As you start your life as a student at a U.S. university you will face challenges and difficulties because this educational system is probably not at all like what you are used to. When you arrive it will help to talk to your professors, classmates, and roommates and they will surely help you get adjusted to the new way of studying.
Because you are an international student, U.S. immigration requires that you are always a full-time student. For undergraduate students, this means taking 3.0 or more credits each semester. For graduate students, you must always have 12.0 or more credits. Immigration does allow some situations where you can be less than a full-time student, but you need to check with the Office of International Education before you drop below full-time enrollment so you don't run into trouble.
At Willamette, your grades will depend not just on how you do during the mid-term and finals, but also depends on whether you hand in papers, do well on the homework and other assignments during the semester, attend class regularly, and participate actively in class discussions.
The way essays and other assignments are written and what is expected of you also varies from culture to culture. Ask one of your classmates or your professor if you can read through an old assignment to see how it is done. And don't be too disappointed if your grades are a bit lower than they usually were back home, is it normal. You will figure out what the professor expects of you and your grades will rise again. Don't be too shy to ask for help if you feel like you need it. Willamette professors are very accessible and willing to help students with questions.
If you would like a little extra help with writing your essays, papers, or research paper there are many resources available online. Check out these academic writing tips. They will take you step by step through how to write a paper. Just keep in mind that what is written on this site as being the 'right way' to write a paper might not necessarily be exactly the way the professors here at WU are expecting you to write a paper. You can also make an appointment at the Writing Center on campus for help with writing assignments. It is a free service offered to all Willamette students.
Here is what one student says:
"As an exchange student, with English as a second language, you might find yourself spending more time on the readings for the classes than the other students do. Don't worry about it! In time you will notice that your reading will become faster than it was when you were first here and you won't have to spend as much time studying/reading as you did in the beginning. Beginnings are always difficult so don't give up."
If you reach a point where you feel like you have to do something because you are experiencing continual difficulties with your classes, professors or anything else, come in and talk to us here at the Office of International Education, and we can help you figure out what to do.