Success in Your First Year
Being immersed in a different culture is a wonderful opportunity for growth! You will learn how to improve communication cross-culturally and become more appreciative of other cultures as well as your own. Living abroad is a fun and very rewarding experience. As you learn, you might make mistakes. Our advice for now: don’t worry, relax, keep your humor and be informed of the adjustment process.
As you become more involved in activities and gradually get to know the people around you, differences might become increasingly apparent to you. Over time, these differences may seem more irritating than interesting or quaint. Small incidents and difficulties may make you anxious and concerned about how best to carry on with academic and social life. As these differences emerge, they can be troubling and sometimes shocking. This emotional state is called “culture shock.” Culture shock does not happen all at once. It is a feeling that grows little by little as you interact with other students, faculty, and people in the community.
Coping with Culture Shock
Students are sometimes unaware of the fact that they are experiencing culture shock. There are ways to deal with this period of culture shock. Learning about culture shock before you arrive in the USA will help ease this experience. The most effective way to combat culture shock is to step back from a given event that has bothered you, assess it, and search for an appropriate explanation and response.
Below, are strategies you can use to ease the adjustment process:
- Settle into your living space as much as possible. Put up pictures of your family, listen to music you enjoy, and try to get settled as quickly as possible.
- Get involved. Join a student organization, play a sport, perform community service, or anything else you enjoy doing. These activities will help you make friends and take your mind off your homesickness.
- Establish a routine. Try to keep regular eating and sleeping habits, and to do at least one activity you look forward to on a regular basis at the same time each week.
- Be physically active. This can improve your mental and physical health. Many CC students find that participation in outdoor activities---hiking, biking, jogging, mountain climbing---can be an especially good way to get exercise, relieve stress and enjoy the beauty of Colorado.
- Talk to other international students. While international students who’ve been here some time may seem very happy and well-adjusted, it probably wasn’t easy for them in the beginning, either. Ask them what they did that helped the most.
Although it can be disconcerting and a little scary, the “shock” gradually eases as you begin to understand the new culture. It is useful to realize that often the reactions and perceptions of others toward you---and you toward them---are not personal evaluations but are based on a clash of cultural values. The more skilled you become in recognizing how and when cultural values and behaviors are likely to come in conflict, the easier it becomes to make adjustments that can help you avoid serious difficulties.
Culture shock is felt differently by different people; however, many international students experience it in the following stages:
- Euphoria – The first few hours, days or weeks abroad are often characterized by feelings of excitement and elation. Everything seems new and interesting. You can’t believe you’re finally here!
- Irritability and Hostility – Once the initial “honeymoon” phase subsides, differences between your own culture and the U.S. begin to seem more pronounced, and a sense of alienation can set in. Everything seems so different and there are so many challenges to cope with. This stage is often characterized by feelings of frustration, insecurity, withdrawal and depression.
- Gradual Adjustment – With time, you’ll begin to orient yourself to a different set of cultural practices and feel increasingly comfortable and confident in your new surroundings. Your sense of humor, which may have been lying dormant for a while, will reemerge.
- Reentry or Reverse Culture Shock – Upon returning home, you will be faced with integrating your life in the U.S. with your life at home. You may feel disoriented, out of place or changed by your experience in a way that makes relating to family and friends difficult.
Sometimes students worry about “losing their culture” if they become too adapted to the host culture. Don’t worry: it is virtually impossible to lose the culture in which you were raised. In fact, learning about the new culture often increases your appreciation for and understanding of your own culture. Don’t resist the opportunity to become bicultural, able to function competently in two cultural environments.
The Block Plan
The Block Plan was invented at Colorado College in 1970 and has remained a distinguishing feature of the college ever since. Only one other college in the U.S. has a similar academic system. The Block Plan divides the academic year into eight 3 1/2 week segments or “blocks.” Students take, and faculty teach, one block at a time. (Each block is equivalent to four hours of credit under a semester system.) In between each block, students have four days off to relax and prepare for their next class.
Typically, classes are held every day of the week, Monday through Friday. Most classes begin at 9:00 a.m. and end around 12:00 p.m. Students enrolled in science courses will often return in the afternoon for laboratory work. Occasionally, classes will meet at night or on a weekend in order for students to attend a lecture, view a movie, prepare a presentation, etc.
Because so much material is covered during each class session, it is very important to attend your class every day. On the first day of class, most professors will give students a syllabus. This will include a list of required reading, the date of the final exam, and deadlines for papers or other requirements. You should follow this syllabus carefully.
A Typology of Classes
Lectures are the primary form of instruction at CC; however, many of our courses are discussion based. Regardless of whether attendance is or is not recorded, you are expected to attend classes. Material covered in a lecture class may be closely related to the reading assignments or may be completely new material. Doing the reading before attending class is a sure way to improve your comprehension of the lecture. You might wish to record lectures on tape, especially if you are having trouble following spoken English in your first few weeks of school.
- Class participation is encouraged. Most classes at the college are limited to 25 students. One reason classes are small is to allow for class discussion. At CC, there is a belief that students learn a great deal from their peers and from having to communicate their ideas in class. Professors encourage students to ask questions, express their own opinions, and to use critical reasoning to defend their points of view. Silence may be seen as a lack of preparation or a lack of interest, and class participation may even be a part of your grade. Speaking up in class may be difficult at first, but with time and practice you’ll grow more comfortable with it!
- Ask if you don’t understand. If you have any questions about an assignment or an idea discussed in class, you should speak with your professor. Most professors hold office hours in the afternoon and students are encouraged to meet with them at this time. Don’t be shy about doing this---professors expect to discuss issues of an academic nature with their students outside of class, and there is no shame associated with not understanding something, even if it has already been presented in a lecture.
In independent studies you may study a topic under the direction of a professor but without any classroom instruction. Such arrangements are usually reserved for advanced undergraduates (juniors or seniors). They generally involve a great deal of reading and allow you to focus on a topic of particular interest to you.
Seminar courses usually enroll fewer students. They often cover specialized topics and involve discussions and presentations by the students under the supervision of the professor.
Internships are practical work or training experiences that allow students to apply in a work situation what they have learned in class. Colorado College offers academic credit for internships only if such experience is required as part of your degree program and within the stipulations of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The typical undergraduate course at Colorado College involves lectures each week, reading assignments, tests, a mid-term examination, and a final examination, as well as one or more research papers or projects and class discussions. Science courses may also involve an additional lab. Keeping up with the work is important!
If you find yourself falling behind or feeling terribly pressured about your assignments, discuss your problem with the professor or your academic advisor. The Learning Commons, located in the Tutt Library, has tutors and writing assistants available to help you as well. Their assistance is free of charge.
An important distinction exists between group work and individual work. In general, papers, homework assignments, and tests should be done individually, and evidence (or suspicion) of collaboration can result in a failing grade for the work or expulsion from the class or institution. Studying with others is a good idea, but before you collaborate with others on homework, papers, or tests, make sure the professor has specifically authorized such collaboration.
Examinations come with a variety of names at Colorado College: quiz, test, writing exercise, mid-term, final etc. Examinations may call for specific, short replies or for longer responses in the form of essays. Often examinations are a combination of both forms. So-called objective questions have only one right answer. Types include true-false, “fill in the blanks”, multiple choice and matching.
The classroom culture may be more informal than you’re used to. Many professors may seem very relaxed in their behaviors with students. Professors may eat or drink in the classroom, dress casually, ask to be called by their first names, and joke with students. Some professors may even invite their students into their homes. This behavior is not viewed negatively. Although you may have a more informal relationship with your professor, you are still expected to be respectful of the student-professor relationship – submitting course work on time, coming prepared for class, adhering to deadlines, etc.
Strategies for Academic Success
- Do as much of the required course reading as you can, but don’t panic if you can’t get through it all, especially at first. Over time, you will become skilled at identifying what’s most important to read carefully and what you can skim or skip.
- Follow up right away if you don’t understand something. If you fall behind on the block plan, it can be especially difficult to catch up.
- Use the Writing Center. The Writing Center is located in the Learning Commons in Tutt Library and provides free, individual tutoring sessions to assist students at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming ideas and organizing your thoughts, to reviewing a final draft. Even the most gifted writers can benefit from their services.
The First Year Experience
If you are a first-year, degree-seeking student, you will have the opportunity to participate in a program called the “First Year Experience,” or FYE. This program is designed to help orient all new students to life in college and to quickly prepare you for the intense pace of the block plan. The FYE promotes critical examination and active discussion in class, and will help you develop the skills needed to succeed at CC. All first-year students will select an FYE course, lasting two blocks, before arriving in August (or, for Winter Start students, before arriving in January) through the CC Bound web site.
All students will be assigned a faculty advisor. Your advisor is meant to serve as a general resource and an educational mentor to you. You will meet with your advisor when you first arrive, and should continue to see your advisor at least three times a semester. Your advisor is there to provide academic support and advice, to assist you with selecting classes, and to help if you are having academic difficulties. Please keep in mind that your advisor is usually very busy and will most likely not come to you to ask how you are doing. It is important for you to take the initiative to visit your advisor and to help him or her get to know you better. Your academic advisor will be a valuable resource for you throughout your college years. Ultimately, though, the responsibility for satisfying graduation requirements rests with you. Therefore, you will want to consult your course catalog carefully in planning class schedules.
A Lesson in Academic Terminology
- Academic Advisor: A faculty member assigned to each student to help and assist in forming the student’s academic plans.
- Add or drop a course: add - to enter a course in which you had not originally enrolled; drop - to withdraw from a course in which you were enrolled. Use add/drop cards.
- A.: Bachelor of Arts Degree
- MAT: Master of Arts in Teaching Degree
- Credit hour: Courses are assigned credit hour values. Most courses at Colorado College are 4 credit hours. Under the CC block plan, in which the academic year is divided into eight 3 ½ week segments or blocks, students take, and faculty teach, one block at a time. (Each block is equivalent to four hours of credit under a semester system.)
- Elective courses: These are courses which count as credit towards your degree. However, these courses may be outside of your department. They are usually not required for the major. You choose courses of interest to you.
- Final: This is the last examination of the block. There is one day set aside at the end of each block for a long exam, typically up to three hours. Not all professors choose to give a final exam. Some may assign a research paper or a take-home examination instead.
- Grade Point Average (G.P.A.): Your performance is evaluated with grades of A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D and No Credit (G Track) or the optional system S (Satisfactory), CR (work equivalent to a D+ or D) or NC (No Credit); (P Track). S = A through C-; CR = D+ or D; NC = No Credit. The grades A-NC are given a numerical value (A = 4; A- = 3.7; B+ = 3.3; B = 3.0; B- = 2.7; C+ = 2.3; C = 2.0; C- = 1.7; D+ = 1.3; D = 1.0; and NC = 0.0). Your grade point average is computed by taking the grade you receive for a course and multiplying its numerical value by the number of credit hours for the course. Then total and divide.
- Major: a student’s primary field of study.
- Mid-Term: This is a major examination given in many classes in the middle of the block.
- Minor: a student’s secondary field of study (if the student chooses to have one)
- A.: Resident Assistant. Person responsible for the students on your residence hall floor.
- Required courses: These are courses that all students seeking the same degree must take.
- Research paper: This is a major paper, five to twenty-five pages in length. In order to write this paper, a student is expected to select a topic, somewhat narrow in scope, and perform library research.
- Semester: Terms at Colorado College are semesters. A semester is approximately 15 weeks long. The academic year consists of the Fall and Spring semesters. Each semester consists of four 3 ½ week segments or blocks.
- Unit: The unit represents the academic work of a single block of three-and-one-half weeks. There are eight blocks in the academic year, and under normal circumstances a student can earn eight units of credit per year and 32 units in four years.
- Syllabus: A syllabus outlines the course’s objectives and the material to be covered. It lists due dates for assignments, text books to be purchased, and the professor’s name, office location and office hours. Keep the course syllabus for the duration of the course.
There are many people at Colorado College dedicated to providing services to students. The following list will provide you with an overview of just a few of the offices that strive to meet students’ needs.
Boettcher Student Health Center
Boettcher Health Center provides a walk-in medical clinic with full-time nursing staff and a part-time physician. There is also a Counseling Center that has counselors who provide short-term therapy and consultation in study skills, cultural issues, stress management, eating disorders, substance abuse, relationships, as well as other medical or emotional concerns students may have.
The Campus Bookstore (located in the basement of the Worner Center) sells all materials for Colorado College courses, including books, lab materials, and art supplies. The bookstore also stocks a selection of greeting cards and personal items.
Colorado College has its own security officers. These individuals are not police officers, but are responsible for patrolling the campus, responding to emergencies, and helping to ensure the safety of the campus community as a whole. Their office is located on campus and can be reached at any time during the day or the night.
The Career Center (located in Morreale House) assists students in career planning throughout their four years at Colorado College. Services include regular workshops on subjects such as choosing a major, interviewing, writing a resume, and conducting a job search. The Career Center can be of great service to international students looking for internships.
Colket Center for Academic Excellence
The Learning Commons (located in Tutt Library) offers academic support to all students. It includes a Writing Center, where students can work through the writing process and improve the expression of their ideas. There is also a Quantitative Reasoning Center, which helps students strengthen quantitative reasoning skills they need to succeed in entry-level classes in math and science.
Student computer labs can be found in the Worner Center, Tutt Library, Barnes Science Center, Palmer Hall, as well as Loomis, Mathias, and South dorms. Students may use these computers for almost any of their needs, including word processing, data management, and internet connections. More specialized computer facilities can be found in some academic buildings, such as the humanities and languages computer lab in Armstrong Hall.
El Pomar Sports Center
Exercise and sports programs are centered in the El Pomar Sports Center. This building has facilities for all indoor sports, as well as a weight room, and laboratories for exercise physiology and biomechanics. Other sports facilities on campus include the Washburn, Autrey, and Stewart playing fields, Schlessman Pool, and Honnen Ice Rink.
Bon Appetit (Bon Appetit is the food service provider for Colorado College)
All on-campus students must select their preference in meal plans. More information about the meal plan options can be found on the Bon Appetite web site at: http://coloradocollege.cafebonappetit.com/meal-plans/
International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS)
ISSS, in the Center for Global Education & Field Study (located on the second floor of Armstrong Hall), provides support and services for international students and exchange visitors, including immigration advising and visa document issuance.
Shove Chapel Council
The Shove Chapel Council provides opportunities for students of all religious beliefs (or no religious beliefs) to come together for discussion and programs on moral, ethical and religious issues. In addition, the College Chaplain seeks to support students in their own religious traditions.
The Butler Center
The Butler Center invests in the cultivation of an inclusive campus community where the differences and similarities of individuals and communities are valued and explored through learning, mentoring, advising, facilitating dialogues, and providing a myriad of community-building activities. The Butler Center intentionally interrogates our shared beliefs, practices, and systems toward inclusive and equitable outcomes at Colorado College. Visit their website at www.coloradocollege.edu/offices/butlercenter/
Tutt Library is available to all students, faculty, and staff. An on-line computer catalog system enables easy, fast research. A special library tour and information session will be provided for international students during the International Student Orientation.
Opportunities for Involvement
Sports are considered an integral part of the liberal arts education at Colorado College, but participation is optional. There are two different options for formalized participation in athletics at Colorado College:
- Intercollegiate Sports: Men compete in football, ice hockey, basketball, baseball, track and field, soccer, lacrosse, golf, tennis, swimming, skiing and cross-country. Women compete in basketball, cross-country, soccer, softball, skiing, swimming, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. Club sports for men include rugby, ice hockey, squash, ultimate Frisbee and cycling. Women’s club sports are ice hockey, field hockey, squash, cycling, ultimate Frisbee and lacrosse.
- Intramural Sports: Flag football, hockey, volleyball, basketball, slow-pitch softball, broom-ball, tennis and soccer. Wings or groups of friends usually form their own teams. It’s great fun for all!
Community Service (Volunteer Work)
The Collaborative for Community Engagement (CCE), which is located on the first floor of Armstrong Hall, assists all members of the College community in finding meaningful volunteer work in Colorado Springs. Some social issues that are addressed include hunger and homelessness, literacy, care of the elderly, child companionship, the environment and human rights.
Students are encouraged to get involved in one or more of the numerous policy-making committees that play important roles in governing the college.
Students may serve on the committees or simply take part in the numerous activities planned by the following groups: the Arts & Crafts Center, the Dance Workshop, the Honor Council, the Outdoor Recreation Center, and the Theatre Workshop.
The best way to keep busy and satisfied outside of class is to join one or more student groups. Once you get involved in the CC community, your schedule will be filled with activities and lots of new friends. Here are just a few of the many student organizations to give you an idea of the wide range of opportunities that exist on campus:
- Amnesty International
- Asian Student Union (AASU)
- BreakOut Trips (Block Break service trips)
- CC Spiritual Life
- Chinese Student Association (CSA)
- Colorado College Student Government Association (CCSGA)—Student Government
- Empowered Queers United for Absolute Liberation (EQUAL) [Meetings open to the LGBTQIAPP and those questioning their sexual identity or gender]
- EnAct (CC Students for Environmental Action)
- Fraternities & Sororities
- Honor Council
- Korean American Student Association (KASA)
- Multicultural Organization of Students: An International Community (MOSAIC)
- Native American Student Union (NASU)]
- Outdoor Recreation Committee (ORC)
- President's Council
- SOMOS (Latino/a Student Association)