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The basics
Study abroad : Once you arrive

Communication etiquette at university

University is an exciting time and full of new experiences. There is a lot to learn though and communication etiquette is no exception. We take a look at what it is and why it's important.

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There is so much about university culture to learn about and the way people communicate there is certainly one of them. Learning the rules of what is polite or rude when it comes to communicating with others is important. Mastering communication etiquette can be made much easier with these tips.


Be polite 


‘Being polite’ is different in different cultures but in most English-speaking environments expect to use the words please and thank you. If you don’t, you could appear to be rude. 


When you are making an effort to be polite, you have to worry about making any mistakes much less. People respond well to politeness and will often copy your behaviour in response to you, even if you did something like send an email at an inappropriate hour or got someone’s name wrong.  


Politeness is not only a good habit to get into for your time at university, it will also help you in any professional environment and is a trait that can really stick in people’s minds when they have an interaction with you. Knowing what is or isn’t polite very much depends on the culture you’re living in. 


Understand the culture 


If you’re fortunate enough to be studying abroad, understanding communication etiquette at university is also about getting to know the new culture you’re living in. This takes time and, the longer you’re there, the more you will adapt to your surroundings. 


It may surprise you just how different the communication norms are between two countries, even if they speak the same language. Cultures can differ vastly and as an international student, this can take some getting used to. 


For example, if you’re studying abroad in the United States, you may not be used to the high level of friendliness and familiarity found in everyday conversations. Depending on where you are from, this may seem too familiar or even a bit false.  


Over in the UK though, you may find that “small talk” is more common. This is a type of conversation that stops long pauses, which are seen as uncomfortable. Chatting about the weather is one of the most common forms of small talk and is a regular occurrence among British people. 


It’s for this reason, that an understanding of the new culture you’ve found yourself in is vital for grasping proper communication etiquette. 


Think about who you’re talking to 


The way people communicate at university often reflects the country you’re studying in. For example, in Australia, conversation can be very relaxed, so it’s common to call your teachers and lecturers by their first name. 


Lecturers will often speak in a conversational and even humorous tone a lot of the time in many countries. This helps to bring a more emotional element to what they are teaching. However, it’s important that you don’t mistake this as an invitation to address them in any way that is less than respectful. 


Even though many lecturers will encourage you to speak with them in an equal and friend-like manner, you shouldn’t mistake them for one of your friends at university.  


It’s important that you don’t make assumptions either. For example, don’t address them by their first name unless invited to do so first. 


Ask questions 


Speaking of your friends at university, they may be the perfect people to ask any communication-based questions to. As your fellow international students might have the same queries as you, speaking to a domestic student about how people communicate there can give a great insight. 


You shouldn’t be afraid to ask about where you can go if you need help too. In these cases, lecturers will often give an email address for students to send any questions. In this case communication etiquette should still be considered even in an email.  


When you think about the things you will learn at university, the first thing that comes to mind is most likely your degree, and for good reason. However, university is a place for learning all sorts of things and communication etiquette in your new environment as well as your new country is no exception to this. 

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