As I have mentioned in previous posts, American college life is so different to the British university one that I’m used to. At the core, they both have the same principle of going to higher education to further your knowledge. Whether it’s just the denial of wanting to be in the real world (a feeling I know well) or an active pursuit of a career you want, everybody is there to learn something.
In America, all of the classes you take are the ones that you choose. We have some options in the UK, but once you’ve decided your degree it’s pretty limited. There wouldn’t be much of a chance of you mixing subjects (e.g. English and chemistry) like you can here. In America, once you’ve declared your major you can still take whatever classes you want (so long as you complete enough credits) and even then, you can still switch. If you wanted to swap in the UK, you’d likely have to start a new degree.
I’ve also found here that it’s pretty autonomous learning, and highly self motivated. Unless you specifically take a lab module all of your content is delivered via lectures that make up all of the contact hours. Depending on the subject, there can be room for debates and questions. But from my experience of chemistry lectures in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, it’s very much a case of being talked at, and making sure that you read the corresponding parts of the textbooks. If you’re still stuck or don’t understand after this, both the lecturers and TA’s have office hours: designated times you can go and ask questions or listen to explanations. It’s highly advised, and they can get very busy – especially when exams are coming up, or you start covering something particularly difficult in the lectures. When this is the case they tend to turn into more classroom-like situations, which I personally prefer.
As a visual learner, I like to see how different types of problems are solved, before I try to tackle them myself. Having it explained so that I can ask questions when I don’t understand, helps me in the learning process. This is what I enjoy about my chemistry course at Leicester. The tutorials are small groups (typically 6 or less students) with one professor where you either discuss a worksheet handed in a few days before, or talk through different questions on the same topic. Workshops are sessions everyone taking the module attends and works through the same questions, with a few of the professors in that module walking round to offer help when you need it.
One more thing I’ve seen in America are study packs. Optional, and usually for a small fee, you can get a breakdown of all the information you need, such as helpful revision tools like flashcards, study timetables and practice questions. They’re very popular, but unfortunately they aren’t offered for all courses (none of mine for this semester), but when they are they are worth it.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.
Until next time, readers!