From new lecturers to new students to possibly a new language, studying abroad can bring about many new experiences. Adjusting to the new environment can take tim e, motivation, and perserverance.
After studying at The University of Alabama for three and a half years, I decided to take the leap across the pond and study abroad in London. I was excited to face the journeys that lay before me. One of the many opportunities I get to take is to experience life in a UK classroom. Arriving in London, I expected my classes to be fairly similar to that of the US: sitting in a classroom with a few dozen people, having one professor teach a class for an hour or so, do some homework, study a lot, and take a couple tests. However, this has not been my experience in the UK classroom.
To start, I had to learn that professors here are called lecturers (I made the mistake in asking a fellow student about our professor and they got confused when I used that terminology). The students here also address the lecturers either by their first name or by Ms. or Mr. Also, in my experience at the University of Westminster, each of my classes has two or more lecturers assigned to the course. Each lecturer has their specialized knowledge in each of the modules and it can be confusing on who you need to seek out if you need help on any coursework.
Another big difference I’ve noticed has been the length of the classes and my schedule. At Bama, I had class everyday with the normal 50 minutes classes on MWF and the 1 hour and 15 minutes on TTh. Here at the University of Westminster, I am taking three classes which take place on Monday and Tuesday. Each class is four hours long (two hours for lecture and two hours for seminar). At the start of each class, all students must swipe into class. This is the university’s way of tracking attendance of their students. The long classes are definitely a big change when you are used to shorter class times, but I have enjoyed the free time that I have from Wednesday to Sunday.
Coursework here is also different from that in the United States. At Alabama, I am used to receiving daily homework and having at least three tests. In the United Kingdom, we are assigned two or three large reports to write, which make up your entire grade. These reports require a lot of time from outside of the classroom, where students need to do much of their own research. Only one of my classes has an exam, which is towards the end of the semester. The grading system is also vastly different from the US. If you see that you made a mark of a 70 on one of your coursework, fear not as that is equivalent to an A in the US!
So, although classes vary greatly between the United States and the United Kingdom, I have found that I have more free time and I am able to curtail my studies to research that truly interests me. I have met some wonderful people in my classes, too. I definitely have enjoyed talking to the other students and answering all of their questions that they may have about the United States. It is also great to meet individuals that can give you advice about the country you are studying in, for they most likely have grown up there and know the ins and outs of the area.