Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Melissa Yin ’16

Nanjing, China • Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs View Profile

American Style

Academic writing for international students

If you are thinking about coming to the United States for college, congratulations! The liberal arts education in the U.S. is truly world class. Yet if you are worried about whether your non-native English ability can handle the rigorous course load, you are not alone. The academic writing at Princeton calls for such high caliber research and critical thinking that it makes things especially difficult for internationals who are not used to writing papers in American style.

Fortunately, the Princeton writing seminar, a required course for first-year students, comes to the rescue. Although not designed specifically for internationals, it serves the crucial purpose as an introduction to writing well. In the writing seminar, we learned about thesis, motive, transition, outline/reverse outline and so on. We critiqued each other’s papers and learned to navigate Firestone Library to write a research paper. My writing seminar professor was everything one could ask for: She did not lower her expectation even a bit for me just because I'm international, yet she was extremely patient and provided me with helpful feedback in every stage of writing.

I should also mention the writing center located in the basement of Whitman College. From brainstorming to finding a working thesis, and from writing papers to lab reports, writing center fellows were able to assist me in numerous ways. Whether I encountered writer's block, could not articulate a confusing concept, or simply wanted someone to read over my draft, in this hour-long, one-on-one session, the fellows helped address my specific questions. The writing center is open seven days a week and accepts both online appointments and drop-ins.

Bottom line is it takes a while to get used to American academic writing, yet resources to help us abound.