After being here for nearing on a month now, I’ve begun to get to grips with the differences. For example I can’t get through a conversation without a comment on my accent (such as getting me to say words like “aluminium” and “vitamin”), or with them asking me about tea. (Note to self, don’t ever ask the guy sitting next to you in a lecture for a “rubber”. The word you’re looking for now is “eraser”).
The one obvious difference is that the semester starts way earlier in the year than I am used to (I’m working in the library in the middle of summer, what gives!). Here, Fall (aka autumn) semester is longer than at Leicester, starting in August and ending with finals in December (meaning no more revision over the Christmas holidays, which is definitely a good thing!). The finals have a little less emphasis than the January/June exams do back in England, due to the sheer number of mid-semester exams contributing more of a percentage of the modules overall grade.
Lectures are pretty much the same, but there are distinct differences. Instead of the majority of time being spent being lectured, there is a lot of audience participation. Lots of questions directed are at the group and individuals (especially those who are more memorable because they answer with a British accent!). Lab hours are a lot fewer than I am used to (this semester I have 3 hours per week, as opposed to last semesters 12), and some equipment has different names, e.g. it’s called an Erlenmeyer flask, rather than a conical. The remainder of work is very DIY. Lots of required reading, and lots of set questions to answer in your own time. This is a blessing in disguise, as it definitely helps you get to grips with the content before the first mid-semesters.
Life outside of the chemistry department is a culture shock. The first week here is orientation, packed with things to from a pep rally (to learn all the sport chants and listen to the band play) to lots of meetings for societies and sports clubs, and dorm parties (with the classic red cups!). Transport is easy with a free bus pass, and although the campus is huge, everything is well within walking distance. You might even see an alligator or two! A lot of people take bikes (I’m still trying to track down a reasonably priced one) and moped/scooters to get around. Trying to dodge them all is like being back in Amsterdam!
Until next time, readers!