- International students received their syllabus for a course. They needed to purchase or borrow the hard copy of the text book. They were disappointed because the book store did not have what they needed. The library did not either - however, after a quick conversation with a librarian we discovered that they thought "hard copy" meant hard covered book; the edition at the bookstore had a flexible soft cover, so they had assumed they needed a different edition. To Americans, hard cover means a physical, print copy - to international these international students, it meant a hard covered textbook. Using the most literal term available is advised.
- An administrator was talking about his ideal plans for the future of the institution and repeatedly said, "I'm being pretty Pollyanna-ish" - this was an endearing sentiment for all of the current staff and faculty to hear about is optimism and ideal future, but the international students (and many of the younger students, to be honest...) were very confused. Similar sentiments I've heard recently include, Kumbaya moment, Come to Jesus meeting, and six of one - half a dozen of another. Just be sure that your official communication (and instruction sessions) remove some of these euphemisms, metaphors, and hyperbole.
- Clearly marking all important features - our library is in the middle of a high rise. Visitors must take the elevator to the sixth floor to enter the library. Once they're in the library they can travel internally up to floor nine. The external elevators will not stop on any of the floors in between six and nine; we have several emergency exit stair cases that cannot be used unless there is an emergency - but also a stair case that CAN be used at any time to travel between the floors. It is confusing to most students, but can add an extra level of anxiety for people that are already anxious about learning so many new things. Be sure to clearly mark all bathrooms, exits, and other way-finding materials. Try and make policies as simple and easy to understand as possible. Consider adding descriptors into your catalog like, "in-library use only" for reference materials, or including a bookmark about renewing online in borrowed materials.
While librarians are notorious for including too much library jargon in our materials, we also need to consider the cultural differences between us and our students. Age, ethnicity, country of origin, level of education, and comfort with asking for help will vary between all visitors - try to be as accommodating as possible.