Foreign Students Learn about American Life; UGa's Orientation Helps Them Soak Up Culture, Avoid Culture Shock

Article excerpt

Byline: LEE SHEARER

ATHENS - Beginning classes at a new college could overwhelm anyone.

But imagine that, along with learning a new campus and meeting new people, you're also getting your first taste of sweet tea and learning to drive on the right side of the road.

A group of University of Georgia students gathered Tuesday to soak up knowledge, two days before UGa winter semester classes even begin. They are international students from all over the world at UGa for a crash course in the American way of life.

About 2,100 of UGa's 34,000 students are from other countries, and 300 or more new international students enroll each year, said Leigh Poole, director of UGa's International Student Life office.

Most of the new students arrive in August for fall semester, when Poole's office conducts a weeklong orientation for first-time international students - including a session on Bulldog football culture and shopping trips to Wal-Mart. About 40 new international students begin studies each January.

Poole and International Student Life Assistant Director Jessica Wells mostly gave students nuts-and-bolts information Tuesday - how to find a place to live, how to stay safe.

But even those basic tasks can be more complicated for international students, Poole said. For example, many cell phone companies won't open a new account unless a customer can provide a Social Security number, which most international students don't have. …