As much as I actively avoid it, I’m actually in America to study. It’s sometimes difficult to focus on my classes when most of my energy is being put in to trying to make my time here in the D-F-Dub as enjoyable and memorable as possible, and I must admit that since I’ve arrived in America I’ve learnt how to put the pro in procrastination. However in an effort to focus myself I’ve decided to make my next blog posts about classes in America and how different they are to anything I’ve ever experienced back home. (Trust me, it would have been oh so easy to write about my trip to Six Flags over Texas or the high school football game I went to this weekend.
Lectures, Seminars and Classes, Oh my!
At the University of Leicester, American Studies students take three modules per semester. Apart from one option in second year the program has been made up of entirely core modules that we’ve had no choice over. These modules meet for a lecture and a seminar per week, and the seminar is the student’s chance to discuss the issues presented by the lecture and reading with the lecturers. At UTA students have a much more free selection of classes, which generally meet either Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday for three hours a week. These classes are like a mixture of lectures and seminars, and will be made up of some lecturing but a lot of discussion of the reading as well.
There’s a lot more reading at the University of Texas Arlington than was ever assigned at Leicester, but the reading at Leicester was usually very dense and would take up around the same amount of time that it does at UTA. It’s strange to have six text books for one class here though because at Leicester some of my modules didn’t require a book, and the lecturers would just direct us to the journal article or e-book chapter we needed to read for the next seminar.
The relationship with the professors
In America the students are directly encouraged to ask questions and discuss ideas with professors in class, and students used to this system tend to recoil in horror when I say in Leicester the lectures in first and second year are generally an hour sat in silence listening to the lecturer speak and taking notes. (Though, if I’m honest I prefer the British system). Professors here tend not to bat an eyelid if a student is sat on their phone during class, or arrives with breakfast in tow and begins eating it during class whereas they’d never get away with that in Leicester.
Spooky Scary Scantrons
Until about two weeks in to my classes I’d never heard of the word scantron, and I think I’d be generally happier in life if I still hadn’t. Multiple choice quizzes are as numerous as they are ubiquitous in America and no matter how hard I try I can’t get used to them. They may sound easy, but answers are often so similar it’s hard to pick out the right one. Even at GCSE and A-Level (10th grade and 12th grade in American) English students escape multiple choice tests and are instead required to write short answers and essays.
Anyone with knowledge of the two education systems will be able to tell you how different the grading is. Tell a student at the University of Leicester they got a 75 on an essay and they’d be over the moon (generally), tell a student at the University of Texas at Arlington that they made a 75 on a paper and they’d (probably) be disappointed. Whilst a 75 will earn you a “First-Class” mark (the highest possible) in England a 75 in America would earn you a C grade, but before Americans grumble it’s a lot easier to make a C than it is to get a first – Generally speaking the cap for English university work grading sits around an 80, with anything above that considered one of the foremost works on the subject. (And sorry, but the essay you wrote at 4am on a Red Bull and hatred fueled burst of energy probably isn’t the foremost work on the subject).
It’s less than a week until Halloween, which means here it’s been Halloween for three weeks already, so hopefully my next post will be more exciting (and scary!)
Until next time dear readers….