to enter a course you were not previously enrolled in Assignment: out‐of‐class work required by a professor, due by a certain set time Blue books: a small booklet of paper with a blue cover usually used for essay‐type examinations Carrel: a small desk in the library reserved by individuals doing research Cum: pronounced “kyum,” and refers to a person’s cumulative grade point average 66
Cut: to be absent from a class Dead week: the week before final exams, no activities or tests scheduled Dissertation: a scholarly independent research study required to obtain a Doctoral degree Drop a course: to withdraw from a course Drop and add: That period during the first week of the semester during which you may change your program of studies by “dropping” and “Adding” courses. Also refers to the procedure by which this is done. Consult your department for the correct procedures. Finals: last exam of a semester Flunk: to fail to achieve a passing grade FSA: Foreign student advisor Fraternity: A social organization of men, usually sharing a large house, each with different rules, regulations and objectives. Some fraternities are purely social; others are professional organizations, and some are academic honorary organizations. Freshman: a student in his first year of study at a university GPA: grade point average Graduate or Grad student: a student who has earned a baccalaureate degree and is at a higher level, usually toward a higher degree Greek: member of a fraternity or a sorority Honor system: the practice of relying on students not to cheat in any academic matter Incomplete: a temporary mark given to a student who is doing passing work but who cannot complete all the requirements for a course during the term. The student must have a valid reason and must complete the course within a period of time acceptable to the instructor. Junior: a student in his third year at a university Major: a student’s primary field of study Matriculate: to be formally enrolled in the university Minor: a student’s secondary field of study Mid‐terms: test in the middle of a semester Quiz: short test, usually given without warning RA: resident assistant in the residence halls Reading list (Syllabus): a list of books and articles prepared by each professor for his specific course. Required and suggested texts are usually indicated as such. This list is designed to give the students an adequate introduction and survey of the particular course. Registrar: official recorder of students’ academic information, such as courses taken and grades received Registration: procedure of enrolling officially in classes at the beginning of each semester Semester: one academic term, this is half of the academic year Senior: a student in his fourth year of study at a university Skim: to quickly read something to get a general idea of its contents Skipped, skip out: to fail to attend a class, meeting, etc. 67
Sophomore: a student in his second year of study at a university Sorority: comparable to a fraternity, except that it is for females Thesis: a scholarly research paper required to obtain a master’s degree Transcript: official record of past grades’ and courses take by a student; available at the Registrar’s office Undergraduate: a student in the first four years of study at a university Voyager: campus newspaper of the University of West Florida Food Terms A la carte: each item on a menu is ordered and paid for separately Bagel: a round, harsh roll with a hole in the middle Barbeque (Bar‐B‐Q): a meal cooked outside over charcoal Bite to eat: a light, quick meal Brunch: A combination of breakfast and lunch, eaten in the late morning Cheeseburger: a hamburger with a slice of cheese melted on it. A “vegetable cheeseburger” or “Cheeseburger deluxe” also has lettuce and a slice of tomato on it. Cocktail: an alcoholic drink served before a meal Drink: “let’s get a drink” “Have a drink” usually refers to an alcoholic beverage Eggs: over‐easy—eggs fried on both sides. Sunny‐side‐up eggs—yoke side up, not turned over to fry on both sides; scrambled eggs—eggs beaten and fried French fries: potatoes cut into strips and cooked by deep fat frying Hamburger: a staple of most students’ diets; a fried or broiled ground beef pattie served on a bun Munchies: bite‐sized snack Pot luck: a meal comprised of dishes brought by various people Sub sandwich or hoagie (pronounced “hoagy”): Sandwich on a long roll with assorted fillings and spices Waffle: similar to a pancake but square, and having many square indentations, instead of being smooth and round 68
Sizes, Weights, Measurements
Weights and Measures Length 1 inch = 2.54 centimeters 1 foot = 12 inches = 30.48 centimeters 1 yard = 3 feet = 36 inches = 91.44 centimeters 39.4 inches = 1 meter 1 mile = 5280 feet = 1.609 kilometers Weight 1 cup = 8 ounces 1 pint = 2 cups = .473 liters 1 quart = 4 cups = .946 liters 1.057 quarts = 1 liter 1 gallon = 4 quarts = 3.785 liters 1 ounce = 28.35 grams 1 pound = 16 ounces = 454 grams 1 ton = 2000 pounds 2.2 pounds = 1 kilogram Cooking Notes and Weather Temperatures U.S. cooking measures are given by volume rather than by weight. Measuring cups and spoons are available at discount stores very inexpensively. Tsp. = teaspoon c. = cup Tbsp. = tablespoon oz. = ounce 3 tsp. = 1 tablespoon lb. = pound U.S. temperatures are given in degrees Fahrenheit. The conversion formulas from Centigrade to Fahrenheit, and vice versa, are as follows: From Centigrade to Fahrenheit: F= 9/5 C + 32 Example: 30°C = 86° F F= 9∗30 + 32 = 270+ 32 = 54+32 = 86 5 5 From Fahrenheit to Centigrade: C= 5/9 (F‐32) Example: 43°F = 6.11°C C= 5(43‐32) = (5∗11) = 55 = 6.11 9 9 9 69
Clothing Size Comparison Chart For Men and Women - US/UK vs. Europe
Men's Shirt/collar sizes