Tag Archives: Cultural Awareness

New U.S. Class for International Students

Prepare for USA College and University!

young man using tablet

Take Your First U.S. University Class Online with a U.S. Professor

Class Name: U.S. Academics and Culture

Class Topics:  Western Academics, Culture and Communication, Professional Readiness

Student Rewards:  U.S. Transcript Record with 3 Class Credits, Letter of Recommendation, Certificate of Completion

Class Introduction Video: https://youtu.be/fdtVvKSHqew

Website: www.USAclass.online

Who should enroll?

  • Students who want to prepare for U.S. study
  • Students who want to become more competitive
  • Students 14 years old, or older who can complete the class in English

What do students learn?

  • Success strategies for U.S. study and cultural adjustment
  • Western interaction and communication styles
  • Professional development and networking skills
  • Western student responsibilities
  • University communication, readiness, & socialization skills

When to enroll?

  • A new class starts the first Monday of every month
  • Upcoming class start dates:
    • June 6, July 4, Aug 1, Sept 5, Oct 3, Nov 7, Dec 5
  • Students must complete the class within 12 weeks from the official class start date
  • Students finish class at their pace

Why students enroll?

  • To become ready for U.S.education and western culture
  • To earn a letter of recommendation (in English) from a U.S. Professor
  • To earn a Certificate of Completion for resumes and school applications
  • To earn 3 U.S. university credits towards an undergraduate degree
  • To save money online compared to taking the class in the U.S.
  • To complete their first university class at their pace, conveniently online


Student Quotes:

“Knowing culture before coming to U.S. decreases anxiety for adjusting to new country. Just for my culture, I think it’s really mandatory, before.”

— Minjae L., Seoul, South Korea

“Knowing culture gave me confidence to talk, get involved, and participate.”

— Wayne L. Beijing, China

“It is helpful to learn American subjects using the class videos. I feel more able to express myself when I get to the California school.”

— Jackie Wang

“This study is helpful for me. It helped mentally prepare me studying and to meeting new friends.”

— Wei C., Shanghai, China




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Filed under Higher Education, International Education, U.S. Culture

Preparing East Asian Undergraduates for the Cultural Challenges of U.S. Study

One of my publications, “Preparing East Asian Undergraduates for the Cultural Challenges of Study in the U.S.”, is a policy white paper discussing how a pre-departure cultural preparation treatment influenced a group of international students’ experiences before, during, and after their first semester at a western U.S. research university.  This topic is key to 21st century international education and I see it becoming the next wave of expected coursework for international students.

In this research study, although all participants wished they had taken a formal course about U.S. culture and academic systems while they lived in their home country, not one participant had received or even heard about organized cultural training or U.S. college preparation classes for study abroad before they arrived in the U.S.!  This is significant since research indicates that cultural knowledge, realistic expectations, and adjustment management skills speed up cross-cultural adaptation, increases student success, and fosters student engagement (increases student retention rates).

Dr. Dent Team DI found that eastern Asian students are eager to learn about the U.S. culture and academic systems prior to leaving home for U.S. study during my 2014 International Education Tour in South Korea and China last fall.  Many parents, schools, businesses, and government organizations have asked me to return this year… so I am!


In addition to teaching eastern Asian students about U.S. culture and academic systems, this year’s 2015 International Education tour will also share the research findings from my forthcoming publication entitled, “International Student Support Services Index” (ISSSI).

ISSSI organizes internationally related services by school and ranks institutions in relationship to other U.S. campuses. The index is grounded on five key research indicators that make up cross-cultural adjustment best practices to foster international (inbound and outbound) student success from pre-departure to repatriation/re-entry stages. 

Teaching U.S. College Preparation Skills in Seoul, South Korea, 2014

ISSSI’s research findings are made available through a free internationally circulated online publication used by domestic and international students, parents, study abroad organizations/placement services, recruiters, government organizations, secondary schools, and post-secondary international programs to better understand the U.S. international climate and individual campus internationalization efforts.


For more information, contact:

www.hlslinstitute.org or see www.taramaddendent.com

HLSL Institute provides educational services to international students, expatriates, international programs, and government organizations that bridge cultural gaps and connect the world, one person at a time. 



Filed under International Education

Dr. Tara Madden-Dent prepares you for life in the U.S.

Transitioning and adjusting in the United States culture may be more difficult and costly than you realize. Partner with cultural relocation and adjustment expert, Dr. Tara Madden-Dent, and learn the most efficient strategies to thrive in the U.S.  culture and to achieve your professional, academic, and personal goals.  She will help you save time, money, and energy when relocating to a new U.S. city, in addition to helping you develop professional skills required to succeed in today’s competitive work environment.

To avoid common negative acculturation hardships that most newcomers usually experience, contact Dr. Madden-Dent to personally guide you as your American Ambassador.  Feel safer, healthier, more connected, and more confident at work, school, home, and in your community.  Contact Dr. Madden-Dent at tara@taramaddendent.com or visit hlslinstitute.org to learn more about how you can strategically adjust and succeed in your new U.S. city and lifestyle.

Welcome & Introduction Video: Dr. Tara Madden-Dent


Filed under HLSL Institute, International Education, U.S. Culture

Can a hug discriminate?

Students at the University gave free hugs to strangers throughout Reno


Hugs on campusStudents from the University’s College of Education dispersed throughout Reno with “Free Hugs” signs to study preconceived prejudices and confront their fears. More than 700 voluntary hugs were given to strangers.What if a stranger offered you a free hug simply as a gesture of love, connection and comfort? What factors would impact your decision to accept or deny the embrace? Would it make a difference if the hug came from someone who looks like you instead of being a different race, age, weight, social class or culture? If so, why does it matter?

Students at the University of Nevada, Reno set out to personally experience this interaction through a Free Hugs activity that investigated the demographics and reactions of random strangers who accepted or denied a free hug. Students held a sign that stated “Free Hugs”, and waited for volunteering strangers to participate at various Reno locations.

The purpose of the assignment was two-fold.  First, students observed the behaviors of strangers’ who participated in the hug, avoided or dodged the hug, and those who only watched curiously from afar. Second, students reflected and analyzed their personal experiences before, during and after the activity including any concerns, prejudices or feelings.

The analysis resulted in several conclusions, including the acknowledgement of apprehension and identification of prejudices.

“There was a man that came up to me who wore a turban,” one student who conducted her activity at Truckee Meadows Community College said. “He asked if he could get a hug with his arms stretched out wide. I was nervous, but pushed that aside and said yes. The hug was normal like if I had hugged a friend. That surprised me. My rush of nervousness left as he walked away, but that’s when I felt bad.  That was the first time I had ever hugged someone wearing a turban and it was then, I was aware of my bias.  Seeing the turban made me think of September 11th and terrorism, because that’s all I’ve seen portrayed on the news.”

All students who participated experienced fear, anxiety or prejudice. As strangers approached for a free hug, students became aware of their apprehensions connected with certain groups of people, took note of how they felt and what they thought, and then reflected on why they experienced those effects. Students identified that most of their ingrained fears stemmed from ignorance about the stranger’s culture. Additionally, students mentioned that their prejudiced thoughts linked back to negative images they had seen on television news stories and movies. These unwarranted fears contributed to why students may have been divided from the strangers their whole life.

“I thought he might be a homeless guy,” another student recounted. “He got up and started to walk toward me.  My heart started to pound because I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Would he smell bad or say something inappropriate? Surprisingly, both answers were no.”

Free Hugs

This activity also required students to identify their own prejudices and make a choice: allow their fear to control their actions before denying the stranger’s hug, or decide to expand their cultural awareness by “embracing” the moment and experiencing a heightened sense of vulnerability and inclusiveness.

“As a visitor from Pakistan, this may have been the only hug I would ever receive my entire life from a stranger, especially a female stranger, since it is not allowed where I’m from,” a man who chose to accept a student’s hug said.

All students reported feeling excitement, joy, connection and/or accomplishment by the end of the activity.

“I’m going to save my Free Hugs sign and use it again, not for an assignment, but just because it made a difference in my life and many other lives,” one student said.

“Even after I had more than enough hugs to write about my experience, I wanted to stay out longer because it felt good,” another student said. “I could tell by strangers’ hugs, smiles and words of encouragement that others were feeling good too.”

By the end of the exercise, 700 – 800 hugs were exchanged around Reno.

This College of Education multicultural capstone course taught by Tara Madden-Dent is highly innovative and effective to incorporate empirical research with personal reflection. Students reported they had never taken a cultural studies course with such personal conviction and enlightenment as they studied similarities and differences between cultures. Tara Madden-Dent teaches Human Development & Family Studies and Education courses at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her educational blog can be found at https://taramaddendent.com/.

Original Article posted on UNR’s news website Nevada Today.


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Filed under Higher Education, International Education

Cross-cultural Adaptation


A couple days ago I bumped into a previous international student in front of my office. After exchanging pleasantries, my next question startled her, “how much longer do you have before graduation and how are you liking your study abroad so far?” It must have been a sensitive issue based on her squeamish hesitation.

Sighing with exhaustion, she admitted to having another two years of college before returning to her home country. She described that she was enjoying her time in America but that it was a challenge coping with the academic and social adjustments. “I have a friend now who helps me practice speak English. There aren’t any school services that I know of to practice speaking English and American students don’t have time to help.”

I then asked if she had made many American friends. “Not really. Americans pretty much keep to themselves. It would be nice to connect with a group of friends who were patient with me. It would also be helpful if they corrected my language skills instead of letting my misunderstandings pass by. How are my communication skills going to improve if I don’t know when I’m saying something wrong?”

Of course I offered to help and reminded her that my office door (and email) were always open but this topic begs the question: “Are colleges and universities providing sufficient support services for international students and can cultural adjustment be made fun, educational, and affordable?”

I think so but it presupposes that a new investment is made in this student body and new campus services. As globalization continues to reshape higher education, we’ll all feel the impact of a new international society. Employers are hiring culturally competent applicants and educational leaders are responsible for fostering those cultural competencies. In order to generate a diverse, internationally prepared workforce, we must first address how we introduce cultural sensitivities and facilitate cross-cultural adaptation. What international student support services do you use, do you need, or would recommend trying?


Filed under Higher Education, Leadership

International Student Support Services

Image Source: http://ow.ly/fNAFh

Image Source: http://ow.ly/fNAFh

Twenty-first century higher education strives to prepare an educated and civilly responsible workforce, capable of succeeding in competitive, global markets. Globalization and higher education are interdependent systems benefiting from each other’s successes as well as impacted by each other’s forgone positive contributions. Globalization is not a trend, but a growing influence reshaping college campuses and employer demands. As technology, transportation, and communication evolve, international collaboration increases; thus, presupposing a greater need for educational systems to bridge diverse cultural gaps.

Globalization and technology trends presuppose the increased need for highly skilled college graduates with intercultural communication and adaptation skills. As international student enrollment increases, there will also be increasing pressures to develop effective international student support services and the evaluation of those services while competing with for-profit and nonprofit institutions. Greater linkage between higher education student support services and international student needs will foster communication and facilitate better transition into American college cultures; ultimately strengthening international student successes.

Cross-cultural awareness + sensitivity + competencies = intercultural adaptation

Cross-cultural: researching and understanding the similarities and differences between two cultures.
Intercultural: The interaction between two cultures.

The preliminary findings from my dissertation pilot study, “International Student Perception of a Pre-Departure Cross-cultural Competency Preparation: A Phenomenological Study”, found two main themes. The first was that inbound international students need specific and unique student support services (compared to traditional students) that directly impact their academic success. The primary need was for better English speaking (not writing) services. The second was that cultural preparation strategies for international students are needed to enhance student transition into the American higher education system. Specifically, socialization or “sticky campus” strategies that increase a balanced student engagement lifestyle were addressed.

The international student perspective demonstrated that an earlier intercultural intervention could improve student cross-cultural competencies and thus, intercultural adaptation into American college cultures and their academic success. These findings should encourage college and university administrators to more intentionally and accurately address international student needs, prescribe more effective campus support services, and consider developing pre-departure cultural preparation services to better serve international students before they arrive on campus.

If you have experienced effective cultural preparation strategies or would like to recommend helpful educational strategies, please share them in the comments section below.  Thank you for visiting taramaddendent.com.

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Filed under Higher Education, Leadership