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Santa Clara University

My Social Life at SCU

Greeting people is the first step to building a relationship. Americans like to greet each other every time they meet, even if they have met several times already in the same day. Common greetings include “Hi, how are you?” , “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?” Typically, these are polite phrases of greeting and not questions. You can respond by saying, “Fine, thanks" or “Fine. How are you?”

One American custom that can be confusing to some international students is that acting friendly through smiling, hugging, making light conversation and extending invitations is valued as a social custom, but may not suggest a depth of feeling. For instance, the "How are you?" greeting, does not necessarily mean that the person wants to have a conversation with you. She or he might even walk away before finishing the greeting. This is common, so do not let it upset you.

Similarly, when someone says “drop by anytime” or “let’s get together sometime,” they are expressing friendly gestures that might not be meant literally. Observe the situation and try to judge what the person really means. It is always considered polite to call or text before you visit someone's room or home. Dropping by a room is not rude, but a text/call may help you decide if now is a good time for the other person to receive a visitor.

It takes time to assimilate into American culture but there is no better way of doing so than making American friends.

Dates can take place in any form. Most couples go out for dinners, movies or to parties in groups or alone. Usually each person pays for his or her own expenses while on a date.

Some relationships can become physical relatively quickly. This may or may not represent commitment in a relationship. Americans may be quite open about their sexuality. At the same time, stereotypes of Americans as always welcoming a physical relationship are not true and you should not assume that this is part of a date.

Relationships between students range from simple, casual friendships to strong emotional and sexual relations. A relationship that becomes physical does not necessarily imply further relations. As your friendships develop past acquaintance, you may not always understand what your partner expects of you.  Whatever the relationship, the best policy is honesty and frankness. Although sometimes embarrassing, it is best to express your feelings and intentions so that you can avoid misunderstandings and even greater discomfort.

In the American culture, if you persist in contacting someone repeatedly after someone has said that they do not wish to see you your behavior could be understood as stalking.  Stalking is following, watching or bothering someone constantly in a way that is perceived as frightening or dangerous to them and it is very serious.  Behaviors that may be considered stalking in the US include repeated telephone calls, texts, sending unwanted gifts, physically showing up at someone’s home or office or following them.   Stalking can apply to professors, administrators or students. Behavior that may be considered persistent and tenacious in some cultures for example, may be perceived as stalking in the US.

If your date appears interested in a sexual relationship but you are not, it is very important that you say so clearly. If someone seems to be saying “no” to you, you must listen and respect what they say. Unwanted sexual attention is a very serious matter in the United States. Charges range from sexual harassment to rape; it is a crime. Do not interpret the acceptance of a date as anything more than an agreement to meet and spend some time together.

Santa Clara University upholds a zero tolerance policy for gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct (Gender-Based Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Policy)

If you are in doubt about the correct behavior, talk with American friends, your Community Facilitator or the Global Engagement Office.  

Overall, relations between males and females in the U.S. are open and informal. Unlike what you may be used to, at SCU men and women interact regularly, even living next door to each other in the same RLC or other housing. Equality is an important cultural value in the U.S. where men and women are equal in social, academic and work environments.

SCU is committed to an open, safe and diverse environment that extends to lesbian, gay, bi- sexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) members of the community. Therefore, many LGBTQ students, professors and administrators are open about their sexual orientation. Click here for more information.

For some international students this openness and closeness of interaction between people of the opposite sex and with LGBTQ students is new and challenging. Discrimination of any kind is not tolerated on campus.

Please be aware that California and federal law states that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages. Laws regarding alcohol vary from state to state. In California, it is illegal to walk or drive along the street with an open container of alcohol.


In California, the legal age to purchase cigarettes is 18.  All indoor public areas are smoke-free areas. Some restaurants have smoking patios.  Typically, Americans do not smoke with non-smokers around.

SCU maintains a smoke-free campus.  SCU Student Life resources related to smoking.

Learn more about the US movement for tobacco free university campuses.

US immigration regulations are complex and change frequently.  The University strives to maintain a website that is both current and helpful, however, Santa Clara University is not responsible for students maintaining lawful immigration status; this is the responsibility of the student.  Further, resources and links do not constitute endorsement by Santa Clara University.

Annie Brown

Annie Brown

"I got involved with the Society of Women Engineers, and I really liked that, especially their outreach program called One Step Ahead.  They bring in girls from local high schools and I would volunteer for those a couple of times – I think I did two, and you do engineering programs with them."

David Chan

David Chan

"I joined a professional Fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. I thought that whole experience, joining a group of likeminded people, that was a good professional and personal learning experience.