By: Julie Pike, Staff Writer
Today, November 1, 2017, officially marks the halfway point of my semester abroad. It feels like I have been here in England much longer than only a month and a half, and I have several more weeks to go. The month of November is going to be filled with trips to other countries in Europe. I have plans to go to Rome, Prague, Paris, Austria and Barcelona. Unfortunately, my trip to Barcelona is still up in the air; my ability to travel to the country depends on whether or not it will be safe to travel to, with Catalonia attempting to gain independence from the country.
Aside from my travel plans, I have also been busy trying to figure out my assignments for my classes. Although the classes I attend are pretty similar to the ones I am used to in the United States, the way they are are graded are much different, however.
For one thing, attendance is not mandatory, at least it is not included in your overall grade. Students could skip as many classes as they wanted and just do the assignments. Nevertheless, the more you miss out on the lectures and seminars in each class, the more lost you would become when it comes to the final assignments.
In a majority of my classes, I will have one assignment due at the end of the semester that I will be graded on. My entire grade in those classes will be dependent on that one paper, which is daunting. I am used to having a bigger essay or research paper as my final for classes, but I am not used to that being my only grade.
In some of my classes, we have small assignments that we work on during the semester that are not graded, which make me ask the question, “Why am I putting time into this?” It turns out that all of the little assignments lead up to help you with the bigger one at the end. Although they may seem like a waste of time, they are actually helpful in preparing for the final.
The professors at this University put a lot of faith in their students to do work independently. If you are able to budget your time wisely and put in the work each week, you will do well in the class. This opens the doors for people to slack off, however, they will find that they are just setting themselves up for failure.
The numerical grades here differ drastically. For instance, getting a 40 percent grade on your work here means that you have passed. Whereas getting that grade in the United States would be devastating. I am used to the grading scale being from 0-100, but here it is completely different. To be honest, I still do not completely understand how it works, but I will at least know if I have passed the class!
I had my first assignment that is actually going to be graded due this week, and it was a bit nerve wracking. Not only are words like ‘behaviour,’ ‘criticised,’ and ‘organised’ spelled differently here, I have to remember the spellings and their various essay structures from one class to another.
I am used to writing my assignments based on the Modern Language Association (MLA) format for referencing, which is pretty common across universities in the states. Over here, they use the Harvard University referencing system. Though I have no idea how it works, I have the use of the internet and can find resources on how to cite quotations and books that I use.
I ran into trouble just finding out how to structure the pages of my essay, as every website online had a different example of what a Harvard referencing type paper would look like. I eventually just broke down and asked my professor. I was hesitant because I did not want to seem like I needed special assistance just for being American and not being used to their system, but I really needed help.
Aside from the grading system in each class being completely dependent on one or two assignments, I like how the classes are here. Most of my homework is just reading to do before class. I feel like I spend a lot less time doing homework than I am used to.
All of my classes include a part where the teachers actively engage with their students, in a seminar-type class, which to me is the best way to really understand what you are learning. I just hope that I will be able to find out how to correctly put together an assignment before the end of the semester. Wish me luck!