Get Settled at Suffolk

Life in Boston, Massachusetts is likely going to be different than day-to-day life in many places around the world. That's why Suffolk University has resources for international students on our campus. We're here to provide services and help to make the adjustment to American life as easy as possible.

Culture Shock

Culture shock is a period of ups and downs typically experienced when moving to a new culture. The process is different for each individual and can vary in onset, length, sequence, and severity. It helps to be familiar with the stages as it can ease the process. Staying positive and open to new all the new experiences that Suffolk has to offer can also help lessen the effects.

Typical symptoms of culture shock may include physical and emotional changes such as:

  • Homesickness
  • Struggling with a sense of independence
  • Disliking the new culture
  • Stress
  • Frequent crying, or feeling like crying
  • Changes in appetite or energy levels
  • Sleeplessness
  • Lasting feeling of sadness
  • Headaches or stomachaches

Adjusting to Life in the U.S.

Over time the feelings and symptoms of culture shock will dissipate, but there are a number of tips and tricks for hastening the adjustment process. Be proactive in getting to know your new environment. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new whenever you have the opportunity. Try to keep an open mind and a healthy sense of adventure. If you find yourself in a low place where you are having difficulty coping, or you are experiencing severe symptoms of culture shock, seek counseling immediately. In U.S. culture where individuals often live apart from the social support network of family and friends, it is normal to seek counseling in times of emotional distress. There are many caring, qualified professionals such as social workers (M.S.W.), psychologists (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) or psychiatrists (M.S. in psychiatry) who can listen and provide the support you need to help you through a period of difficulty.

Learn about your environment through exploration, and what is going on beyond campus-life. Take a walk in the park, try a local restaurant, go to the movies, or find out what's going on around Boston now.

To thrive in a new culture and learn from it, it is important to be open to new experiences, try new things, and be curious about the way things are done. If you are confused by something, ask how it is done in the U.S. Most people will be happy to teach you about their country and customs.

Don't live in isolation from others. One suggestion is to invite someone in your class to have coffee. By taking an interest in other people, you shift the focus from yourself to the outside world. Suffolk has hundreds of clubs and organizations you can join to meet new people and broaden your horizons. Join one (or two)!

There is comfort in the familiar. Eat and sleep normal hours, and have regular mealtimes. Join a sports club, or a discussion group. Aim to do at least one activity you look forward to on a regular basis at the same time each week.

A healthy body promotes a healthy mind and is a great way to relieve stress.

The ISSO staff is here to help answer your questions and concerns. This is your office.

Contact us

Suffolk's Home Away From Home program matches international students with domestic students. If you are interested in having being paired with a student, join the Home Away From Home program today. 

Being able to communicate effectively and understand a new language is key in feeling comfortable for non-native speakers. For those looking English language support, Suffolk offers a handful of English language workshops each week. You do not need an appointment to attend and are welcome to come and go each week as you are able.

The Home Away From Home Program

Home Away From Home is operated through Suffolk's International Student Services Office to connect students in our International communityMake new friends, learn about a new culture and have some fun. By facilitating meaningful conversations and through shared experiences on and off campus, Suffolk’s Home Away From Home program fosters supportive relationships and cultural exchange between international and domestic students.

Join the Home Away From Home Program

U.S. Academic Culture

For some Suffolk international students and scholars, the U.S. classroom and workplace may seem more informal than what they are used to. Find out what is expected and learn some of the common characteristics of classroom culture in the U.S.

In many courses, professors expect the students to ask questions and use critical reasoning. It is seen as part of the learning process. Complete silence may be viewed as a lack of interest or preparation. Be ready to ask questions when preparing for the class, jot down a couple of questions that you might ask. Some courses will even include a discussion session where students are expected to participate in an open discussion on a particular topic.

In some courses, you may be asked to do most of the work yourself and the professor may have only a managerial role, as in the case of graduate seminar courses. It is common for teachers to serve as a guide in the student’s learning. Students pursuing advanced degrees are particularly encouraged to critique theories, formulate models, and interact with the professor.

The teaching style of the professor can determine the amount of student participation in each class. Some instructors prefer a more formal style of lecture with a possible question and answer period at the end. Others prefer a more conversational style and encourage interaction throughout the class. In general, instructors who are confident and experienced are comfortable with students who disagree. When expressing your views in class, be ready to defend your ideas.

Professors may have a social relationship with students outside of the classroom. They may go for coffee together, or have other kinds of social outings. However, it is still expected that students will be respectful of the student-professor relationship within the classroom and will continue to meet all deadlines, do all homework, and attend all classes. Extra help or attention in no way signifies that a professor will treat the student differently when evaluating homework, papers, or tests of any kind. Also, American professors generally do not mix work with social time. If you become friendly with your instructor, be ready to interact more formally when in more professional student-professor context, such as in the professor’s office or in the classroom with other students.

American students may behave towards professors in ways that seem disrespectful. In class they may look sleepy or sit in very relaxed positions, eat food, be inattentive, or even noisy. American professors may not appreciate this behavior, but it is often tolerated because of the American concept of individual expression. Respect for the professor is often shown in subtle ways, by choice of vocabulary or tone of voice for example.

If a student is confused about something in the class, it is expected that he or she will ask the professor before or after class. If the issue requires a longer conversation, the student may make an appointment to see the professor during office hours. In U.S. academic culture, there is no shame associated with not understanding something in the course, even if it has been presented in a class lecture. Professors respect students who work hard towards fully understanding the material, so don’t wait until just before the exam to seek clarification. Ask as soon as you realize that you don’t completely understand the material.

Academic honesty is one of the most important concepts to understand in U.S. academic culture since even innocent violations can have serious and life-altering effects on your academic career. Whether you were rushing to meet a deadline and forgot, or you just did not know because it’s handled differently in your culture— no matter the excuse —it is still considered a serious violation and will be treated as such. The consequences can range from being given a failing grade on a paper, exam, or course, to being suspended from the University, or worse yet, you could be asked to leave permanently. Additionally, in most all cases, the violation is permanently reflected in one’s academic record.

Suffolk, like other educational institutions in the U.S., has a strict zero-tolerance policy for infractions in the academic honesty code. Cheating or plagiarism of any sort is never tolerated. Cheating is when you have someone else write your papers, or take-home exams, or you get answers from others during exams. Plagiarism is submitting other people’s work as your own.

Universities operate on the honor system, which makes trust a fundamental element of a U.S. education. Take-home exams provide a good example of this. For some international students, it may seem quite strange that a professor would give her students an exam to take home, complete and return to class at a later time. But that is exactly what it is – an exam that you will, on your honor, complete at home. It is expected that your answers will reflect your understanding and work, and yours alone. A take-home exam is not to be shared with, or borrowed from another student, and is considered as being at the same level of seriousness as an in-class exam. Remember too that aiding dishonesty by supplying answers for an exam is considered just as serious as obtaining them.

Suffolk University Academic Misconduct Policy

Other Resources While You Adjust

The International Students Services Office (ISSO) can help you get your bearings both here on campus and throughout Boston in many ways. Check out some of our other helpful resources to help you navigate other situations you may come across while adjusting to your life in the U.S.

Students can use their Suffolk ID card (also known as a "Ram Card") to purchase food on-campus and at many off-campus locations. Once you add funds to your Ram Card, you can swipe your card as you would a debit card to purchase food.

Learn more about where you can use your Ram Card around Boston

Suffolk offers meal plans for resident and commuter students. Students who live in on-campus University housing are required to participate in a Declining Balance Meal Plan.

Get more information about meal plans.

There are several cell phone providers conveniently located near Suffolk. Shop around, compare rates and services, and consider several important factors before you decide on a provider. Refer to the questions below when choosing your cell phone provider:

  • Are pre-paid plans available and is this a good option for you?
  • What are the rates for calls, text messages, data transfers, etc. Keep in mind cell phones in the U.S. charge for both incoming and outgoing calls and texts. There is usually an additional fee if you want to include wireless internet on your phone plan.
  • Is a deposit required to sign a contract? Will it be returned in full at the end of your contract?
  • If you have to terminate a contract early, will you be charged a penalty or lose your deposit?
  • Are you able to use your own phone or required to purchase a new phone? If you plan to use your own phone, be sure to obtain the code needed to “unlock” your phone for use abroad.

443 Washington St, Winter St #8, Boston, MA 02111

350 Washington St, Boston, MA 02109

Verizon Wireless
340 Washington St, Boston, MA

Email: Suffolk University makes individual email accounts available to all students, faculty and staff. You can access your Suffolk University email account on the Web to send and receive email, and configure it to meet your personal requirements. Suffolk o365 allows access to accounts through most Internet browsers from on- or off-campus.

If you do not remember your password or your password is not working, or if you have other questions about your email account, contact the Tech Service Desk at 617-557-2000.

WIFI: Suffolk University's wireless network is available in all buildings on campus allowing; students, faculty, staff and sponsored guests to access network resources. Students with compatible laptops, smartphones, and other handheld devices can roam within a wireless network service area and have access to the Internet, network printers, and their email.

Arranging health insurance should be one of the first things you do. Because of the high cost of medical care in the U.S., in the case of a serious illness or accident in particular, the expenses could cause great hardship. Everyone, no matter how brief the visit, needs to have health insurance coverage at all times, so plan before you arrive and beware of any potential gaps in your coverage.


All students must comply with immunization requirements. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH) requires that all full time students, and all international students, submit certain required immunization records to their enrolled college or university. It is helpful to bring proof of immunizations and full medical records from your home country.

Suffolk Student Health Insurance Plan

The Suffolk Student Health Insurance Plan (SSHIP) is a health insurance plan that meets a specific level of benefits as required by Massachusetts. If you are enrolled in at least 75 percent of a full-time curriculum you will be automatically enrolled in the SSHIP, although if you are already covered under an existing comparable U.S.-based insurance plan you can waive the SSHIP enrollment online.

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students can live in Suffolk's residence halls or they can live off-campus. New first year and transfer students at Suffolk receive housing in Suffolk's residence halls by submitting a deposit with the Office of Undergraduate Admission. After that first year, a room selection process is used for students who want to live in the residence halls.

Learn more about Suffolk's Residence Halls.

Learn more about Off-Campus Housing.

Exchange Students

Exchange students can live in Suffolk's residence halls or they can live off-campus. In order to reserve a room in Suffolk's residence halls, exchange students must submit a $600.00 housing deposit.

Learn more about Suffolk's Residence Halls.

Learn more about Off-Campus Housing.

Graduate Students

There is no University housing for graduate students.

Learn more about Off-Campus Housing.

Law Students

There is no university housing for law students.

Learn more about Off-Campus Housing.

Your Suffolk ID Card (also known as a "Ram Card") identifies you as a member of the Suffolk University community. You should carry it at all times while you are on campus. You can pick up your ID card during orientation. You can also go to one of the following locations to get your Suffolk ID card:

  • Sawyer Lobby: 7:30 a.m. — 10:30 p.m. 7 Days a Week
  • Law School Lobby: 7:30 a.m. — 10:30 p.m. 7 Days a Week

Learn more about your Ram Card

In general, you should only carry a small amount of cash, in U.S. dollars, for the first week or two. Other than at international airports, it is often difficult and can be time-consuming to have foreign currency transferred to dollars, and the fees for such transactions are generally higher in the United States than abroad.

You should not carry large amounts of cash to pay for school tuition and fees, or at any time. Traveler's checks or credit/debit cards are much safer and almost universally accepted.

For other money purposes, you should open a bank account at a bank near Suffolk. The banking industry in the United States is highly regulated and very safe. Students often find that opening a checking account and learning how to use and write checks is the most suitable method of handling money and payments.

How to Open a Bank Account

When you go to a bank to open an account, make sure to bring the following documents with you:

  1. Suffolk ID Card (or acceptance letter)
  2. Passport
  3. Immigration Document (I-20 or DS-2019)
  4. Verification of local address

You do not need a Social Security Number (SSN). You will fill out a W-8, which is a statement of foreign residence in lieu of presenting a Social Security card.