• Hartwick international students
  • Hartwick international students
  • Hartwick international students at tie dye event
  • Hartwick international students

Life at Hartwick

Housing on Campus
Social Life on Campus
Clubs and Organizations
About Oneonta, NY
Drinking and Drugs
Cultural Adjustment
Education in the U.S.


When you arrive, you will be assigned to a room in a residence hall with one or two roommates. It might be a good idea to contact your roommate(s) before you arrive so that you can decide who will bring common items (TV, DVD player, video game system, rug, etc.) Residence halls can be requested that are co-ed by floor (men on one floor, women on another), co-ed by room (you may have a room next door to a student of another sex), and single sex (for women only). You will be able to indicate which you would prefer when you fill out your housing forms. Residence Halls will provide you with an excellent opportunity to get accustomed to U.S. culture, practice your English in an informal setting, and make new friends. For a more comprehensive look at housing on campus, please click here.


Hartwick offers two dining options: an all-you-can-eat style cafeteria called “The Commons” and a deli-style sandwich shop called “Table Rock Café.” Every student is required to purchase a meal plan–though you will have a couple of options in terms of how many meals a week you would like to purchase. For more information on meal plans, please click here. For information about the kind of food served at the two dining halls, please click here. There are also kitchens available in the common areas of all of the residence halls that you are welcome to use to make your favorite meals from home whenever you like.


There will be endless opportunities for you to make new friends and get involved in a variety of activities at Hartwick College. Social life at Hartwick generally centers around the residence halls, where you will meet and hang out with friends, play games, watch movies, participate in residence hall programs, etc. Joining a club or student organization, or getting involved in sports or other recreational opportunities is also a great way to get involved at Hartwick. We encourage all of our students to get involved in extra-curricular activities because we feel that it is an integral part to a well-rounded, liberal education. The city of Oneonta also provides numerous social outlets including a movie theatre, a mall, coffee shops, seasonal festivals, and restaurants and bars that are within walking distance of campus. Please visit our Campus Life Web site for more information on living at Hartwick.


There are more than 70 student organizations that offer opportunities for students to take part in co-curricular activities centered on social interests, hobbies, academics, cultural identities, and art and entertainment. Current special-interest clubs include those organized around: choir, band, orchestra, theatre, dance, board games, Harry Potter, student government, language, community service, social justice, religion, culture, sports, and much more. Joining an organization is an excellent way to meet people and to get involved on campus. There is also an International Club, in which many international students participate and share cultural traditions with one another and with American students. All students are urged to join campus organizations. For a complete listing of student organizations, visit the Student Organizations Web page. Hartlink on-line is where our student clubs and organizations manage their membership, finances, events and service activities. Intramural Sports are also a very exciting way to get involved at Hartwick. Join a team and compete against your classmates for fun! For more information, click here.


There are many social and recreational activities and opportunities available to students. The College has a swimming pool, a fitness room, a large gymnasium, small gymnasiums, racquetball courts, tennis courts, and several athletic fields. You can visit Pine Lake, Hartwick’s environmental campus, and go hiking, swimming, canoeing, and much more. You can also visit the Yager Museum of Art & Culture in Yager Hall to check out the latest exhibition. Throughout the week, there are always free lectures, plays, concerts, and sporting events on campus and many clubs sponsor weekend trips to New York City, Boston, and Albany. Additionally there are numerous events available to college students within the Oneonta community.


The city of Oneonta is located in Otsego County, a region of New York State rich in cultural, historical, and recreational facilities. With a population of just under 14,000 people, one of the city's finest attributes is its small-town atmosphere. Residents and visitors alike are attracted to Oneonta because of its friendliness, its safety, and its location within the foothills of the Catskill Mountains where beautiful landscape views, invigorating hikes and an abundance of nature are minutes away. Oneonta is also located in close proximity to several big cities. If you are interested in traveling while you are in Oneonta the following cities are only a short car ride away: Albany (1½ hrs), New York City (3½ hrs), Boston (3 ¾ hrs), and Philadelphia (4 hrs). For more information about Oneonta, visit http://www.oneonta.ny.us/.


In the U.S., the legal drinking age for alcoholic beverages is 21 years of age. Restaurants and bars will ask for identification (e.g. passport, license) to verify your age before serving you beer or other alcoholic beverages. Because many American students view alcohol as a sign of independence, you may find many people abusing it. You should not feel pressured to participate. If you are caught drinking before the age of 21 there will be disciplinary consequences. Drugs such as marijuana, ecstasy (E), Methamphetamine (meth), GHB, LSD (acid), Psychedelic mushrooms, Ketamine (K), and cocaine are illegal for individuals of any age. Be advised, there are serious legal and disciplinary ramifications for using and distributing drugs.


Smoking is not permitted inside any public building in the State of New York and has recently been banned inside most stores, restaurants and bars. The same applies on Hartwick’s campus, where smoking is not permitted inside any building or enclosed area and is restricted to areas at least 25 feet from the entrance of all buildings. Smoking is not permitted inside any residence halls, though if you live off campus, you may choose to smoke in your private residence. Smoking is less common in the United States than in many other countries, and is viewed by many people as a very unhealthy habit. If you smoke, be aware of where you do it and who you do it around–many people do not want to have smoke blown in their face as they stand near you.


All international students go through a period of adjustment (often referred to as “culture shock”) as they learn to accept the differences they encounter in their new environment. Please recognize that this is a natural transition period that will occur during your first semester or two. Being aware of the symptoms may help you make a quick and successful adjustment.

Common Signs of Culture Shock are:
Homesickness; constant yearning for familiar people, sights, and foods; lack of energy; constantly feeling tired; changes in your sleeping pattern; sudden intense feeling of loyalty to your home culture; frustration with College bureaucracy and American customs; weariness of speaking English; withdrawal from others; escaping to low-contact places (e.g., your room, movies); lack of enjoyment in daily activities; avoiding social activities; loss of appetite; discontent with American food; lack of interest in studies; lack of motivation; overly emotional; completely unemotional.

Suggested Ways of Coping with Culture Shock are:
Remember that it is natural for you to experience culture shock; remain open-minded and flexible; remember one culture is not better than another—they are just different; put things that bother you into perspective: Is the problem really so bad? Become active! Join a club, participate in sports, take a long walk, or run. Find someone who you can talk with in your language. Join the International Club.

Talk about it. Stop in to the Center for Interdependence and speak to one of advisors or talk with another international student who has already adjusted to this environment. Contact friends or family members at home to discuss occurrences in your life. Try to relax: meditate, do yoga, paint, draw, read, take a nap. If symptoms and/or depression persists, make an appointment to speak with a counselor at the Perrella Wellness Center, telephone: 607-431-4120.

To ease some of the initial culture shock, it is important to understand some of the unique features of American culture that may come across as particularly difficult to understand. Like any other society, the U.S. has people who are friendly and those who are not; people who are intelligent and those who are not. American culture is very fluid and complex with many sub-cultural groups whose values differ. Even with this diversity it is possible to mention certain characteristics, which in general describe attitudes, and practices that are common among Americans, and which tend to distinguish Americans from people who have grown up in other cultures. Keep in mind the following remarks are generalizations. You will find individuals who are exceptions to all of them.

Americans generally believe that the ideal person is an autonomous, self-reliant individual. Most Americans see themselves as separate individuals, not as representatives of a family, community, or other groups. They dislike being dependent on other people or having others dependent on them. Some people from other countries view this attitude as "selfishness." Others view it as a healthy freedom from the constraints of ties to social class, family, or clan.

Americans are taught that "all people are created equal." While they continually violate that idea in some aspects of life, in others they adhere to it. They treat each other in very informal ways, for example, even in the presence of great differences in age or social standing. From the point of view of some people from other cultures, this kind of behavior reflects "lack of respect." From the point of view of others, it reflects a healthy lack of concern for a social ritual.

Time Consciousness
Americans place considerable value on punctuality. They tend to organize their activities by means of schedules. As a result, they may seem hurried, always running from one thing to the next, and not able to relax and enjoy themselves. Foreign observers sometimes see this as being "ruled by the clock." Other times they see it as a helpful way to assuring that things get done.

To become more aware of Americans and their culture, do not be hesitant to ask questions about customs, practices, or values. Not only will queries help to reduce confusion or prevent misunderstandings, but they will also help us to learn from you about your culture. In the United States, people respect someone who expresses concern. Asking for assistance or an explanation is not considered a sign of weakness, but of interest, concern, and forthrightness*.


What is a liberal education?
Hartwick College is considered a liberal arts college. In the U.S., liberal arts colleges are typically smaller (between 1,000-5,000 students), private institutions that focus on giving students a “liberal education,” a well-rounded education that goes beyond simply memorizing texts, theories, and formulas. Traditionally, liberal arts colleges have focused on the humanities (English, Philosophy, History, Languages, Classics) and sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics), though more recently, these colleges have begun offering more practical training courses as well, such as Hartwick’s nursing program. In the philosophy of liberal education, colleges see it as essential to expose their students to a number of different disciplines in order to achieve a well-rounded mind. For example, in one semester you may find yourself taking a history course, a biology course, a physics course, an English course, and a physical education course, even though your academic major may be in biology. A liberal educational institution like Hartwick also typically views extra-curricular activities as important to its mission, and encourages students to become active and involved outside of the classroom in student organizations, clubs, volunteer activities and athletics.

The American educational system is designed to provide a broad education for as many people as possible. Upon graduation from an undergraduate institution, American college students are expected to demonstrate a wide range of abilities. As students progress through the higher educational system, work becomes more specialized. Initially students are expected to complete general education requirements. This may include, for a biology major, requirements to take 4 humanities courses, 2 writing courses, and 3 math courses, for example. These courses may be required before graduation is allowed. This process may be significantly different from the educational system in your own country, where it may be more common for students to take courses exclusively in their area of specialization throughout their university experience.

Academic Terms and Evaluation
Additionally in the U.S. there is generally more frequent evaluation of students, with many courses requiring multiple tests, papers, and/or oral presentations through a single semester. Most courses last an entire semester (about 4 months), and an academic year is typically made up of two semesters, Fall and Spring. Hartwick is unique from many schools in that it offers a J Term semester, which comes between the Fall and Spring semester during the month of January. This short one-month semester provides many students the opportunity to take off-campus study courses that travel all over the world. For example, recently J Term courses offered to students were to go to Greece to study ancient philosophy, Jamaica to study nursing, Mexico to study social justice, and New York City to study theater. Full-time study is considered to be at least 4 courses per normal-length semester (12 credit hours), although most undergraduates register for more credit hours so that they may graduate in four academic years or less.

At Hartwick, courses are generally graded on A, B, C, D, and F basis with a plus/minus option. The higher the course grade, the higher the institution's evaluation. A letter grade of A+ equals (4.33) points, A (4.0), A- (3.67), B+ (3.33), B (3.0), B (2.67), C+ (2.33), C (2.0), C- (1.77), D+ (1.33), D (1.0), D- (0.67), F (0.0). These points are used to assess overall acquired knowledge and result in a grade-point average. The cumulative grade-point average is used as evidence of all courses carried during the student's tenure at the college (over several semesters).

Each instructor will have his or her own philosophy of grading. Some use fixed scales; others use a formula based on competition. This information should be presented by the instructor during the first scheduled class of the semester. Instructional methods also vary. The most common form is the lecture, which may be supplemented by class discussions or a laboratory. Students are expected to contribute to class discussions, and very often examinations are based on topics touched upon in class sessions rather than just the assigned reading, making it important for students to take notes. Participation in class or class discussions is encouraged and is viewed as a sign of interest by the students. Another form of instruction is the seminar, usually a small class devoted entirely to discussion. Seminars usually require term papers (as do some other classes) based on research done in a particular area.

Objective measures are also used to determine the student's knowledge and application of facts. Types of objective tests include multiple choice, true and false, identification and/or explanation of the significance of a term or phrase, or fill in the blank questions. Subjective examinations include the term paper or essay questions. The essay requires students to organize and relate knowledge about a particular concept(s)*.

*Thanks to Colgate University for this information