Life in Atlanta and the U.S.A.

Life in Atlanta and the U.S.A.

Welcome to Atlanta! Atlanta is one of the top 10 largest cities in the United States and is the cultural hub of the south. Located along the MARTA line, Oglethorpe gives students access to the city’s lively entertainment, rich history, and diverse culture! Make sure you buy your Breeze Card from the Oglethorpe Bookstore so you can start exploring!

Weather in Atlanta

In Atlanta the weather is generally hot in the summer, warm in spring and fall and mildly cold in the winter—with rare snow. There is regular rain in Atlanta, so you will want to have an umbrella or rain coat and maybe some rain boots.

Places to Visit in Atlanta

There is a lot to see and do in Atlanta, but this list encompasses some of the highlights:

And so much more! There are festivals almost every weekend! For most lists of what to see in Atlanta, ask your local classmates, Oglethorpe staff or faculty, they are sure to have plenty of suggestions!


In the United States people of the same age or status are referred to by their first name. Professors, Deans, Presidents, etc., are often referred to by their title, for example “Dean Hall” or “President Schall.”

If you do not know how to address someone, use these general rules:

  • Someone your own age and status: refer to them by their first name
  • Someone who is older, or a higher status, refer to them as Mr. or Ms., or their title, and their last name. Ask them, “what would you like me to call you?”
  • If someone appears uncertain of how to address you, you can say, “You can call me…”


In the United States, people are very direct in conversation. It is not impolite to say no. If someone asks or offers you something, you can say “No, thank you.”

Here are some examples of where it is appropriate to say no:

  • You may receive phone calls from people trying to sell you something, these are called telemarketers. It is ok to tell them no, and to even hang up if they keep talking to you.
  • You may also have people invite you to their church or religious service. If you do not want to attend, you can simply say, “No, thank you. I would not like to go.”
  • In the downtown area, it is common for panhandlers to ask you for money. If they approach you, do not give them money. Panhandling is illegal and there are food banks and charities that will offer services to people who need it.
  • If someone offers you drugs. Drugs are illegal in the United States. Always say no.
  • Similarly, if you are under the age of 21, drinking alcohol is illegal—and you should say no if offered alcohol. **The drinking age in the United States is 21, drinking under age or providing alcohol to a minor is illegal!**
  • If you do not want food or drink that someone offers you, you can say no.


In the United States, particularly in the south, it is very common for people to be friendly.

Someone may be friendly to you but not wish to build a friendship, this is common.

You may also have people you do not know smile or wave at you—it is customary to say “hello” or smile and wave back.

Similarly, it is appropriate to approach another student and introduce yourself.

“Hi, how are you?” is a common greeting in the United States, so much so people sometimes say it without waiting for a reply. If they do wait for a reply, it is customary to reply, “well” or “okay.”

Sometimes, people in the Unites States only hang out with their group of friends. This group is often called a “Clique.” Sometimes when someone is with their clique they may not be friendly. This does not mean the person does not like you, they may just be preoccupied with their group of friends.

If you are romantically interested in someone, it is appropriate to tell the person that you are interested and ask if they would like to have coffee or dinner sometime. If this person is not interested they will likely tell you, “No, thank you.” If they say this, do not ask again, being persistent is seen as rude and sometimes aggressive.

Likewise, if someone asks you out on a date and you are not interested, it is polite and appropriate to say, “I am not interested, but thank you.”


Many people in the United States like to think that all people are equal—race, color, religion, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation are unimportant to our value as human beings. For this reason, racist and sexist jokes and comments are not tolerated in many social and business settings.

However, despite these principles, many inequalities still exist in the United States. You may hear people make negative comments about other groups. You may even experience discrimination because you are an international student. If this happens to you and you wish to talk about it, talk to a counselor from the Counseling Center or someone from the International Student Services Office.

Some international students are surprised to hear men and women say they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. There is a growing community of Americans who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender and do not believe that it is necessary to keep this a secret. This community has become more visible and accepted, and people who are part of this population form a respected part of U.S. society. You will most likely have a professor, classmate, roommate, or friend who is gay. Remember to treat the people you meet with the same respect and openness that you would want to be treated with.


Holidays In America

Holidays in America

There are many different holidays** in the United States. Some will be University holidays as well, but others will not. University Holidays can be found on the Academic Calendar or each semester as well as on your syllabi for classes.

**Please note, the residence halls close for the Winter Break from right before Christmas until after New Year’s Day; make sure you check with Residence Life for the exact dates and determine an alternative place to stay. In addition to the residence halls, the University will also be closed for approximately 2 weeks of the Winter Break. Check the Residence Life website for more details.

The most widely celebrated ones are:

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day. Beginning on the evening of December 31, Americans celebrate the New Year, and many businesses are closed on January 1.
  • Third Monday in January – Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This holiday celebrates the life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a leader of the U.S. civil rights movement.
  • February 14 – This day of romance is called Valentine’s Day. Many people exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their special “valentine.”
  • Third Monday of February – Presidents’ Day. This is a day to remember past U.S. presidents
  • March 17—St. Patrick’s Day. It is customary to wear green clothing on this day, if you do not wear green on this day, classmates may pinch you.
  • Easter – In the spring, and the date varies each year. This holiday, traditionally Christian, is now also a secular one. People decorate eggs and children are visited by the Easter Bunny.
  • Last Monday in May – Memorial Day. This holiday is a time that Americans remember all of those who died in war for the United States.
  • July 4 – Independence Day. Americans celebrate this holiday with picnics and fireworks.
  • First Monday in September – Labor Day. This holiday recognizes the efforts of American workers.
  • October 31—Halloween. People often celebrate this holiday by wearing costumes and carving scary faces on pumpkins.
  • Last Thursday in November – Thanksgiving. According to legend, the first European settlers of the United States gave thanks for their first harvest season by eating a feast with Native Americans. This is a traditional time for families and friends to gather together and eat a big turkey dinner.
  • December 25 – Christmas Day. This holiday, traditionally Christian, is now also a secular one, and a time for many people to exchange gifts, decorate homes, and attend gatherings and parties for the few weeks before December 25.

**We still have classes on some of these holidays. To know which days you will not have class, check your course syllabus.