HHH: Pre-departure Orientation

The US Education Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP) organized a one-day pre-departure orientation for the Humphrey Fellows and Post-Doctorates on July 15th. I flew to Islamabad one day in advance, on July 14th. As I prepared to leave for the airport early in the morning, I received the bad news about the killing of Balochistan National Party (BNP) leader Habib Jalib Baloch. I couldn’t believe the news at once. My first thought was that someone among my friends, who sent me the news SMS, was just kidding. I immediately turned the TV on where all the news channels confirmed the news as a “breaking news”.

I knew the situation in Quetta city would get out of control as supporters and admirers of the popular Baloch leader would come out of their homes and block roads in protest. Thus, I decided to rush to the airport before the all roads were shut down. Before doing that, I quickly turned my laptop on and ran the news on the Baloch Hal as the breaking news and drove to the airport. While on the plane, I received a phone call from the USEFP, asking if I was coming to Islamabad or had postponed my trip due violence that had broke out in Quetta in the aftermath of the killing of Jalib. I said I had already boarded the plane and was certain to attend the PDO scheduled for the next day.

The caller from the USEFP told me that another Humphrey Fellow from Balochistan had called them and said he had reserved his seat but could not reach the airport due to the closure of the roads by the protesters. Soon, I received another call by the same fellow who identified himself as Saidal Khan Luni, the Deputy Commissioner of Zhob District in Balochistan. He was not a journalism Humphrey Fellow but all fellows from different domains of life had to attend the same PDO. Both of us knew that it was not possible for him to make it to Islamabad now. So, I agreed to share all my notes that I would take from the PDO one my return from Islamabad.

The pre-departure orientation was scheduled to commence at around 12:30 but it started late. Around 25 Humphrey, who were in majority in the PDO, and Post-Doctorates attended the session which was led by Ms. Rita Akhtar, the Executive Director of the USEFP. Although I had visited the US in February and March this year as a part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and knew some basics of traveling to the US, I still found the orientation very informative and helpful.

Ms. Nadia Omar and Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, both assistant program officers at the USEFP with whom I had been in touch throughout the process at different stages, were also present at the PDO. I met Javed Afradi, a journalist from Peshwar who was supposed to join my as a Humphrey Fellow at the Arizona State University.

The orientation was very helpful and it assisted us in understanding the US immigration laws, the society, culture and the education system.

I would like to share some important information from the orientation. The following information was copied from an available presentation on the official site of the Foundation.

United States Education Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP)

USEFP is a bi-national commission with 4 Pakistanis appointed by the Secretary, Ministry of Education and 4 U.S. citizens appointed by the U.S. Ambassador. The Foundation runs Fulbright and other programs; recruits, selects, supports program grantees, and administers the program in Pakistan. It is funded by both the U.S. and Pakistan governments.

Things to Take With you

* Essential documents
* Medicines
* Extra glasses
* Laptop, if you take one
* Two sets of clothes, plus extra underwear and shirt
* Take an Urdu- English pocket dictionary
* Camera
* Good Urdu- English dictionary
* Papers, journals, books critical for work
* Decide on whether or not to wear American clothes
* Male scholars/lecturers should bring a suit and tie for special events or presentations
* Things to remind you of home
* A few holiday items
* Small gifts

Do not bring

* Non-prescription drugs
* Food, seeds, or plants
* Animals
* Firearms or knives
* Anything made from an endangered species

Greeting People

* Most people shake hands
* Women often do kiss to greet, especially in the South
* Men do not usually kiss men (on cheek) to greet
* People of same sex usually don’t hold hands
* People of opposite sex usually just shake hands until they know each other fairly well
* Safer to use a formal honorific until person asks you to use first name
* Safer to use formal honorific with subordinates


* Only unmarried people date!
* Often just friends
* Make no assumptions
* Treat someone else’s sister with the respect that you would want someone to treat yours

Intimate relations

* Usually between people in a long-term relationship
* No means no at every step
* Be very careful. Laws in U.S. very serious
* Take medical precautions
* People will judge you by the way you deal with people of the opposite sex

In an emergency

* Call 911
* Describe emergency
* Ask for police, fire, ambulance, poison unit
* Stay on line until help arrives

Safety precautions

* Carry only minimal cash with you.
* Pickpockets are active all over the world; be careful in airports.
* Take measures to secure your home.
* Keep passport and valuables hidden.
* Always lock your doors and windows!
* Whenever possible, travel in groups.
* Stay in well-lit, populated areas

Academic Life in the U.S.

Many things are the same….

* Professors lecture, mostly
* Students listen, mostly
* Professors give assignments for readings
* Students compete for grades

Some things are different…

* Professor/student relations are less formal
* Classes probably have more discussion
* Students are more forthright
* More grading mechanisms
* Students also rate professors

Colleges expect students to…

* Attend class regularly and on time
* Do the reading ahead of time
* Turn in assignments on time
* Write academic papers with a standard style, footnotes and citations
* Participate in class
* Respect the rights and opinions of others in discussions

In the classroom
* It is important to participate actively in the following classroom activities and come prepared everyday. Professors will grade you on:

* Vocal participation
* Oral presentations
* Group projects
* Research papers
* Midterms
* Interactive setting/seminar format

What are colleges strict about?

* Illegal drugs
* Any type of interpersonal violence
* Attending class
* Safety
* Discrimination
* Sexual harassment
* Plagiarism


* Worst academic sin
* Basically, taking credit for someone else’s work
* Cannot copy on tests
* Cannot copy ideas without citation
* Cannot copy more than six words in a row without citation
* Cannot get someone else to write your papers
* Usually automatic dismissal from program

Gender issues: sexual harassment

* Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination that involves unacceptable sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, that is not welcomed by the recipient.
* Sexual harassment violates acceptable standards and can occur anywhere
* Verbal
* Profanity – obscene or degrading terms for men or woman and inappropriate use of terms of endearment
* Obscene jokes, cat calls, or sexual overtones
* Spreading rumors about a person’s sex life
* Sexually-oriented remarks about a person’s clothing or body
* Persistent requests for dates
* Non-verbal
* Gestures made with intentional sexual overtones
* Staring, leering, blowing kisses
* Leaving sexually suggestive notes, magazines, or pictures
* Physical
* Unsolicited or unwanted touching of any part of clothing or body
* Cornering or blocking
* Stalking or following
* Attacking

Race/color discrimination

* Race/ color is discrimination associated with any distinction, exclusion restriction or preference based on race, color, national or ethnic origin with the purpose of impairing the enjoyment of the equality of human race. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws racial discriminatory practices of any kind.

Living in the U.S: Do’s and Don’ts

* Don’t assume Americans know anything about your home country.
* Don’t smoke in public places unless otherwise stated.
* Always place your trash in a garbage basket or dumpster. Don’t litter.
* Don’t assume that nonverbal cues have the same meanings that they have at home.

Time management

* You’ll have to do a lot of things in a week that maybe you haven’t had to do before. Budget time for classes and studying but also for daily/weekly chores: cooking, cleaning, laundry.
* Leave time in your schedule for cultural events and entertainment!

Challenges of adjusting to a new environment

* U.S. regional accents vary, give yourself time to adjust to the local accent.
* Speak slowly at first for others to understand your accent – do not be shy; ask others to speak slowly.
* Take American humor, wit and sarcasm as a mark of friendliness rather than disrespect.
* Simply ask the meaning of a word or abbreviation that you do not understand, like “Poli Sci” for political science or “TA” for teaching assistant.

What’s up with culture?

Start by acknowledging that

a. they have a culture

b. you have a culture

c. some things in their culture will be similar (or may seem

familiar) to yours

d. some things will be different (maybe in ways you can’t even imagine!)

e. one of your main jobs while abroad is to figure out for the new culture:

what those differences are…

where they come from…

what they mean…

and how you are going to respond when conflict or misunderstandings arise.

American Culture & Values
* Individuality
* Privacy
* Equality
* Time
* Informality
* Achievement & hard work/play
* Direct & Assertive
* Looking to the future& change

Culture Shock
* The greater the cultural, political, economic, social, and religious contrasts between the home and host countries, the greater the likelihood of culture shock.
* Additionally, the degree of cultural immersion (or cultural isolation) the student experiences while overseas plays a major role in their positive or negative evaluation of their host culture.

Common Reactions

* Culture “Surprise”: Usually occurs early in “honeymoon” phase of adjustment.
* Culture “Stress”: A mild response to “stimulus overload.” One becomes tired and withdrawn. Annoyance builds as daily reality becomes more difficult.
* Culture “Irritation”: Often manifests itself in terms of “Item Irritation” and is usually traceable to a few observable behaviors that are common in the culture, and to which an individual reacts particularly strongly (a personal “hot button.
* Culture “Fatigue”: A fairly short-term response to “stimulus overload.” This occurs when you begin to respond to the behavior of the “new” culture and are stressed by trying to deal with lots of new cultural information all at once. Stress and irritation intensify as you attempt to study or work in a foreign environment. There is a cumulatively greater impact due to the “need to operate” in unfamiliar and difficult contexts. Symptoms intensify. Ability to function declines. It can occur soon after arrival or within a few weeks
* Culture “Shock”: Culture Shock comes from the natural contradiction between our accustomed patterns of behavior and the psychological conflict of attempting to maintain them in the new cultural environment. While the time of onset is variable, it usually occurs within a few months of entering a new culture and is a normal, healthy psychological reaction. While culture shock is common, relief is available.

Symptoms of Culture Shock

* Extreme homesickness
* Feelings of helplessness/dependency
* Disorientation and isolation
* Depression and sadness
* Hyper-irritability, may include inappropriate anger and hostility
* Sleep and eating disturbances (too little or too much)
* Excessive critical reactions to host culture/stereotyping
* Hypochondria
* Excessive drinking
* Recreational drug dependency
* Extreme concerns over sanitation, safety (even paranoia), and being taken advantage of
* Loss of focus and ability to complete tasks

Stages of Culture Shock

* Arrival/Honeymoon
* Deepening Culture Shock
* Moving On and Adapting

Prescription for Culture Shock

* Understand symptoms and recognize signs of “culture fatigue” and “culture shock.”
* Realize that some degree of discomfort and stress is natural in a cross-cultural experience.
* Recognize that your reactions are often emotional and not always (or easily) subject to rational control.
* Gather information so at least the cultural differences will seem understandable, if not natural. Look below the surface.
* Look for the logical reasons behind host culture patterns. They “fit” the culture–discover why!
* Relax your grip on your normal culture and try to cheerfully adapt to new rules and roles.
* Don’t give in to the temptation to disparage what you do not like or understand.
* Identify a support network among host nationals, teachers, fellow students, etc. Use it, but don’t rely upon it exclusively.
* Understand that any “cultural clash” will likely be temporary.
* Give yourself “quiet time,” some private space, and don’t be too hard on yourself when things are not going perfectly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: