The roles of teaching assistant and graduate student are very demanding. When the person fulfilling both roles has the added burdens of speaking a foreign language, learning the ins and outs of a new educational system and living in a foreign culture, the dual responsibility of being both teacher and student becomes even more demanding.
"Communicating with American students can be a problem due to cultural differences in attitude and different semantics in dialog." (TA, Korea)
"Chinese often tend to be unassertive so that they might be perceived as incompetent or lack organization, etc. In order to deal with the American students, Chinese TAs should be less wishy-washy or even less considerate in the sense that one has to adhere to the policies or principles so as to minimize the chance of being 'jumped at' by the students." (TA, China)
"I remember the first time I came to class, I was wondering why the students didn't stand up, you know... Things like that... You have to learn their standards... In some interpretations you can be completely wrong." (TA, Belgium)
I was taken by surprise at the freedom given to a TA and the scope for creativity in leading discussions. Back home the lectures were in a set pattern without audiovisual aids." (TA, India)
To assist you in adapting to your new surroundings, this booklet provides background information about the TA role, the American educational system, various perspectives on American undergraduate students and the perceptions and experiences of international teaching assistants.