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Student Handbook
Burruss Hall

Main Campus and National Capital Region

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Students writingThe mission of the Intensive English Program is to help adult international students meet their personal, academic, and professional goals through intensive English language study. Through its work, the Language and Culture Institute increases diversity in the university's student population by enabling outstanding international candidates to meet English language admission requirements. The Intensive English course series prepares international students for admission to Virginia Tech and other U.S. institutions through rigorous, progressive English language training.

For more than 40 years, LCI instructors and staff members have worked hard to make students' time in the United States easier, more pleasant, and more productive. Please read the Student Handbook carefully. Keep it for your future reference. Ask questions. Make suggestions if you see ways this information can be improved.

In addition to the rules set out in this handbook, all students enrolled in the LCI's Intensive English Program are subject to the rules and regulations set out in the following Virginia Tech publications:

Students are also expected to respect and observe the guidelines set out in the Virginia Tech Principles of Community, set out at

Getting Started

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Virginia Tech Email ^sect

Every new student to the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute will need to set up an email account. This account will be used to send you important notices and bills. You will use this account as long as you are a Virginia Tech student. The email username you choose is also called a PID, or "Personal IDentifier." With your PID and an associated password, you can access online Virginia Tech services.

You will create your PID from the Generate PID page at You will need your student identification number (printed on your student identification card) to set up your account.

Campus Alerts ^sect

VT Alerts is Virginia Tech's Emergency Notification System. In a campus emergency, Virginia Tech will use several information delivery methods to reach students because, at any given time, one form of communications might be better to reach you than another. VT Alerts, one of those delivery means, will send messages to cellphones, landline numbers and email accounts. Students are strongly encouraged to register for VT Alerts at

Payments ^sect

Bills are issued within two weeks of the beginning of each term. Payment is due within five business days of the issuance date. Bills are paid at the university Bursar's Office in the Student Services Building. Students who do not pay their bills on time will be removed from class until the bills are settled, so it is important that you pay your bill as soon as you receive it.

Description of Fees ^sect

Following are fees paid in conjunction with attending classes in the Intensive English program. All fees are nonrefundable. Note: Book fees are not included in course fees and must be purchased separately for most courses.

Application Fee (paid one time)
Mandatory fee to accompany application to the Intensive English program.

Hokie ID Fee (paid one time)
Fee to obtain a Hokie Passport identification card.

Student Activity Fee (Blacksburg only, paid each term)
A mandatory fee applying to all students attending the Blacksburg campus. It consists of the following three components:

  1. Health Service Fee
    Fee for normal medical and nursing attention and counseling services provided by Schiffert Health Center, counseling services provided by Cook Counseling Center, and support for the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad.
  2. Bus Fee
    Fee for support of the Blacksburg Transit system. Entitles enrolled students to board the Blacksburg Transit buses by showing their student ID instead of paying the fare.
  3. Technology Fee
    Fee for support of technology services at the institute (also applicable in the National Capital Region center).

Core Course Fee (paid each term)
Fee for attendance in core curriculum courses, including Grammar, Listening & Speaking, and Reading & Writing classes. Higher rates apply for full-time attendance in these courses.

Elective Fee (paid each term)
Fee for attending an optional elective course. Higher rates apply for test preparation courses.

Important Notices ^sect

The LCI publishes important notices for all students on its website in several locations. Students are strongly encouraged to subscribe to these services to make sure they receive important announcements and news. Signing up is as easy as entering your email address on each site:


Immigration Regulations

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As an international student, you must obey the immigration laws and regulations of the United States. Because you are a student with F-1 status, you are responsible for learning, understanding, and obeying the U.S. laws and regulations that apply to you. If you fail to do so, you can be deported from the United States and barred from returning for a long time. It is extremely important that you read and fully understand the following information.

Arrival to and Departure from the U.S. ^sect

U.S. federal regulations [8CFR214.2(f)(5)(i)] state that students may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the report date on the Form I-20. An F-1 student who has completed his or her academic program is allowed a 60-day period to prepare to leave United States. An F-1 student who has been authorized to withdraw from classes before completing his or her academic program is allowed a 15-day period to prepare for departure. Students who wish to withdraw must complete a leave request form. Approval by the school is required. Students who withdraw without the approval of the international student advisor must leave the U.S. immediately [8CFR214.2(f)(5)(iv)].

Address Changes ^sect

U.S. federal regulations [8CFR214.2(f)(17)] require that you report any address change within 10 days of the address change. Do this by reporting your new address to the program coordinator. This includes address changes for any of your dependents as well.

Authorization to Drop Below a Full Course of Study ^sect

U.S. federal regulations [8CFR214.2(f)(6)] require you take a full course of study. You are allowed to take a reduced number of hours only after getting permission from the international student advisor and only very limited reasons. Students who wish to drop below a full course of study must complete a leave request form.

Reporting Departure Date and Reason ^sect

Students may leave school early or unexpectedly. Some of these reasons include early graduation, leave of absence, suspension, or expulsion. U.S. federal regulations [8CFR214.3(g)(3)] require that you inform the international student advisor or program coordinator if you plan to leave the school earlier than the program end date listed on your Form 1-20, and to give your reason for doing so. Students who wish to depart early must complete a leave request form.

Extension of Program End Date ^sect

Pay close attention to the program completion date indicated on your 1-20. Your F-1 status will end on the program completion date unless it is extended. You are required by U.S. federal regulations [8CFR214.2(f)(7)(iii)] to make your request before your program completion date. Extensions are subject to approval by the school, and will only be granted for valid reasons. You can request a program extension at any time during the school year, but must do so at least at least one week prior to the expiration date on the I-20. See the program coordinator to request an extension.

Transfer Procedures ^sect

Transfer means that a student is leaving one school for another school. This can happen, for example, when a student completes his or her academic program at a language school and then goes on to an undergraduate or graduate program at a U.S.-based community college, college or university.

Students who wish to transfer must be in contact with two schools: the current school and the new school. Both of these schools must be authorized to enroll international students by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. To transfer, regulations [8CFR214.2(f)(8)(ii)(C)] require that you:

  • Apply for admission and be admitted to the new school
  • Inform your current school as soon as possible after admission and, no later than the last day of your academic program
  • Inform the new transfer school of the expected transfer date (usually the last day of your academic program)
  • Complete the process at the transfer school no later than 15 days after the first class day at the school

Careful attention to the last date of the academic program at the current school and the first day of classes at the transfer school is very important; failure to complete the transfer process in the prescribed time frame [8CFR214.2(f)(8)(i)] will cause you to violate your immigration status. See the international student advisor or program coordinator for assistance transferring to a new school. All obligations to the school must be satisfied before a transfer will be processed.

Students seeking to transfer to a new institution should complete a Transfer Request form, which can be obtained from the international student advisor or program coordinator. Scholarship students should obtain prior permission to transfer from their sponsor.

LCI class


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Full-time Enrollment ^sect

Students enrolled at the LCI on an F-1 Visa must take at least 20 hours of class per week each term in "core" courses. You must progress to academic study or leave the United States by the end of two academic years.

LCI courses are not part of the Virginia Tech degree program and, as such, do not carry academic credit.

Student Status ^sect

Students must maintain full-time enrollment, attend classes, make academic progress, and maintain financial responsibility for their stay in order to maintain student status.

Full-time students must attend at least 85 percent of their classes in order to meet the requirements of the program. You may have no more than 24 hours of absences in an eight-week term, or more than 18 hours during a six-week summer term.

F-1 students who are in status have the ability to:

  • Work on campus.
  • Transfer to another institution without leaving the country.
  • Extend English language studies for up to two years.

You will fall out of student status if you fail to maintain full-time enrollment, progress in your studies, attend classes, or follow other immigration regulations outlined above. Working illegally or being convicted of a felony are particularly serious violations of status. If you fall out of status, you must petition the U.S. government for restoration of status through a process called reinstatement. There is a processing fee for applying for reinstatement, and your application may be refused.

Vacations ^sect
McAfee Knob

Vacations are allowed only after you have attended four consecutive terms (two university semesters) or nine consecutive months at the LCI. You may not take a vacation and stay in the United States until you have completed nine consecutive months of classes or four consecutive terms — unless the program is on break. You may take a vacation only if you plan to return for more classes and are in good academic standing.

Students are required to complete a leave request form to request vacation. Approval is at the discretion of the school and, where approved, will be for one academic term. All obligations to the school must be satisfied before a vacation request will be processed.

If you want to go home during any holiday break, be sure to make your plane reservations as soon as possible. The airlines are often very busy around holidays. You will not be given a tuition reduction if your travel arrangements force you to leave early or to return to the U.S. after the term begins.

Employment ^sect

Holders of F-1 student visas who fulfill all the terms of their status can work on the Virginia Tech campus for no more than 20 hours per week during the school term and up to 40 hours during vacations. You should inform the international student advisor before taking a job on campus. You are not allowed to work off campus.

The U.S. government requires international students to file income tax returns. Save all your records of earnings from wages and bank interest payments.

Leaving the Country ^sect

F-1 students who leave the country for less than five months and intend to return to the LCI need to have their I-20 forms signed before departure. The international student advisor and the program coordinator may sign I-20s for travel, and will do so for students in good standing. All obligations to the school must be satisfied before a travel authorization will be processed. If you leave the U.S. and your Form I-20 expires while you are away, you will need a new I-20 to re-enter. If your F-1 visa expires while you are away, you must go to the U.S. consulate in your home country to renew your visa.

Legal Obligations ^sect

Students must comply with all laws and regulations of the U.S. government and Virginia Tech. This includes laws regulating drinking, contracts, computer usage, driving, and insurance.

U.S. laws specifically forbid noncitizens from using government aid programs designed for low-income U.S. citizens. The Financial Certification Form you presented with your application to the LCI is proof that you have enough money to pay all your expenses while you are a student. U.S. consular officers consider the use of public assistance funds as a reason for visa denial. Be careful not to take any action now that will endanger your chances of returning to the U.S. in the future.

Any student who knowingly advises or encourages another student to violate U.S. law will be asked to leave the program.

Interim Suspension ^sect

The university retains the authority to impose an interim (immediate) suspension if such action is necessary to preserve the safety of persons or property. In this instance, the students will be afforded an interim suspension hearing and the opportunity to show why their continued presence on campus does not constitute a threat to themselves, others, or property. The interim suspension hearing is separate from a formal student conduct hearing. A formal student conduct hearing will be provided as soon as possible. Students may be interimly suspended from the university or selected campus facilities with proper notice. The following steps explain the procedure for imposing an interim suspension:

  1. When a situation, as defined above, occurs, the responding university official contacts the Threat Assessment Team or the associate vice president for student affairs or his/her designee to assess the situation. If the situation is sufficiently serious, the Threat Assessment Team or the associate vice president for student affairs or his/her designee will determine if an interim suspension is appropriate.
  2. The student will be sent an interim suspension letter immediately that states that the student is either suspended from the university and/or banned from all or selected campus residential facilities until a formal student conduct hearing can be convened. The chief of police will be contacted to determine if a ban from campus is needed. Upon receipt of the interim suspension, if the student is on campus or in university facilities, the student will be escorted out of the facility and/or off campus by a Virginia Tech police officer.
  3. The student can immediately request an interim suspension review to be conducted by the associate vice president for student affairs or his/her designee. The interim suspension letter will contain instructions on how to request a review. Those present at the meeting may include the responding university official and other witnesses as deemed appropriate by the associate vice president for student affairs. During the review, the student will be given an opportunity to demonstrate why his or her continued presence on campus does not constitute a threat to themselves, others or property. As part of the review, the student may be required to submit to an immediate medical/psychological evaluation. The student will be evaluated by the director of the Cook Counseling Center or his/her designee.
  4. The decision of the interim suspension review will be final. There will be no appeal. If the student does not request a review, the interim suspension and/or ban from campus residential facilities will remain in effect until the formal student conduct hearing is convened.
  5. Interim suspension information will be shared with the Student Conduct Committee. That office will schedule, as soon as possible, a formal student conduct hearing to determine the final consequences of the initiating behavior.
Making a Suggestion or Complaint ^sect

If you have suggestions or complaints about your program of study, financial arrangements, or other personal issues, please see a member of the administrative staff.

Occasionally, a student will encounter a problem that he or she does not know how to resolve. When this happens, the student should always try to work out the problem by first discussing it with those most involved with the issue. Dealing with concerns in the most direct and honest fashion should always be the first step toward resolution. Many issues are settled or problems resolved when a student makes an appointment with a faculty or staff member and calmly and honestly communicates frustrations or concerns.

However, if an issue or problem still exists, there is a formal complaint process that students may initiate. All formal complaints must be put in writing using the official Student Complaint Form. These forms are available in hard copy in the assistant director for academics' office, as well as online (see bottom of this section).

A formal complaint is a written document that a student submits to the administration in order to seek resolution of a complaint that has failed to be resolved through an informal discussion with those involved in the issue (e.g., teacher).

When initiating a formal complaint, the following steps should be followed:

  1. Be sure you have first attempted to resolve the issue by speaking directly with the individual(s) or office(s) involved.
  2. Complete and submit Student Complaint Form to the assistant director for academics.
  3. When the complaint is received, it will be forwarded to the appropriate individual to review and address the issue.
  4. After your concern has been addressed, you will receive a copy of the complaint form documenting the review and resolution of the issue in question. The original form will be filed in the associate director's office.

Download a Student Complaint Form.

Virginia Tech Visitors Center

Conditional Admission Terms and Conditions

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The conditional admission program is designed to recruit promising undergraduate international students to Virginia Tech. Prospective undergraduate international students who meet regular admission requirements except English language may apply for conditional admission through the LCI. This is a selective program. Applicants are conditionally admitted based upon an evaluation of their high school records. Once in the program, students work toward meeting admission requirements while studying in the Intensive English course. When conditional requirements are met, they are transferred into the undergraduate program. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions determines semester of enrollment based upon space availability.

Program Eligibility ^sect

To be competitive for conditional admission, applicants should have a high school equivalent grade-point average of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale (88%) for engineering majors and a high school equivalent GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (75%) for other majors. Conditional admission is not available for industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, or architecture. Transfer students from U.S. or foreign universities or from U.S.-based English language programs are ineligible. Students must be 17 years old or older at the time they begin Intensive English studies.

Time Limit ^sect

Conditional offers become invalid 18 months after the date on offer letters issued, provided space is available for placement in the undergraduate program as of this date.

SAT, English Language, and English Course Requirements ^sect
  1. Conditional students must meet a minimum SAT math score of at least 650 for general engineering majors and 600 for all others. For entry into the fall and summer semesters, SAT scores must be received by April 15. For spring entry, SAT scores must be received by Nov. 1.
  2. Conditional students must achieve an Internet-based (iBT) TOEFL score of 80, 550 on the paper-based (PBT) TOEFL, or an IELTS score of 7.0 (with at least 7.0 on each individual section). For entry into the fall and summer semesters, scores must be received by April 15. For spring entry, scores must be received by Nov. 1.
  3. Conditionally admitted students must complete the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute's Intensive English course through Level 550 and attend this program for a minimum of one semester (two Intensive English terms). There are 10 English proficiency levels in the program, each requiring two months of study. Students are placed upon arrival into the appropriate level based on a placement exam. Levels may not be skipped. Students must maintain a "B" equivalent (75%) GPA. Offers of conditional admission will be revoked for students who do not successfully complete the LCI study requirement.
Spring Admission ^sect

Admission to Virginia Tech during the spring semester is subject to available space. Students admitted to Virginia Tech for this semester will be selected for available seats according to when they completed admission requirements and their performance in the Intensive English program (as measured by GPA and attendance).

Change of Majors ^sect

Majors declared upon application to the conditional admission program may not be changed until admissibility requirements are met.

Final LCI Transcripts ^sect

Final LCI transcripts demonstrating completion of Level 550 must be submitted before a formal acceptance letter will be issued by the Virginia Tech Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

Final High School Transcripts ^sect

Students who apply for conditional admission during their senior year of high school must submit final transcripts before a formal acceptance letter will be issued by the Virginia Tech Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Offers may be revoked for students who fail to maintain GPA requirements through graduation.

Students Not Meeting Requirements ^sect

Students who do not achieve conditional admission requirements, or do not meet submission dates for SAT, TOEFL, or IELTS testing, may choose to transfer to a Virginia community college upon meeting admission requirements at that institution. After that, students may transfer into Virginia Tech from that community college without taking the SAT, or qualifying English proficiency exam (TOEFL, IELTS), after one to two years of successful study. Transfer requirements apply (see Conditional offers are revoked upon transfer out of the LCI.

Denial of Admission ^sect

Virginia Tech reserves the right to deny admission to students who have been academically dismissed or suspended or to those convicted of a felony. Students have a continuing obligation to report to the Office of Student Conduct any arrests or conviction that occurs subsequent to signing their application form.

Students at laptop

Academic Information

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Level Placement ^sect

The LCI offers 10 levels divided into five tiers: Low Beginning, High Beginning, Intermediate, High Intermediate, and Advanced. Each tier can be completed in two terms.

Your placement exam score, writing sample and interview are used to determine your proficiency level, which in turn determines your classes. You must take four hours of class per day: two two-hour core classes. Optional electives are available each term. Electives meet for one hour per day, Monday through Thursday. Typical class schedules are noted below. Changes in electives must be finalized by the "drop/add" deadline published on the registration material.

If you disagree with your level placement, the associate director will consider your request for a change. Your Michigan placement test, essay and prior course grades (if relevant) will be used to assess your capability to do more advanced work.

Attendance ^sect

In order to make sufficient progress to matriculate into a university, students are expected to attend classes regularly, do all assigned homework and turn in assignments on time, participate in class activities and discussions, and otherwise actively engage in the learning experience. Failing to attend classes can have a significant impact on class grades. If you miss class, it is up to the teacher whether you will be permitted to make up missed work or tests.

Making Progress ^sect

Your teachers will discuss their grading policies at the beginning of each term and give you a syllabus, or course plan, that details how their classes are graded. In the middle of each term, you will receive a midterm report to document your progress to date.

A final proficiency report will be issued at the conclusion of each term. Results on the proficiency report determine whether you are eligible to advance to the next proficiency level. Full-time status and a "C" or higher in each core class are required for level advancement; grades below a C indicate that the skills at that level have not yet been mastered.

Proficiency Reports ^sect

The proficiency report issued at the conclusion of each term is a summary of grades earned in your classes. Percentage scores reported by your instructors are converted to letter grades and points according to the following scale. Points are weighted according to class hours and then averaged to determine your grade-point average (GPA). This process is repeated for every term you attend, and your GPA is adjusted to account for all courses taken. Results for all terms attended are summarized on your transcript, which is available upon request at the conclusion of your program.

Grade Description Percentage Range Points Earned
A Excellent 90-100 4
B Above average 80-89 3
C Average 70-79 2
D Unsatisfactory 60-69 1
F Failing Below 60 0
W Withdrawal N/A N/A
I Incomplete N/A N/A

LCI policies concerning withdrawals and incompletes are as follows:

W - Withdrawal
A grade of withdrawal (W) is given only in instances whereby a registered student has departed the school prior to the end of classes in a given term, and then only in serious and compelling cases where the cause of withdrawal is clearly beyond the student's control and the assignment of a final grade is not possible. Ordinarily, such cases would be limited to a death in the family, accident, or serious illness. A withdrawal constitutes total withdrawal from the LCI, and therefore a student who has withdrawn must re-apply for admission if he or she seeks to return. A grade of withdrawal may only be assigned by the LCI director.

I - Incomplete
An "incomplete" is assigned when a student has been doing satisfactory work in a course, but for unforeseen reasons is unable to complete course requirements within the required time frame for end-of-term grading. Such reasons must be judged appropriate by the associate director and the instructor. With this understanding, agreement must be reached between the instructor and the student as to when remaining course requirements must be satisfied, not to exceed 30 days from the end of the term. The instructor is responsible for assigning a final grade upon completion and evaluation of the work agreed upon. An incomplete mark (I) remaining on the student's record more than30 days will automatically become a failing grade (F) and will be counted as such in determining grade-point averages.

Probation and Expulsion ^sect

Students who fail their classes or do not meet attendance requirements in any given term will be placed on academic probation for the following term. Students on academic probation for a second consecutive term will be expelled at the conclusion of that term if they do not show evidence of progress.

Appropriate conduct is expected at all times. Improper behavior such as disrupting a class, interrupting others, speaking a language other than English in class, being rude to teachers or fellow students, and harassing others will not be tolerated. Instances of such conduct may be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including expulsion.

Written warnings are issued to students to document probationary status.

Plagiarism ^sect

Students are expected to follow the Virginia Tech Honor Pledge. This pledge states: "I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance on this assignment."

Plagiarism, or the act of representing another's written work as one's own, is considered academic misconduct in the United States. Plagiarism includes restating (paraphrasing) or quoting another person's writing in academic assignments, without full and clear acknowledgment of the author. Similarly, turning in an assignment completed by another person or a paper written by someone else is considered plagiarism.

A student who is found to have plagiarized another's work in an assignment may be failed for that assignment as a first offense. A repeated incident will result in more severe consequences ranging from failure of the course to expulsion from the program.

Studying in a Multicultural Classroom ^sect
LCI student and teacher

One of the new experiences you will have at the LCI is learning about the different classroom behaviors that are expected around the world. Some cultures are uncomfortable with silence and long response times. In such classrooms, rapid responses are valued. In other cultures long, comfortable silences lead to carefully thought out responses. The typical classroom in the U.S. falls somewhere in the middle.

Your teachers at the LCI expect every student to speak during every class because they recognize that conversation practice is a vitally important part of learning. Mistakes are part of the learning process. On the other hand, careful listening and self-monitoring are also very important. We do not want students to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Above all, we want our students to listen carefully and politely to each other. We do not require students to wait until they are called on by the teacher, but we do expect that they will not interrupt a speaker, break in before another student has finished thinking through a response, or take advantage of other students' politeness to dominate a class period.

Cultural sensitivity is important outside the classroom. Instructors and students both support the "English Only" policy because students who use their home languages in the LCI make their classmates feel isolated and uncomfortable and lose valuable opportunities to practice English.

Students in the U.S. are expected to arrive on time to every class and are expected to turn in every assignment. In some cultures, students collaborate on all their work. The American academic culture rewards the most competitive individuals for their personal achievements.

Conversation and Other Learning Opportunities ^sect

Your teachers recommend that you take advantage of other opportunities to help you improve your listening and speaking abilities. One example is a free conversation activity outside of class called "Conversation Partners." This program places interested students in contact with other Virginia Tech students and community members. More information on this program is available through the international student advisor. Computer-based training is integrated throughout the LCI's programs to support classroom teaching, address students' individual needs and provide instruction in special interest areas. Your teachers will provide many Web resources to support your learning needs. Also, the associate director maintains a library of easy-to-read books and newspapers, as well as CDs, for students to check out. Students are encouraged to read outside of class to develop reading fluency and vocabulary.

College Placement Information ^sect

The international student advisor maintains college guides and arranges university admissions information sessions for students. If attending an American university is your plan, we urge you prepare well in advance to have applications, transcripts, supporting documents and test scores ready on time for admissions deadlines. Getting into well-known American institutions is very competitive. Information sessions and advising provided by the LCI helps students understand the admissions process and present themselves well in their applications.

Tuition Payments, Schedule Adjustments, and Refunds ^sect

Tuition and other fees are invoiced after classes begin each term. Payment is due in full within five business days of invoicing date. Late fees will apply to overdue accounts.

No refunds are given for tuition payments. Tuition reductions are not given for late arrivals or early departures.

Students are responsible for making their own housing arrangements. The LCI does not collect housing costs.

TOEFL iBT and Institutional TOEFL Examinations ^sect

The LCI at the Blacksburg main campus is an authorized TOEFL iBT test center and gives the examination on a regular basis. LCI students who wish to take the examination may register online at This examination is recognized by most colleges and universities in the United States for admissions purposes.

Both the LCI in Blacksburg and the LCI in the National Capital Region offer a paper-based institutional TOEFL examination every term. Results of this examination are not reportable outside the university but may be used for admissions purposes at Virginia Tech.

Student Fees ^sect

As a student at the LCI, you are permitted to use campus libraries, most recreation facilities, and open computer laboratories. You must have a photo identification card from the Hokie Passport Office in the Student Services Building. You will need your Hokie ID card when you:

  • Ride the Blacksburg Transit buses
  • Use the Schiffert Health Center
  • Visit the War Memorial Gymnasium
  • Check books out of Newman Library
  • Add money to your card (for on-campus cash purchases and computer printing)
  • Cash checks

A technology fee is assessed each student every term for use and maintenance of the LCI computer laboratory. This fee also covers use of computer-assisted learning software. Full-time students must pay a fee each eight weeks to cover the cost of Schiffert Health Center fees and each 16 weeks to cover use of the Blacksburg Transit bus service.

Bad Weather Policy ^sect

Winter in Virginia is usually mild. Occasionally, heavy snow or freezing rain causes school delays or closings. LCI classes will generally be held as scheduled unless Virginia Tech is closed for the day. We recommend that you take the bus on snowy days as driving and walking may be hazardous.

Virginia Tech Rules for Computer Use ^sect

Access to computer systems and networks owned or operated by Virginia Tech impose certain responsibilities and obligations and is granted subject to university policies, and local, state, and federal laws. Acceptable use always is ethical, reflects academic honesty, and shows restraint in the consumption of shared resources. It demonstrates respect for intellectual property, ownership of data, system security mechanisms, and individuals' rights to privacy and to freedom from intimidation and harassment.

It is against the law to download music or video files without paying for them.

The university considers any violation of acceptable use principles or guidelines to be a serious offense and reserves the right to copy and examine any files or information resident on university systems allegedly related to unacceptable use, and to protect its network from systems and events that threaten or degrade operations. Violators are subject to disciplinary action as prescribed in the Honor System, the University Policies for Student Life, and employee handbooks. Offenders also may be prosecuted under applicable U.S. laws.

McComas Hall

Health and Safety

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Health and Accident Insurance ^sect

All holders of F-1 visas and their dependents are required to have university-approved medical insurance policies with at least $50,000 of coverage and a $10,000 repatriation benefit. The purpose of this insurance is to protect you in case of an accident or major illness. Hospital care is expensive in the United States, and there is no free care for international students.

You must present proof of insurance coverage to study at the LCI. If you do not have adequate insurance coverage at the time of registration, you are required to buy a policy. You must maintain health insurance for the whole time you are a student, including during breaks between sessions. An insurance company generally pays most medical costs in the event of an illness or accident. Married students must have appropriate family plan insurance. If there are specific questions about the university's health insurance plan, you should contact the Office of Student Medical Insurance at 540-231-6303.

Hospital and Medical Facilities ^sect

If an emergency arises, call 911 (1-6911 on campus). This number will connect you to a dispatcher, who will ask for your name, the address where you are, and the type of problem you are having. The dispatcher will then contact the police, the fire department, or an ambulance for you.

Blacksburg Main Campus
Schiffert Health Center
McComas Hall, Virginia Tech
895 Washington St. SW
Phone: 540-231-6444 (appointments)
(Bring your Hokie Passport)
In case of an after-hours emergency,
call 540-231-6444 and ask for the advice of
a nurse or a counselor.

Montgomery Regional Hospital
3700 South Main St., Blacksburg
Emergency Care Only
Phone: 540-951-1111

If you need nonemergency medical care at times when the Schiffert Health Center is closed, you must be seen by a private physician in the community. After-hours care is also available during weekday evenings and limited weekend hours at Carilion Family Medicine-Blacksburg. Call 540-951-0352 for information and location. All expenses and charges for medical care received outside the Schiffert Health Center are the student's responsibility.

National Capital Region (Fairfax)

There is a walk-in clinic, five minutes away from the National Capital Region center by car.

Fairfax Urgent Care
8191 Strawberry Lane, Suite 6
Falls Church, VA 22042

Inova Fairfax Hospital
3300 Gallows Road
Falls Church, VA 22042

Virginia Hospital Center
1701 N George Mason Drive
Arlington, VA 22205

It is best to check with the program assistant for assistance when you feel you need to see a doctor.

If you are experiencing a personal emotional problem or are a victim of sexual assault and need to speak with a counselor, please visit the Center for Family Services at the Northern Virginia Center. Fees range from $5 to $50 an hour.

Center for Family Services
Northern Virginia Center
7054 Haycock Road, Room 202
Falls Church, VA 22045
Falls Church Counseling
100 N. Washington St., Suite 238
Falls Church, VA 22046

Campus Health Services (Blacksburg campus only) ^sect
Virginia Tech Rescue Squad

All Intensive English program students pay a nonrefundable, mandatory health service fee for normal medical and nursing attention and counseling services provided by Schiffert Health Center, counseling services provided by Cook Counseling Center, and support for the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad. The health service fee covers the majority of services provided, including doctor appointments, most medications, and most laboratory procedures. However, some services are charged separately. If there is a charge, you must pay at the time of service with cash or check. Charges not paid at the time of service will be applied to your account.

Virginia Tech student insurance requires that you must see a doctor at the Schiffert Health Center before going to a hospital. If you are sick, you must go to the Schiffert Health Center first. It is best to check with the program assistant when you feel you need to see a doctor.

If you go to another doctor on your own or if the Schiffert Health Center sends you to any outside health care provider, you are responsible for all charges incurred there. Ask the provider if they are covered by your health insurance.

If you need to see a doctor after hours or on the weekend, call 540-231-6444. Indicate that you want to speak to an advice nurse. The answering service will take your name and phone number. You must stay off the phone so the nurse can call back. The call to the nurse can be used as a referral if you need to go to a specialist, to the Carilion After Hours clinic or to the emergency room. If you see an outside provider and are on the university's student health insurance plan, you will need to speak with the Office of Student Medical Insurance as soon as possible at 540-231-6226.

If you are experiencing a personal emotional problem or are a victim of sexual assault and need to speak with a counselor, call the Schiffert Health Center at 540-231-6444.

Smoking ^sect

You must be 18 years old to buy cigarettes in Virginia. In most parts of the United States, all public buildings are designated "smoke-free," meaning that you cannot smoke in any part of the building. Be prepared to see No Smoking signs in most offices, classrooms, restaurants, theaters, and stores.

The LCI does not allow smoking in or in front of any building. Please smoke only in the area of the picnic table. Dispose of your cigarettes in approved cigarette stations. Do not throw cigarettes on the ground or in the flowerbeds. The material in the flowerbeds will burn very easily.

Alcohol Usage in Virginia and at Virginia Tech ^sect

If you are under 21, it is illegal for you to drink alcohol. It is a violation of the law to purchase alcoholic drinks for someone under 21. It is also a violation to serve alcohol to anyone younger than 21 years old. It is illegal for anyone to be drunk in public or to drive while drunk.

It is a violation of university policy for your drunken behavior to disturb someone else's ability to sleep, study, or live peacefully. (Of course, this also means that other people's drunken behavior should not disturb your study or sleep.) It is a violation of university policy for you to hurt or endanger yourself or someone else through drinking. Excessive drinking also affects class attendance and ability to study.

Fragrance-free Practice ^sect

The LCI follows Virginia Tech fragrance-free practice regarding scented products. We ask that all LCI faculty and students cooperate in the effort to accommodate those university community members who may have respiratory problems or suffer allergic reactions to strongly scented products including perfume, lotion, hairspray, deodorant, and other personal care products.

Personal Safety ^sect
"Blue light" emergency call box on campus

Police can be contacted from a landline phone or cellphone by dialing 911, or from a campus phone by dialing 1-6911. For the safety of students on the Blacksburg main campus, blue-light safety phones directly connected to the campus 911 emergency operator are spread throughout the campus.

Students are encouraged to take measures to protect their personal safety. Virginia Tech publishes personal safety tips on the university website at

Following are some general recommendations:

  • Always use well-lit areas at night. Never take shortcuts through dark or isolated areas. If you think you are being followed, change direction and walk toward a populated area.
  • Avoid walking alone, especially at night. Escorts are available on the Blacksburg main campus for students who are alone after dark; call 1-SAFE (1-6411 from a campus phone) and Virginia Tech police will escort you to your dorm, car or a bus stop.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Report any unusual behavior to campus police.
  • Choose your companions well. Ensure that they are people you trust. Don't go anywhere with a stranger. Don't get into a stranger's car.
  • When using an ATM, be aware of anyone who does not appear to be there for banking purposes. When you enter your password, position yourself so others may not see the keypad. If someone is nearby who makes you feel uncomfortable, go to another ATM. Use discretion when counting any money withdrawn.
  • Avoid drinking too much, fighting, or associating with people who do these things. Never drink so much that your own judgment is weakened.
  • Women should use the same good judgment in the U.S. that they use at home. Don't go anywhere alcohol is served without a friend. Keep an eye on each other and go home together.

Weapons ^sect

Unauthorized possession, storage, or control of firearms, weapons, on university property is prohibited, including storing weapons in vehicles on campus as well as in the residence halls. Furthermore, ammunition cannot be stored in any residence halls on campus. (Note: Organizational weapons of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, approved by the commandant, are not prohibited by this policy).

Weapons: Firearms are defined as any gun, rifle, pistol, or handgun designed to fire any projectile including but not limited to bullets, pellets, or shots, regardless of the propellant used. Ammunition is defined as any material intended for use in a firearm, capable of being projected by a weapon and/or makes the weapon operational. Other weapons are defined as any instrument of combat or any object not designed as an instrument of combat but carried for the purpose of inflicting or threatening bodily injury. Examples include but are not limited to knives with fixed blades or pocket knives with blades longer than 4 inches, razors, metal knuckles, blackjacks, hatchets, bows and arrows, nun chukkas, foils, stun weapons, or any explosive or incendiary device. Possession of realistic replicas of weapons on campus is prohibited. Stun weapons is defined as any device that emits a momentary or pulsed output, which is electrical, audible, optical or electromagnetic in nature and which is designed to temporarily incapacitate a person. Students who store weapons in residence hall rooms, who brandish weapons, or who use a weapon in a reckless manner may face disciplinary action, which may include suspension or dismissal from the university. Students who store ammunition in the residence halls will face disciplinary action. Exceptions to possessing weapons may be made in the case of university functions or activities and for educational exhibitions or displays. Exceptions must be approved by the Vice President for Administrative Services, in consultation with appropriate university offices. This policy does not prohibit the possession of firearms by persons, such as law enforcement officers, who are authorized by law to do so in the performance of their duties. A weapons storage program is available. The storage program applies to the weapon and ammunition. Ammunition that will not be stored includes Air Soft projectiles, Nerf gun projectiles, and CO2 Cartridges. Interested persons should contact the Virginia Tech Police Department (Sterrett Facility Complex, 231-6411.)

Excursions and Activities ^sect

Students are responsible for maintaining the health insurance needed to cover participation in LCI-sponsored activities. They are also responsible for wearing and using appropriate safety equipment for activities in which they participate. The LCI reserves the right to restrict participation in certain activities to students with sufficient English proficiency to understand safety instructions.

Students assume all responsibility for any bodily injuries and property damage arising out of participation in school-sponsored activities.

While on school-sponsored trips, students are advised to carry the phone number of both their trip leader and LCI staff in case they become separated from their group.

Fire Procedures ^sect

If there is a fire:

  • SOUND THE ALARM: If you discover or suspect a fire, sound the building fire alarm. If there is no alarm in the building, warn other occupants by knocking on doors and shouting "fire" as you leave the building.
  • LEAVE THE BUILDING: Try to rescue others only if you can do so safely. Move away from the building and stay out of the way of the fire department. Do not go back into the building until the fire department says it is safe to do so.
  • CALL THE FIRE/POLICE DEPARTMENT - 911: Dial 911 or use an "emergency" phone. Give as much information as possible to the 911 operator.

Assist anyone who may be in danger, if you can do so without endangering yourself. Students with disabilities may need assistance. Exit the building in a calm manner using the stairs; never use elevators. Maintain a safe distance from the building, about 50 feet, to allow ample room for emergency personnel and equipment to access the building. Remain outside the building, even if the alarm is silenced, until the LCI staff allow you to re-enter.

You may attempt to put out the fire if you have been trained in and are comfortable with using a fire extinguisher. Otherwise, immediately evacuate.


Evacuate via the nearest stairwell or street-level exit. After you have left the building, go to your predesignated assembly point and remain there. At the assembly point, supervisors account for personnel and report any that are unaccounted for to the emergency coordinator, Virginia Tech Police, and/or the fire department.

The assembly point for the LCI campus in Blacksburg is the Rite Aid parking lot.

The assembly point for the Northern Virginia Center will be determined by the LCI staff.

Weather Emergencies ^sect

Weather emergencies can pose serious threats to students and university personnel. When severe weather occurs prior to the beginning of the normal workday, Virginia Tech may delay classes or close. Listen to local TV and radio news broadcasts for this information.

At the LCI main campus, weather closures and delays will be posted on the university website at

At the LCI National Capital location, weather announcements will be posted at

Storms ^sect

During the fall and spring, severe weather emergencies, such as tornadoes, occur more frequently. Listening to a small, battery-operated radio is a a good way to stay informed of such conditions. Follow these recommendations if severe thunderstorms, threatening weather or tornadoes occur:

  • If weather conditions appear threatening, listen for an alert warning through commercial radio, weather radio, or local television.
  • If you are outside, move indoors as soon as possible.
  • Move to an interior hallway or basement if time allows, or take shelter under a desk or heavy table and cover your head.
  • Avoid upper floors, large glassed areas, and windows.
  • Stay out of parking areas, gymnasiums, and auditoriums.
  • Stay away from electrical service panels and appliances, including computers.
  • Use telephones for emergency calls only.
  • Stay calm and alert.

Northern Virginia traffic


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Transportation Options ^sect
Blacksburg Transit bus

At the Blacksburg campus, students are encouraged to ride the Blacksburg Transit bus system. A bus pass is provided to LCI students each term as part of their student activities fee. The bus system in Blacksburg is extensive and meets most area transportation needs for Virginia Tech students. Bus passes may be obtained at the LCI office. Students who have bicycles should register them with the campus police and keep them locked when not in use.

The Northern Virginia Center is located near the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro subway stop, and is easily reachable on the Washington Metro Orange Line. For more information about the Metro schedule and map see

Parking ^sect

Parking at the LCI at the Virginia Tech main campus is free and does not require a permit. However, students are asked to park only in public parking areas. Do not park on the side of the building facing the day care (children's school) center or in the parking lot in front of the day care center. This space is reserved for building visitors. Do not park in Firehouse/Verizon or Rite Aid lots, or in front of other small shops or restaurants near the school. Do not park in parking spaces for disabled people (marked with a painted wheelchair). You may park in any of the other large parking lots on the same side of the street as the LCI, in the large parking lot in front of the mall across the street from the LCI, or in the parking garage next to the mall. Parking in the wrong spaces or lots may result in your car being towed or ticketed.

Limited metered parking is available on campus in front of Burruss Hall (the main campus administration building) and the campus bookstore. Other parking on campus does require permit. Campus parking rules are strictly enforced. More information on campus parking is available at

There are several parking options for students at the Northern Virginia Center. More information is available from LCI staff.

Obtaining a Virginia Driver's License ^sect

A valid driver's license is needed for operating a motor vehicle. A driver's license is also a form of identification. Information on obtaining a driver's license can be found on the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles website at

Virginia does not officially recognize the International Driver's License, although it does recognize your home country's driver's license for 30 days. If you already have a valid driver's license from another state in the U.S. and are currently enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited university, you do not need to get a Virginia driver's license.

Applicants for a driver's license must be at least 16 years old and pass a three-part exam designed to test knowledge, vision, and driving skills. The Virginia Driver's Manual and identification requirements for the driving exam may be found on the DMV website. You may apply for a driver's license at any DMV office. The closest are:

Blacksburg Main Campus National Capital Region Location

Department of Motor Vehicles
385 Arbor Drive
Christiansburg, VA 24073
Phone: 540-381-7171

Department of Motor Vehicles
1968 Gallows Road
Vienna, VA 22182-3909
Phone: 866-368-5463
or 800-435-5137

For international students, a driver's license will expire on the same date that immigration forms (I-20, DS-2019) expire.

Purchasing a Car ^sect

Students who want to purchase a car must have a valid driver's license. If you decide to purchase a car, you need to register it at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and show proof of automobile insurance, or pay the uninsured motorist fee. All vehicles must pass yearly safety and emissions inspections.

Renting a Car ^sect

Cars may be rented for trips on weekends or during school breaks. You may rent a car if you are over 21 and have a valid driver's license and a major credit card. Rental companies charge more for drivers under 25 and without U.S. auto insurance. There are various car rental companies in Blacksburg and Northern Virginia, including:

Blacksburg National Capital Region
Hertz Car Rental
109 Clay Street Southwest

Enterprise Rent A Car
1601 Tech Center Drive

Airport car rentals:
Roanoke Regional Airport
Hertz Car Rental
1121 West Broad St.
Falls Church

Enterprise Rent A Car
540 S Washington St.
Falls Church

Airport car rentals:
Dulles International Airport

Driving Regulations ^sect

When driving, you are responsible for knowing and following all the rules. Driving regulations are strictly enforced by police. The Virginia Driver's Manual will have the information you need to know for driving a car. A manual can be downloaded at

Some examples of rules you should be immediately aware of while driving in Virginia:

  • Obey the speed limit. Virginia laws are very strict with respect to speeding. Large fines may be imposed for driving modestly above the speed limit. Criminal penalties may be imposed for speeding in excess of 80 miles per hour or 20 miles over the speed limit.
  • Observe crosswalks. People walking on foot always have the right of way. Stop at crosswalks (striped areas designed for crossing the road) whenever a person is on the crosswalk.
  • Never drive after drinking alcohol. Driving under the influence may result in arrest, a large fine, and revocation of your driver's license.
  • Stop for school buses. When school buses stop to pick up schoolchildren, cars are required to stop as well and to remain stopped until all children are clear and the bus moves again. If you are traveling on the opposite side of a divided highway separated by a physical barrier or unpaved median area, you are not required to stop.
  • Stop for emergency vehicles. When police, fire, and rescue vehicles or ambulances approach you using a siren, flashing light, or both, you must immediately pull over to the right edge of the road and stop until the emergency vehicle has passed.
  • Remain in your car if stopped by police. If you are pulled over by police for any reason, do not leave your car. Leaving your car will be unexpected and may be seen as a sign of danger. Stay in your car with your hands on the wheel until the officer completes his or her business.
  • Buckle your seat belt. You may be assessed a fine if you are stopped while not wearing a seat belt. A driver is also responsible for making sure that passengers and children are properly secured.


Housing and Food

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Students are expected to find their own housing accommodations. The LCI cannot guarantee housing on campus or make housing arrangements ahead of time. The LCI does have student aides to help you locate housing and furniture upon arrival at the Institute.

On-Campus Housing at Virginia Tech Blacksburg ^sect

Housing on the main Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg is subject to availability. Rooms are generally available during the spring and summer semesters. Accommodation prices vary by building and type of room. Rates are published on the Web at

Residence hall rooms contain basic furniture such as beds, desks, dressers, and cabinets. Students provide their own sheets, towels, and blankets. Wait until you arrive to purchase them because the beds are an unusual "long twin" size. Most rooms have a sink. Some buildings have bathrooms shared by multiple residents, others have private bathrooms shared by roommates. All residence halls contain limited cooking facilities.

Residents on campus are required to purchase a meal plan of at least 15 meals per week. A number of dining facilities and dining plan options are available. Menus are diverse and include vegetarian, Kosher, Halal, and low-fat selections.

Homestay ^sect
Blacksburg Homestay

Homestay, or accommodation with an American host, is available at both Blacksburg and the National Capital Region locations. Homestay placement may be arranged in advance to be available upon arrival. A host may be a "traditional" American family with a mother, father, and children or a couple without children. The host may also be single, with or without children.

Homestay accommodation consists of a private furnished room (single occupancy) in a home. Furnishing, at a minimum, includes a bed, desk, and closet. Sheets, a blanket, a pillow, and towels are supplied, and you will have access to laundry facilities. Most homestay homes will be within easy access of public transportation and will be within a reasonable commuting distance of the LCI (30 minutes in Blacksburg, 60 minutes in the National Capital Region).

"Rules of the family" apply to homestay guests. Smoking, for example, may be prohibited in some homes. If you are a smoker, you could, of course, smoke outside the home.

Americans commonly keep cats and dogs as pets. These animals often live in the house. Indicate to your homestay coordinator if you do not wish to be in a home with a pet.

For information on homestay accommodation, please see:

Blacksburg National Capital Region
Blacksburg Homestay Just Like Home

Apartment Housing in Blacksburg ^sect

Most Virginia Tech students live off campus. Students who bring their families are required to live off campus. An apartment — usually with one or more bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom — is normally rented by a family or shared by two or more students. Many apartments are within walking distance of LCI locations or are on the town bus routes.

Apartments usually include cooking facilities. Bathrooms are usually shared among apartment-mates. Rent may or may not include utilities such as water and sewer or trash collection. Gas and/or electric services may also be a separate expense; these costs can be significant during winter months for heating. Students are advised to ask landlords about these extra costs before renting.

Rent for single rooms begins at $300 per month, not including utilities or furniture. One-bedroom apartments, including utilities, cost an average of $600 per month. Two-bedroom apartments cost on average $600 to $700 per month. Four bedroom suites are about $1,600 per month.

Almost all apartments come unfurnished. Furnishings are generally acquired from secondhand stores and private "yard sales," from rental companies, or from local stores.

Occupants must sign a lease, or housing contract, usually for 12 months. Shorter lease terms are difficult to find in August but may be available in January and May. Once signed, a lease cannot be broken or changed. When a lease is signed, a security deposit for potential damages is usually required. This can range from half a month's rent to a full month's rent. Please plan for this deposit when making your budget.

Following are some links to assist in finding apartments in the Blacksburg area:

Virginia Tech Off-Campus Housing Service
Foxridge Apartment Homes
Terrace View Apartments
Chasewood Downs Apartments
Hunters Ridge/Collegiate Suites/Maple Ridge

Apartment Housing in and Around Fairfax ^sect

Apartments with one or more bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom are available in Fairfax or the surrounding area; some students choose to live in Washington, D.C. Many apartments are within walking distance of the center or accessible via bus or Metro.

Rent in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., will cost at least $900-$1,200 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. If you wish to rent an apartment, we recommend that you stay at a hotel for several days to visit apartments in person before choosing one.

Apartments may be furnished or unfurnished and may include cooking facilities. Rent may or may not include utilities such as water and sewer or trash collection. Gas and/or electric services and telephone are usually separate expenses; these costs can be significant.

Occupants must sign a lease or housing contract, usually for 12 months. Make sure not to sign a one-year lease if you do not plan to stay a full year. Once signed, a lease cannot be broken or changed.

When a lease is signed, a security deposit for potential damages is required. This can range from one-half to one full month’s rent. Please plan for this deposit in your budget.

Furnishings for apartments may be acquired from secondhand stores and private “yard sales,” from rental companies, or from local stores.

Craigslist classifieds for Northern Virginia is a useful website for locating housing and furnishings for apartments. Check to see whether the seller offers delivery before making a purchase:

A list of apartments for rent in the Merrifield area of Fairfax can be found at Merrifield-Apartments.

Short-term apartment rentals are available through STP Housing Solutions at

International Student House in Washington, D.C., is a residence for students over 21 years old who are committed to promoting their mission of “tolerance, respect, and friendship among individuals from around the world.” You must submit an application and essay to qualify for open units. Information is available at

For additional options on apartment housing, please see:

Short-Term Housing in and Around Fairfax ^sect

Short-term apartment rentals are available through STP Housing Solutions and Oakwood Worldwide:

STP Housing Solutions
10347 Democracy Lane
Fairfax, VA 22030
Oakwood Apartments
501 Roosevelt Blvd.
Falls Church, VA 22044-3114

Finding Familiar Foods ^sect

If you live off campus, you may purchase a meal plan or cook for yourself. The following stores in Blacksburg and Northern Virginia carry national foods:

Blacksburg National Capital Region
903 University City Blvd.

Oasis World Foods*
1411 South Main Street

Global Foods*
890 Kabrich St.

Annie Kay's Whole Foods
1531 South Main Street
Grand Mart International Food Store
6326 Arlington Blvd.
Falls Church

Eden Center
6763 Wilson Blvd.
Falls Church

The Lebanese Butcher*
113 E Annandale Rd.
Falls Church

Halalco Supermarket*
155 Hillwood Ave.
Falls Church
*Kosher and/or Halal selections

Burruss Hall with American flag

Living in the U.S.

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Culture Shock ^sect

Culture shock is part of the process of learning a new culture that is called "cultural adaptation." Most people experience some discomfort before they are able to function well in a new setting. This discomfort is the "culture shock" stage of the adaptation process. This is a very normal process that nearly everyone goes through.

Just as you will bring with you to the United States clothes and other personal items, you will also carry invisible "cultural baggage" when you travel. That baggage is not as obvious as the items in your suitcases, but it will play a major role in your adaptation abroad. Cultural baggage contains the values that are important to you and the patterns of behavior that are customary in your culture. The more you know about your personal values and how they are derived from your culture, the better prepared you will be to see and understand the cultural differences you will encounter abroad. VTLCI students suggest:

  • The best thing to do is to make American friends.
  • Learn about the American culture and try to understand the society.
  • If you find people from your country you can make friends with them.
  • Join a social or sports club.
  • Participate in activities and do not stay home alone.
Respecting the Elderly ^sect

Americans show respect for the elderly very differently from many other societies. Sometimes this causes international visitors to believe that Americans do not respect the elderly. However, when the young talk with the old they are usually formal and polite. For example, the young may allow the elderly to talk first, and longer. The young may listen to older people more than they speak, but they are usually able to express their opinions and make their own decisions.

In the U.S., people are seen as equal, regardless of their age. Americans may not always accept advice from their elders, especially about choice of friends, studies, jobs, and marriage partners. You may find it strange that Americans ask why you listen to your elders' advice instead of following your own heart. Americans tend to value personal independence more than deference to family elders, and parents are proud to have independent, self-supporting children.

Eye Contact ^sect

Eye contact is different in the United States from certain other cultures. In the U.S., people expect you to look directly into a person's eyes most of the time when you are speaking with him or her. (Women may face each other directly. Men may be side by side.) This means that you respect him or her, and you are interested in what he or she says. On the contrary, in some other cultures it is impolite to look directly and constantly in a person's eyes.

Personal Space ^sect

Personal space means the distance people need to keep between each other in order to feel comfortable while they talk with each other. This distance varies from one society to another. For example, in the U.S. and Asia, the suitable distance would be an arm's length or one meter. In other areas of the world, such as Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, the distance is less.

Physical Contact ^sect

Some behaviors that are perfectly acceptable in other countries are either disliked, disrespected, or against the law in the U.S. Inappropriate behaviors may include:

  • Sending or displaying sexually suggestive notes, letters, posters, emails or other written communication.
  • Making sexually suggestive comments about a person's clothing, body, or other aspects of personal appearance.
  • Making sexually suggestive, insulting sounds, such as whistles.
  • Making jokes about men or women that insult their gender as a whole.
  • Making sexually suggestive or obscene gestures.
  • Making unwelcome sexual advances, propositions, pressure for sexual activity, requests for sexual favors.
  • Inappropriate, unwelcome touching or brushing against someone else's body.
  • Inappropriate physical exposure.
  • Unwelcome attempted or actual kissing or fondling.
  • Sexual assault or physical contact of a sexual nature against a person's will or without consent.
  • Sexual intercourse where the coercion is implied or threatened.
  • Any action taken against a person in retaliation for reporting questionable behavior.
Student-Professor Relations ^sect

Professors in the U.S. are generally friendly, and communication with them is easy. Although U.S. faculty members may seem to be informal, their expectations are high. Teachers expect students to assume responsibility for their own learning.

  • Frequent examinations and written assignments are normal. Be prepared to discuss your homework in class or to be quizzed on it.
  • Know each of your instructor's requirements and procedures. Most of these will be explained in their course syllabus.
  • Always come to class prepared. Review your notes and complete your homework. It is your responsibility to keep track of your assignments.
  • Participate in class.
  • Always do your own work. Turning in someone else's work as your own is considered cheating and punished severely.
  • Come to class on time. If you must come late, sit quietly in an empty seat near the door.
  • Attend each of your classes. If you must miss a class, tell your instructor why and arrange to find out what you missed. Turn in all assignments due during your absence.
  • Take advantage of your instructors' office hours and/or communicate with them by email when you have questions. Make use of departmental help sessions and services.