How to Interact with Professors in American Universities

It can be hard going to a university in a different country, because there will be so many cultural differences. One difference may be the way that students interact with professors in and out of the classroom. American professors come from many different cultural backgrounds, so there will be variety in how they interact with students. However, many American universities have similarities in how the professors will act. Here are 5 tips to help international college students in their interactions with professors in America:

    1. Call the professor by their formal title unless they tell you otherwise. For example, a college professor may be called Dr. Davis or Dr. Chen. Some professors do not hold a PhD, so they will not be called doctor. In this case, you can call them Professor Davis and Professor Chen. Occasionally, a professor may ask the class to call them by their first name. If they do this, then it’s ok to call them by their first name. You can usually call a teaching assistant, or TA, by their first name. Many TAs are students themselves.
    2. It’s ok to ask questions during class. Asking a question will not disrespect the professor or suggest that he or she did not do a good job explaining the material. If you do not understand something, it is ok to ask a question to your professor. Professors want their students to do well in the course, so they will be happy to explain something again or answer your question. In fact, participating in class by asking questions is a good thing, because it shows the professor that you value the class and that you are engaging in the material.
    3. Attend office hours or TA sessions for extra help. Many professors hold “office hours” which are times that students can freely come to their office to ask questions or discuss topics. The office hours are a more casual setting than the class, and it is appropriate to ask questions that don’t apply to the whole class, such as discussing your personal study plan.
    4. Only turn in your own work. In American Universities, it is very important that each student does his or her own work. Professors do not accept answers copied from another student’s paper, or copied from the internet. They expect each student to express his or her own unique ideas in their assignments. If a student turns in an assignment that is identical to another student’s, this will probably damage the reputation of both students in the eyes of the professor.
    5. Respect the deadlines given by the professor. Always try your best to turn in your assignments by the given deadline. Most professors in American Universities will not accept late work. Try to get ahead on your assignments so that you will be able to turn them in on time even if something comes up, like getting sick. If you do get very sick, the professor will usually want to see a note from your doctor or academic advisor.

What do you think? Have you had an interaction with a professor here in America that was different from what you expected? We would love to hear about it in a comment!


Keep up with the latest blog posts by following us on social media!

Recent Posts


Nowruz is the Persian celebration of the new year that begins on the March equinox. In preparation for Nowruz this year, a student in Los Angeles shared the meaning and

Read More »

Diversity in the U.S.

Looking around at my US high school made up of 80+% white students, it was hard to understand why my sociology textbook could claim that by the year 2050 whites

Read More »

Boston Travel

International students have unique opportunities not only to get a great education but to travel and experience the breadth of all your host country has to offer. As you consider

Read More »

More Articles