Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

PSFA 280 Helps International Students Navigate SDSU

"Adaptation to the U.S. Academic Culture" teaches students how to succeed in the American university system

PSFA 280 Helps International Students Navigate SDSU

by Georgia Burgé

October 14, 2019

The transition from high school to college can be tough, especially when that transition involves moving to a different country. The PSFA 280 course helps international students through that difficult shift by teaching skills and providing insights on how to succeed within a U.S. university system.

The course, titled Adaptation to the U.S. Academic Culture, includes guest lectures, a campus tour, activities where students interact with their American peers, and an advising component. Students are taught skills that every student needs to know, from how to write an email to a professor, to how to get involved on campus. Students also give a presentation on their own heritage and culture meant to encourage them to research their own background before learning about the culture of a new country.

“It sounds so elementary, but these students are straight from high school,” said Dr. Mei Zhong, who started the class in fall 2016. “When they move from one country to another, it’s kind of like starting new.”

Dr. Zhong cites her own experiences as an international student as her inspiration for creating the course. Originally, the idea behind the class was to help students cope with the culture shock that comes with living in a new country, but it shifted to include more about academic culture.

In fall 2018, the International Student Center began pre-enrolling first-semester international freshmen for the course. While the fall sections of the course are reserved for freshmen students, the sections offered during the spring semester are open to any international student regardless of class standing.

Since its implementation, the course has shown promising results in success and retention rates among international students, with students enrolled in the course having lower probation rates than those not enrolled. The students themselves have also provided positive feedback about their experience in the course, with many saying it was very helpful in their transition to university life in the U.S.

“Throughout the study of this course of adaptation to the U.S. academic culture, I have gained a great experience that has helped me understand and appreciate the diversity of the cultures in the United States,” said one student in the course. “I have learned some interesting facts about some cultural backgrounds which have helped me in socializing with other people and appreciating their background. Also, the course has introduced me to an open world where cultural differences should not be a barrier to individual development and opportunities.”

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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