The United States is a large country and we encourage you to travel as much as possible within the States. The vast size of the country shapes people's perception of space and distance. What may seem like a whole trip to you here may be seen simply as driving from one place to another. Americans are very mobile.
The U.S. may be very different from your native country, and the way people interact may surprise you. As you try to fit in, you may experience the "Culture Shock" phenomenon. The culture in the U.S. might be different than yours. There might be some aspects of the culture that you might not like, but you have to try and respect the culture. People are very friendly and sometimes they may seem superficial. To get used to the culture as quickly as possible and to make friends, try to get involved as much as possible. If you feel that you may be experiencing culture shock, remember that there are people always available to talk to. A special workshop on Culture Shock is offered during Odyssey, the international student orientation.
Responsibility for yourself
People at the College will help you with your struggles, but it is you who make decisions and choices. Individuality is a central value in the U.S. You are responsible for your class schedule and class performance, following the Honor Code, and in general, taking care of yourself. Even when you need help, you are responsible to begin by asking and finding it.
Life here is generally informal, meaning you go to class dressed in jeans. You can address your classmates by their first names, and it would seem awkward if you didn't.
Feel free to talk and ask questions to anyone on campus. When someone asks "What's up?" Or "How's life?" they are simply saying "Hi!" and not necessarily trying to begin a conversation, so respond in a similar way. These phrases may strike you as "shallow" in the beginning, but they are actually simple greetings.
Christmas and birthdays and anniversaries are great times to give and receive gifts, so are smaller occasions like St. Valentine's Day or Halloween. Gifts are not expected to be expensive. You may be invited by friends to their houses, in which case a sensitive gift like flowers, wine, or a curio from home will be appreciated.
Time and appointments
People have busy schedules and value their time. When you want to see a professor, go during the office hours or call in advance to make an appointment. Go to appointments five minutes in advance, and if you are going to be late for an appointment or cannot make it, then contact the other party. If you have either a job or an academic interview, you might dress a little more formally - just enough for a good impression. Invitations with "RSVP" require you to respond as soon as possible if you are planning to attend, but you don't have to call if you are not going to the event.
Daylight Savings Time
Most Southern hemisphere countries do not experience this change in time. In late fall, the time is changed to move an hour ahead and in early spring the clocks are turned an hour back.
It is common and sometimes even expected that you add a tip in addition to the predetermined fee or bill when you pay for services, e.g. to waiters at restaurants, cab drivers, etc. The amount you tip is usually about 15% of the bill or fee itself. Most people who work these kinds of jobs do not earn a whole lot, and a substantial amount of their earnings come from tips.
Attitudes towards alcohol
In the U.S., the legal drinking age is 21. If you decide to drink underage and get caught, you will have to accept the consequences. Some people in the U.S. may look down at alcohol consumption. Do not be offended if you are someone's guest and they do not offer wine. Some students drink, and if your values require that you stay away from alcohol, then you can apply for substance-free housing.
The College opposes the use of illegal drugs, and in the U.S. this includes marijuana. The non-medical use of drugs violates state and federal laws. Students using or possessing illegal drugs are subject to disciplinary action including expulsion. Students who supply or sell drugs are subject to proceedings which may lead to immediate dismissal and they may face criminal liability. The College may submit to local law enforcement authorities the names of students it believes to have supplied or sold drugs. Drug use will result in disciplinary action and will be viewed as a serious health concern. Students are encouraged and may be required to resolve their drug or alcohol problems with a professional counselor on or off campus.
Racism and prejudice
Racism and prejudice are seen in countries all over the world and the United States is not an exception. It is unlikely that you encounter discrimination in a liberal place like Connecticut College, but it could happen, and cases have been reported. What you have to keep in mind is that in the end it all depends on you. You are the one who has to decide whether you feel insulted or not. If you feel discriminated against or do not feel comfortable with what is going on around you, talk to us, your adviser or the International Student Adviser and we can help you out. On another note; one of the benefits of living and studying in a culture different from yours is to learn about that culture and to share your culture. Most people would like to know about your culture and will ask a lot of questions, so be prepared to give them an insight in some aspects of your own culture, while at the same time learning more about different aspects of the American culture.
Sports are part of day-to-day life for most people in the U.S. Most people are very supportive of their teams. Sports that tend to be watched mostly on TV by students on campus are baseball, American football, and basketball. There are also annual events that have a huge following and certain traditions such as the World Series (baseball) and the Super Bowl (American football).