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Academic Integrity & Avoiding Plagiarism

Cultural differences: Help for International Students


Once arrived at MSVU, international students have many things in which to adjust: different language, different culture, different climate. You are missing family and home while trying to make new friends and adjust to a new educational environment that may be unlike anything you have experienced before.

In many non-Western countries, education systems are based on the model whereby only professors (or teachers) are experts in a certain kinds of knowledge and only they are qualified to pass on this knowledge. Students are expected to learn by listening, writing, repeating and memorizing what the professor shares with them. It is the professor who passes on information, ideas and solutions to problems to their students (Badke, 2003).

At MSVU we ascribe to a Western model of education. This model requires that students be active participants in the educational process. When some international students arrive at MSVU they may initially have some difficulty adapting to this model, including participating in classroom discussions, researching and writing. At MSVU we value debate, analysis, and critical thinking, and we expect students to participate in the entire education process. This can be challenging and a little scary if you have never done it before. MSVU has an International Education Centre with staff who can help you learn about some of these expectations.

 A key element of the writing process in Western countries is the need to always indicate where you got your information. If someone has written or created something and you are going to use it in your research you must indicate where you got the information (also called intellectual property.) This concept of noting where you located someone's intellectual property is called "citation", and is explained in detail in this tutorial.

Professors and staff at MSVU recognize that international students face an adjustment period if they are experiencing Western education for the first time. But, you are still expected to participate at the same level as Canadian students. This can make your first few months or first year very stressful. It is very important that you seek out help early in the process so you do not get behind or become overwhelmed. This does not make you look less capable, it makes you look SMART!



Sources and image credits:

Badke, W. (2003). Beyond the answer sheet: Academic success for international students. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.

Photo by GDJ , used under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication