This resource provides guidance to international students at Lafayette College on a variety of topics to empower them towards academic success and well-being. The recommendations were developed following discussions held between international students, faculty, and staff members during a forum co-sponsored by the Center for the Integration of Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship; the International Students Association; the Office of International Student Advising; and the English for Academic Purposes Center. All international students are encouraged to read this information to support their success at Lafayette College. 


  • Cultural Acclimatization at Lafayette 
  • Recognizing and Managing Imposter Phenomenon
  • Seeking out Peer Mentorship 
  • Communicating with Professors
  • Decoding Course Syllabi 
  • Learning Moodle, the Course Management Tool
  • Connecting with Gateway Career 
  • Networking Within and Outside of the College

Cultural Acclimatization at Lafayette 

While most students experience difficulties at one time or another when transitioning to college for the first time, international students may experience some that are unique to them due to the additional pressure of adjusting to new cultural norms, food, language, communication styles, and a different academic environment from home. Feeling a sense of cultural shock is a common experience, and being able to identify it can help you process your feelings and give yourself time to adjust. While different people may experience culture shock differently, some common experiences students may have include:

  • A sense of confusion and disorientation
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Homesickness
  • Lack of confidence
  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Cultural identity confusion
  • Frustration or irritability

Here are some tips to help you cope if you are experiencing culture shock or adjustment difficulties: 

  • Remind yourself that you are not alone in your experience and culture shock experience doesn’t last forever.
  • Keep in touch with your family and friends from home if they are a source of support.
  • Surround yourself with familiar objects or reminders of your home country, friends/family as a source of continual comfort (ex: photos, artifacts, ornaments).
  • Take an active role in getting involved at Lafayette and initiating contact with peers. Consider joining on-campus student organizations/clubs, activities or seek out peers that share similar interests. Generally it’s important to avoid isolating yourself. 
  • Talk to other international students to learn about their adjustment process and what worked for them.
  • Remind yourself of your personal strengths that you bring to this cross-cultural journey.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you feel unsure or stuck.
  • Put things into perspective-while cultural adjustment can be challenging, it can also be a rewarding experience of self-exploration, and cultural identity development.

In this video, several individuals who studied abroad share their experiences on how they became more acclimated to their new country. 

Please know that it is not uncommon to reach out for professional help as you are navigating the adjustment process. The Counseling Center offers free and confidential services to all students. The office is located on the 2nd floor of Bailey Health Center. You can call (610-330-5005) or stop by the office to speak with a counselor. 

Reflection Questions 

  • What, if anything, feels different about your experience at Lafayette compared to your home country? Have you experienced culture shock?
  • What are some ways that you can or have been involved with different communities at Lafayette?

Recognizing and Managing Imposter Phenomenon

Imposter phenomenon is the feeling that one does not belong although they are qualified to be part of a particular community. As an international student in a new country, it is very common to experience these feelings. Being able to recognize and identify imposter phenomenon can be empowering. This second video also describes a study conducted on this phenomenon in student populations. The researcher provides some guidance such as being kind to yourself and recognizing that you do not need to prove yourself, and reaching out to those around you such as your friends, family members, and professors.  

Reflection Questions

  • Have you ever experienced the imposter phenomenon?
  • Who are some supporters you can reach out to if you experience such feelings? 

Seeking out Peer Mentorship 

Peers can be wonderful mentors. In addition to peers who share similar backgrounds and experiences, forming relationships with students who have been attending Lafayette longer or have different experiences that you can learn from can be very helpful. Peer mentorship can also support both acclimatization and feelings of imposter phenomenon. Peer mentors can come from a variety of organizations and initiatives such as the International Orientation Team, Conversation Pardners, ISAnchor mentorship program within the International Students’ Orientation, Resident Advisors, Supplemental Instruction leaders, or co-curricular activities such clubs. 

Reflection Question

  • Which peer support can you seek out or have you sought?

Communicating with Professors 

In your secondary school experiences you might be accustomed to specific types of interactions with your teachers. Interacting with professors at Lafayette might be different. In general, respectful dialogue is important. Typically, students address their Lafayette instructors by “Professor X” although some professors might indicate they would prefer you to use their first name or a nickname. This informality might be different from what you have experienced in the past. In general, avoid addressing your professors as “Mr.,” “Ms.”, or “Mrs.” unless they indicate otherwise. Typically those terms are used in secondary education in the United States. By default use the title of professor in salutations unless otherwise indicated. 

When communicating with professors via email be sure to allow time for them to respond. Some professors might indicate early in a course the timing of when you can expect a return message. Professors are juggling a variety of responsibilities from course prep, teaching courses, office hours, scholarship, service, and other responsibilities. Please be aware that professors are not obligated to respond at all hours of the night and on weekends as they also need rest and time away to support their well-being.

Lastly, please ensure that any email communications are clear and avoid using language that might be more appropriate for a text message. 

Decoding Course Syllabi 

Every course at Lafayette is required to have a syllabus. The syllabus is a document that provides information about a course and should be carefully read and revisited during the term.

A few key areas to be mindful of are: 

  • Office Hours: These are times when your professor is available to meet with you as a student. If you have questions about course material you can ask it during office hours. Be prepared when you attend office hours. For example, come prepared with specific questions to discuss with your professor.
  • Grade Breakdown: The professor will indicate the portion of the course grade allotted to each assessment. For most courses, final grades will be calculated not from a single final test score at the end of the term but rather based on scores from assessments completed throughout the semester. 
  • Required Course Materials: Some professors might require particular books, textbooks, or other materials to support your learning in the course. Please be sure to take note of these materials. 
  • Course Schedule: Most syllabi will include at minimum a rough outline of the course. This might include major topics, assignments, and other items. 
  • Campus Resources: The syllabus might also include various campus support services such as the Academic Resource Hub, Counseling Center, and others.

Learning Moodle

Many Lafayette professors use Moodle as a course management tool. Each course has a designated Moodle site. This site might include general information about the course, as well as announcements, readings, activities, assessments, and grades. Moodle course sites can be accessed through your My Lafayette student portal. See the FAQs posted by ITS and the Technology Guide for Students

Connecting with Gateway Career Center 

Gateway Career Center supports students seeking career related experiences including choosing a major, campus employment, internships, externships, job searches, grad school applications, interview prep, resume, cover letters, application essays, LinkedIn, connecting with alumni and other professionals, etc.

Gateway career counselors will work with you one-on-one to support you in every aspect of your career development. Be sure to engage with your career counselor during your first-year to explore possibilities and opportunities for your future. 

Reflection Questions

  • Who is your Gateway counselor?
    • If you do not know, you can find out by going to gateway.lafayette.edu and choosing “Appointments and Drop Ins”.  There you will see a link for Handshake.  Once you access Handshake, you will see your Gateway Counselor’s availability.
    • You can also call the office at 610-330-5115 or stop by the 2nd Floor of Hogg Hall to find out who your assigned Gateway Counselor is.
  • How can you connect with them in the near future to support your career development?
    • You can schedule a meeting with your Gateway Counselor in Handshake, as noted above.  Gateway Counselors are assigned based on your “intended major” from your Lafayette College application.  More information can be found on the website.

Networking Within and Outside of the College 

In general, forming connections can support both your academic success and well-being. Make every effort to build such relationships during your time at Lafayette. An excellent resource is the open access book Connections Are Everything: A College Students’ Guide to Relationship-Rich Education by Felten et al. (2023). This book provides practical guidance with how to form relationships with peers, professors, and staff members and make the most out of your college experience.