Editorial: International students get culture primer

By Staff Editorial

The University of Southern California is offering a different sort of America 101 class. No,… The University of Southern California is offering a different sort of America 101 class. No, it’s not a history course. It’s a course that’s designed to help international students get acclimated with the new country and culture in which they find themselves.

As if trying to learn a foreign language isn’t difficult enough, many international students aren’t attuned to the range of idioms and cultural practices Americans exhibit in everyday life. Think about it, there’s a baseball reference or saying that describes every facet of our way of life. But that’s where “The United States: An American Culture Series,” steps up to the plate.

The course is offered for free to international students, although it isn’t taken for credit. The course offers more than just baseball idioms. It also helps students learn about how to acclimate to the American diet, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Foreign students can feel isolated because of language and cultural gaps, and a class such as this offers a direct way to aid the confused international student. This course takes a novel approach in that it moves beyond a simple course designed to improve students’ English speaking skills.

Still, it’s difficult to distill a comprehensive cultural guide into a single course, especially as American culture is noted for its diversity and expansiveness. The age-old idea that the classroom doesn’t always translate to the real world could prove especially true with a course in cultural fluency.

Perhaps the class’ real benefits come from its more concrete tips. In one class, a campus police officer provided practical safety tips and instructed new students to lock up their bicycles andapartments, and told them how to deal with emergencies. Even though it’s second nature for those born in America, foreign students might not know to dial 9-1-1.

While most larger schools and universities have an office devoted to international students that has orientations and resources to help them adjust, USC has a special need to aid foreign students — the school has one of the largest foreign student bodies per year in the U.S. Last year more than 7,500 students were international students. That’s about one-fifth of the school’s enrollment.

Generally, around 1,800 international students study at Pitt each year. Yet Pitt might be better off letting the Office of International Services’ current resources handle helping foreign students. Should a similar class be initiated, there’s bound to be abundant confusion between traditional American customs and sayings and those classified under the all too esoteric label: Pittsburghese.