Talk with your classmates before, after, and outside of class. Professors can speak very quickly and it’s easy to miss what is said. Don’t be afraid to ask a native English-speaking classmate to meet up to review notes/class material or study.
Sometimes culturally or language specific events, TV shows, music, and stories are referred to in class. If you don’t understand the reference you can either make a note to ask about it later or ask right away.
It’s okay to ask someone to repeat something or to admit that you aren’t aware of what they mean so they can choose different words. If someone used the phrase “we all know the story of… so I won’t tell it here”, feel free to say “actually, I don’t know that story. Do you mind telling me?” Chances are someone else doesn’t know it either and they just didn’t want to speak up.
When emailing a professor or TA, include both your nickname and the name you registered with to avoid confusion. If you aren’t sure how to address a professor, ask him or her. Some professors prefer you to use their first names, other prefer to be addressed more formally.
If you miss a class, ask the person sitting beside you or classmate if they will email you notes from the missed class. Throughout the term, it’s likely you will receive many “I-missed-a-class” emails requesting notes. Quite a few students don’t respond to those types of emails, but are more open to sharing notes when asked in person.
Follow general academic success advice: Attend class regularly, familiarize yourself with the textbook, stay ahead of your readings, read lecture notes/PowerPoints before class if they are available, start assignments early, and get enough sleep.
Start a study group in your class. It’s as easy as asking the people sitting beside you if they want to study together. You can even email the entire class (through blackboard) to suggest a study group. Just be sure to have a date and time picked out and maybe even a study room booked.
Check out OWL Purdue for tips on common norms and writing in North American Colleges and Universities.
Have FUN! Attend campus and community events – the sooner you get involved and practice your English skills, the faster your English will improve. If you are not comfortable attending on your own or asking a peer to attend with you, consider joining the Language Centre’s Activity Group.