Student Behaviours in College Life

by Pelin Kurt, Izmir University of Economics, April 1, 2009

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''I have a lot of homework, it sucks!!'' ''I hate assignments. This work is so silly!!'' Some students do their assignments, and others do not. For example, a student named Cem was given an assignment to read a text book over the weekend, but he already had planned to play basketball with his friends. Friday and Saturday nights, he went to a party with his girl friend and went to the movies. By Sunday he was too tired to do his homework. He went to school on Monday not ready for class. His attitude toward his responsibilities to do assignments is captured in his own words: "I don't care about reading, homework, etc." If this situation occurs in Turkey, the professor would be angry but probably would not punish the student further than giving him a lecture. On the other hand, if this happens in the U.S., the professor would give the student a zero and the student would lose points on his final grade. U.S. colleges are better than Turkish colleges because U.S. colleges enforce the rules and requirements. Many U.S. students care about the rules and requirements, but some Turkish students don't care about them.

Some Turkish students don't want to do homework, read or study. They come to class and don't answer the professors' questions. Some Turkish students don't like preparing before class. In conversation with Turkish students, they say: ''we don't need to do the homework; we don't want to take quizzes. These are so unnecessary for us and we lose our free time. We are university students and we want to socialize."(Yılmaz, Yıldırım and Dondaş) Furthermore, some Turkish students comment about assignments, quizzes, and reading by saying, "We don't want to do all the work because the work is boring. We are required to study too much. The studying takes away from our university life. We don't need to do work so much." (Yılmaz, Yıldırım and Dondaş)

However, college is a time for growing up for becoming an adult. A lot of time, students think of growing up as socializing, living on their own, and having fun. They don't think of growing up as doing more homework. In the article, ''What makes you a grown up?" the author argues that "In the U.S., leaving home is a particularly important element of becoming an adult..." ( Sometimes, unless Turkish students study abroad in U.S. they do not want to grow up:

"I learned how to survive in difficult situations by myself," wrote Dilek Gokturk, a violinist and PhD candidate in music at the University of Florida. "I learned to look at my country from an outside perspective. I became more objective and less rigid in many issues. Although I was always an independent person I became more independent and more confident after coming here." (Peker)

As an international student from Turkey I agree that it is much more serious for students to 'grow up' on their own in the U.S. rather than Turkey. In Turkey, if students get into trouble, their parents will step in and get them out of trouble. Even if Turkish students want to be independent it's difficult for them because their families don't trust that they are mature enough. Their parents want them to agree with their ideas instead of having opinion of their own. But in the U.S. students are careful and more independent. They are more grown up because their families promote doing things on their own and having their own ideas. They care much more than some Turkish students. In the end, U.S. students are more successful in their college life because they are hard working.

On the other side, the U.S. students' ideas are different. They say "...we do have to grow up, and that means mastering our appetites, working hard, and learning to discern good decisions from bad." (Ellison) I surveyed fifteen Cortland students. They said that they have to take quizzes, do their assignments, prepare for class and read the text book. They claimed that this work is beneficial and required for their education. One student said, ''Our professors know the best thing for us.''(Hearn). Pruitt and Rogers agree. Students do their work because they trust their professors. Furthermore, professors hold students accountable for the material in order to provide a useful deadline for students. All students sometimes don't want to do their work, but in the U.S., many respond to deadlines and accountability. Although US students sometimes don't want to do their work, they discipline themselves to do it. I talked to my roommate, Sam, about assignments. She said 'I am fed up doing homework; usually I don't want to do it. I just want to go out!" I asked her "why don't you just go out then?" and she said "I know I have to do these assignments because school is my job until I get a real job." Also I talked to my tutor, Katie. She said "School work comes first but I know how to manage my time so I can have fun too." Many U.S. students can multitask, so they have time to socialize but still do well in school. But some Turkish students don't balance school and social aspects of their lives. They put more focus on having fun than they do on school work. They would rather socialize than go to classes.

Some Turkish students don't want to attend classes. In Turkey, they have to attend only 70% all classes, about four weeks of a typical semester. In contrast, student can miss only one week at a typical U.S. college without being penalized. In Turkey, University attendance policies read as follows: ''Students are required to attend classes, laboratories and practical sessions, take the examinations during the term and at the end of the term, they are also required to participate in other such activities determined by the instructors concerned... students who do not meet the attendance requirements determined by the Senate fail.'' This means absolutely all students have to attend classes; however, Turkish students don't care about this policy because students can get away with not doing their work depending on the teachers' understanding or gullibility.

In addition some students tell lies about homework and assignments. In Turkey, some students behave unacceptably. For instance, they lie to their teachers and generally the teachers will incredibly believe the lies that the students tell. Some Turkish students who lie start off saying "I didn't do it because..." They usually lie and their excuses are "I am sick," "My father or my mother has a serious health problem," "My house electricity went out," or "My computer was broken." Some students don't tell the truth: they just give excuses. Turkish professors' are friendly but some Turkish students take advantage of them. Professors believe the lies because they don't want to seem mean or strict. But in the U.S., generally students are honest. If they couldn't do the work they usually talk to the professor before class or ask "what can I do about this assignment to make up the grade?" U.S. professors' enforce the rules all the time and do not believe the excuses that students make. This makes the students want to their work so that they don't get in trouble. The relationship between students and professors is usually very friendly because there is understanding that the professors are the authority.

U.S. students care about and are aware that the policy is serious. In the U.S., professors don't give any exception for missing class except serious health problems, accidents, and death in the family. Also, one of my U.S. professor's attendance policies is: "Although you are allowed two unexcused absences in this course... I encourage all of you to attend class regularly. Your attendance grade will be lowered by 1/3 of a letter (i.e., from B to B-) for each additional unexcused absence. Please note that excused absences must be supported with outside documentation (i.e., a doctor's note, letter from a coach, etc.)." (HIS 200) Another U.S. professor's attendance is: '''Penalties for excessive absences . . . shall not exceed one-third of a letter grade per class hour of absence.' The term 'excessive' will begin with the fourth hour of class that a student misses. Students will lose credit to the full extent that college policy permits. In other words, please come to class. " (CPN 101) US students take these policies more seriously than Turkish students.

U.S. educators discuss these sorts of student attitudes in articles like ''The five habits of successful students.'' As described by a Truckee Meadows Community College writer, these are ''attendance, homework assignments, participation, communication and goal persistence.'' Some Turkish students cannot be considered successful because they do not follow these five principles. As mentioned, some Turkish students don't like to attend classes or do homework. However, they also do not participate or communicate because they don't care. Goals by some Turkish students aren't made until their junior year of college. On the other hand, American students tend to participate, communicate, and set goals either. The article advises students to adopt positive attitudes: "Don't quit on your goals. Focus on your personal academic growth. Don't compare your progress to others." (TMCC)

Generally, student behavior depends on attitudes toward schoolwork and academic integrity. Some students don't feel that they need to attend class. But the rules are really important for student life. My Turkish classmate, Onat, mentioned in his essay: "... [Turkish] students have more flexibility than the students in the U.S.. Students in Turkey can pass whether they attend or not..." The attitudes that some Turkish students have would not work if they came to the U.S.

College is the time students start to learn about the real world. If they have a bad attitude toward school, like some Turkish students do, they won't be successful in the future.

CPN 101 Syllabus ; Dr. Victoria Boynton
Dondaş, Seda. Personal interview. 27 Dec 2008.
Ellison, Timothy "Leave College Behavior to College Students" The Collegian
Online 3 May 2007. 19 Feb 2009.
Hearn, Micheal John. Daily interview. 1 Feb 2009.
History 200 Syllabus; Ms. Andrea J. DeKoter
Izmir University of Economics 2006. 7 Feb 2009.
"The Five Habits of Successful Students." 2009. 26 Feb 2009.
Peker, Emre "Turkish students discover individualism in the United States"
Immigration Here & There. 23 Aug 2007. 26 Feb 2009. http://www.immigrati
Pruitt, Jane. Personal interview. 3 Feb 2009.
Rogers, Katie. Personal interview. 4 Feb 2009.
"What Makes You a Grown-up?" The factbook: Eye-opening Memos on Everything
Family 26 Feb 2009.
Yıldırım Ceren. Personal interview. 4 May 2008
Yılmaz, Merve. Personal interview. 16 Nov 2007.

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