Frequently Asked Questions
Below, find some of the questions that international students ask most often. If you don't see an answer to your question, get in touch with:
The Office of Global Engagement
What is the academic year calendar?
The school year at American universities is usually divided into two semesters. The fall semester at Centenary starts in late August and ends in December; the spring semester begins in January and ends in May. The final exams in mid-December mark the end of the fall semester. There is then a three-to-four-week-long break that lasts until January when spring classes begin. The end of the spring semester marks the end of the academic year, though some students may choose to enroll in summer courses, which are shorter and more intensive than the regular semester courses.
At Centenary, there are several short and long breaks during the academic year. During the fall, students have a few days off for Fall Break (mid October) and several days off for Thanksgiving (fourth week of November). In the spring semester, no classes are held during Mardi Gras break (February or March) or Easter break (March or April). In addition, there may be a few single day holidays throughout the academic year, such as Labor Day, the first Monday in September.
American students usually choose to go home or travel during longer breaks, and many international students visit their newly-made friends at their homes or plan trips to other parts of Louisiana and the United States. Mardi Gras break is an especially good time to travel, as it is a Louisiana tradition and most schools in the country are in session at this time – so you can find really good deals on plane tickets and hotels.
View the Centenary Academic Calendar for the current or upcoming semesters.
What is the general design of the US educational system?
Education is compulsory in the United States, though the ages when children and teenagers are required to attend school vary by state. In the first years of a child’s life, he/she is often sent to a nursery school and/or kindergarten, which are optional. A child enters his/her first year of compulsory schooling around 5-6 years of age – when he/she enters 1st Grade. Grades 1st through 5th are called elementary school, 6th through 8th are middle school, and 9th through 12th are named high school. Elementary and middle school are together referred to as primary education, while high school is considered as secondary education.
An American teenager usually finishes high school between 17-18 years of age when he/she has the option of pursuing post-secondary (undergraduate) education at a college or university. However, before applying to a post-secondary institution, high school students usually take one or more standardized tests, depending on their post-secondary plans. The most common tests are the SAT and the ACT, which assess one’s verbal and mathematical skills, and which are required for admission at most Colleges and Universities in the United States. Some schools also require two or three SAT Subject Tests (SAT IIs). Centenary requires international applicants whose native language is English to submit either their SAT or ACT scores (or both). Students whose native language is not English are only required to submit their TOEFL or IELTS scores, which assess language proficiency. However, all international students are encouraged to take the SAT or the ACT, as these test scores may increase their scholarship chances.
After taking one of the required tests, a student can then start applying to colleges and universities. The terms college and university are often used interchangeably, as both offer the same type of Baccalaureate or Bachelor degrees, both can be funded either privately or publicly, and each normally takes four years to complete (however, vocational or community/junior colleges may take 2-3 years to complete, resulting in an Associate degree). In general, colleges have fewer students and smaller class sizes, while Universities tend to be larger, more research-oriented, and usually offer graduate programs.
Both high school and undergraduate study are divided into four levels: students the first year of study are referred to as First-Year students (Freshmen), in the second as Sophomores, in the third as Juniors, and in the fourth as Seniors.
As an undergraduate, a student takes about 4-6 courses every semester. A large portion of these classes are in the student’s major (field of concentration), such as Biology, English or Economics; a student can have more than one major and can choose to do a minor (a secondary and less intensive field of concentration). In addition, all degree-seeking students at Centenary must fulfill several Core class requirements, which are an important part of our liberal arts education. Besides major and Core requirements, students can also take a number of electives – classes from any field that interests them.
With the completion of undergraduate-level work, a student receives a Bachelor’s Degree – usually, a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.). Currently, Centenary offers 43 majors and minors, as well as several professional programs, which can lead to Bachelor’s Degrees.
After receiving an undergraduate diploma, a student can continue his/her studies at the graduate level, which can take anywhere from 4 to 7 or more years. However, most graduate programs require that the student first submit his/her results from a standardized test: the most common test is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Depending on one’s career plans, the student might have to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), or the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Graduate programs are more field-specific and research-based than undergraduate programs. They lead to a more advanced degree, such as a Master’s degree – Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA) and others – and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), as well as other doctoral degrees, like Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), etc. Other professional programs require that the student do an apprenticeship or take a standardized examination.
Centenary offers three graduate degrees, but financial aid opportunities for international students exist only at the undergraduate level.
How should I prepare to depart my home country?
Before you arrive in Shreveport, you should make sure you’ve packed all the essentials, as well as things that will help you adjust to life in the United States.
Passport: Be sure that your passport will be valid for at least six months beyond your anticipated return home. If not, renew it.
SEVIS: After receiving the Form I-20, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee at www.fmjfee.com.
Visa: Schedule your F-1 visa interview at the appropriate U.S. consulate or embassy as soon as you have received your acceptance letter and I-20.
I-94: Besides your passport and visa, be sure to bring your SEVIS fee payment receipt. The day of your arrival, if the Customs and Border Patrol officer does not give you an I-94, ask for it. Above all, make sure you have all your IDs (passport, driving license, visa, etc.), money, Centenary documents (acceptance letter, etc.) and any medications you might be taking. You will also have to bring your own bedding and towels, or be prepared to purchase these items upon arrival in Shreveport.
Whether you arrive in August or in January, bring both light clothes and warmer items. While summer (May-September) in Shreveport can be very hot and humid, winter (November-February) can be rather chilly, especially at night. The coldest month is January with the average night temperature of 36.5°F (2.5°C) and the warmest month is August, with the average daytime temperature of 93.4°F (34.1°C). It rarely snows in Shreveport in the winter, but the roads may get icy and there are frequent hail storms and strong wind. Rain boots and an umbrella are highly recommended – the driest month, August, has an average of 2.71 inches (6.88 centimeters) of precipitation, and the wettest month, May, has 5.25 inches (13.33 centimeters).
Try to pack lightly, but efficiently. Most international students come back home with a lot of purchased clothes, gifts and souvenirs, and they often decide to leave some of their clothes behind in Shreveport because they don’t have enough room in their suitcases. The dress code at Centenary is pretty causal – students usually wear jeans and T-shirts in class – but it’s good to have at least one or two sets of nicer clothes when you and your friends go out. Also, keep in mind that clothes and shoes can be very affordable in the United States, and you will most likely take some new items home with you.
What happens when I arrive in Shreveport?
Moving from one country to another can be difficult and we at the Intercultural Engagement Office strive to make this transition a little easier for you.
When you arrive in Shreveport, employees or volunteers will pick you up from the airport and bring you back to campus. We will show you your room, help you move in, and take you on a brief campus tour so that you can start getting acquainted with the area.
If you need to go grocery shopping or get other essentials right after you arrive, there are several stores and restaurants within walking distance of campus that should have anything you might immediately need (see map below). Our employees and volunteers should also be able to give you a ride to a bigger department store or to anywhere that you need to go, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!
During your first days at Centenary, you will attend International Student Orientation. The Intercultural Engagement Director and Assistant Director, as well as other college representatives will explain to you the academic, legal, safety and other essential policies while you’re at Centenary. You will also register for your courses, receive a mail box number, learn how to use your Centenary e-mail account and get to know the area as well as other students.
See a map of the area.
What are life and academics about at Centenary?
Wherever you may come from, you should be prepared that life in the United States will most likely be very different from the life you’re used to. It won’t be worse or better – just different.
As far as academics are concerned, you will probably find the Centenary campus very small. As a private liberal arts college, Centenary is a tight-knit community of about 900 undergraduates and the majority of students live on campus. It rarely takes more than five minutes to get from your room to your classes or to other places on campus, which is great when you like to sleep in in the mornings.
Students usually take four to six classes every semester. These classes meet one to three times a week, from an hour up to three hours at a time. At the beginning of the semester, the professor will usually hand out a syllabus with all the assignments, tests and readings for the rest of the semester. The American class format is such that you will have multiple exams, essays and/or presentations throughout the semester – however, the type and frequency of these evaluations will depend on your professor. Some professors will require their students to do a lot of reading and not as much writing; others will want their students to submit several smaller essays or one big research project during the course. Some courses will be lecture-style, yet others will rely on student participation through discussions or open forums.
Depending on the class, you may be allowed to have several unexcused absences throughout the semester. Most – but not all – professors at Centenary take attendance at the beginning of each class, so skipping too many sessions is not a good idea. Tardiness policies vary: some teachers will allow students in five or ten minutes into the course, while others will lock the door the minute the course has started. These policies are usually covered on the first day of class by each of your professors.
Oh, and just a note: university professors in the United States are commonly addressed as “Dr. (insert name),” for example Dr. Smith, Dr. Johnson, etc. ("Dr." is the abbreviation for Doctor.) Unless your professor informs you that you may call him/her something else, you should always address them as Dr. (and if you don’t feel comfortable calling them by the other name, it’s always appropriate to call them Dr.).
As a Centenary student, your schedule will be rather busy with classes and extracurricular activities. Our campus may be small, but there are dozens of student organizations and there is always something happening: movie showings, concerts, comedians, cultural events, sports games, lectures, game shows, which are usually free and open to all Centenary students. There may also be special activities held off-campus, like free movie events at the Robinson Film Center and special student nights at the Boardwalk. Try to get involved in as much as you can (while doing well in your classes) and you’ll make many great friends and lasting memories!
What immigration issues should I always remember?
As an international student with an F-1 visa, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind:
You must always be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours each semester to remain in lawful permanent status. If you feel you need to drop a course, please speak with your professor AND with the staff of Global Engagement before dropping any courses. Failure to do so would jeopardize your legal status.
Unless you have been in lawful status for at least one academic year, you are ineligible to complete an internship.
Contact the staff of Intercultural Engagement within 10 days if you:
change your major or minor
move to a new address
decide to extend your program of studies beyond the official date listed on your I-20
shorten your program of studies to end before the official date listed on your I-20
have a substantial change in financial circumstances
decide to withdraw and/or transfer to another institution.
What religious activities are available?
For many students, the Centenary experience would not be complete without their active involvement in Religious Life. Whether you are attending worship services, seeking fellowship opportunities in various groups or hanging out at the Religious Life Center on the weekends, Centenary's religious community strives to create a gracious and welcoming environment where spirituality is nurtured in the presence of supportive peers.
It is estimated that about 25% of Centenary students are United Methodist. Baptists also represent approximately 25%, and the remaining are either affiliated elsewhere or do not claim a specific faith tradition. Among others, Centenary students represent Jewish, Mormon, Greek Orthodox, Islamic and various Protestant backgrounds. Myriad spiritual beliefs are held by the student body and many seeking students continue an exploration of personal faith throughout their college years.
To learn more, visit Religious Life.
What are the US time zones?
The United States uses nine standard time zones. From east to west they are Atlantic Standard Time (AST), Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST), Pacific Standard Time (PST), Alaskan Standard Time (AKST), Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HST), Samoa standard time (UTC-11) and Chamorro Standard Time (UTC+10).
Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 a.m. local time on the second Sunday in March. On the first Sunday in November areas on Daylight Saving Time return to Standard Time at 2:00 a.m. The names in each time zone change along with Daylight Saving Time. Eastern Standard Time (EST) becomes Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), and so forth. Arizona, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa do not observe Daylight Saving Time.
Louisiana is in the Central Time Zone.
To check the current time anywhere in the United States, click here.
Can I work or serve an internship?
Students who have an F-1 visa can work up to 20 hours per week on campus during academic periods and over 20 hours per week during academic breaks. However, off-campus employment is only permitted once the student has applied for and been granted severe economic necessity status or will intern with an international organization. Students may not apply for this status during their first full year of study.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an employment opportunity for international students with an F-1 visa enrolled in a program for at least one year in lawful status. This part-time or full-time employment may be an internship, cooperative education job or any other work experience that is either required for the chosen degree and/or for which academic credit is awarded. The number of times a student can complete CPT is unlimited. However, completing 12 months of full time (more than 20 hours per week) of CPT while enrolled makes the student ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) following program completion.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment opportunity available to international students with an F-1 visa who have been pursuing their degrees for at least one academic year in lawful status. OPT permits students to work in their field of study in the United States for up to one year without having to switch to a work visa. It may be completed during or after the program of studies. Most students pursue this option after program completion.
Where do I buy or borrow textbooks?
Textbooks in the United States can be quite expensive and you will most likely need several reading sources for each of your classes. At Centenary, your professor will hand out a syllabus on the first course day of the semester which usually outlines the assignments for the entire semester as well as lists the books you will need. Students can purchase most, if not all, of the required materials at the Centenary Bookstore, though some choose to buy their books at other stores or online.
At the end of each semester, the Centenary Bookstore holds a week-long textbook buy-back, when students can sell some of their materials back, though at a lower amount than the original price.
In addition, the Magale Library boasts an extensive collection of texts and other files that may be helpful in your studies. With more than 203,784 catalogued volumes, subscriptions to over 46,396 online periodicals, 241 databases and 400 print journals – as well as a large collection of CD-ROMs, VHS video tapes, DVD feature films and documentaries – the library is a great resource center that is free to all Centenary students. Equipped with 130 computers for student use, high-speed Internet access, wireless network, study rooms, and a multimedia production center, the library employs expert and experienced public access staff offering about 100 hours of service weekly. Moreover, the Interlibrary Loan Program ensures the receipt of most books and articles in a timely matter.
How will I send and receive mail?
Centenary has an on campus post office, open Monday – Friday, with mail delivered twice a day. Box numbers and combinations are issued to all full-time undergraduates, including international students, and each student keeps the same mail box during his/her years at Centenary.
Although the mail boxes themselves are small, the post office has a large storage room that holds bigger parcels until they are picked up by students. When you receive a large item, you will find a colored slip of paper in your mailbox that you will need to present at the main post office window in order to pick up your package.
Who do I contact if I have health or safety concerns?
Centenary offers on campus health services to all of its students. The Health and Counseling Services Office is open daily and the Department of Public Safety can be contacted in case of an after hours emergency.
The Health Services Office provides students with over-the-counter medications (drugs that are available without a prescription) and first aid, assists with medical and dental referrals, as well as answers insurance questions.
All exchange and degree-seeking students are required to purchase Centenary’s student health insurance plan. The cost is approximately $385 per year. This policy provides benefits for doctor visits and emergency services which can be very expensive in the United States. You may have coverage under a policy from your home country, but the US health care provider will normally not recognize it. Therefore, you will have to apply for reimbursement, unless you have US health insurance.
The Counseling Services Office provides short-term, confidential counseling to students enrolled at Centenary who may be having trouble with stress management, suffering from depression, loneliness, and seeking help with other issues. In addition, Counseling Survives offers group counseling, alcohol and drug abuse assistance, and assists students with disabilities.
Campus safety is maintained by the Centenary College Department of Public Safety (DPS), which employs state certified police officers. DPS has officers on duty 24 hours a day every day of the year, and its officers patrol all areas of campus, including residence halls, Greek Houses, parking lots, and contiguous streets. A DPS officer can be reached at all times by dialing the extension 5000 from any campus phone (or 318-869-5000 from a non-campus phone). An officer can also be contacted by pressing the red button on any of the emergency call boxes (look for the boxes with blue lights) located throughout campus.