1. Schooling in General
Uni is only 3 years here in the UK, so even though I am graduating early in 3.5 years back home, I am graduating late in their eyes. Year one is full of level 4 courses, year two is level 5, and year three is level 6. I am dominantly in level four and five courses because of how they transfer, but I am in one level six course and I see the intensity of it in comparison to non-final year courses for sure. It is the class I am most worried about.
Here, a computer schedules for you. You make a list of about 10 modules (not courses/classes as it is in the states) with your priorities closer to the top. When making this list you do not know when the classes are offered or who they are taught by, just that you have an interest in them and what level they are. Some classes are like my Brands and Branding class where they only meet once a week, so you get that time slot no matter what. Other classes like my Shakespeare and His Contemporaries class meet at two different times on Monday, once on Thursday, and twice on Friday. Which module you get put into depends on where your other priorities lay and how many people are already placed in each class. So you're pretty much helpless to a computer's algorithms. From what I understand, I am very fortunate to have Wednesdays and Fridays off because of this.
However, I seriously miss NYC scheduling where I create my exact schedule with days, times, and professors I want. I am learning to appreciate The Hunger Games that is NYC scheduling...but it makes my life so much easier! Definitely less stress once you have a schedule made.
Plus, someone seriously has to introduce Rate My Professor here. It is so under the radar that I pity these poor unfortunate souls that could easily avoid a terror of a prof.
I am also noticing that classes are a bit different here. They only meet once a week, whereas they meet twice a week back home typically. Humanities courses are just two hours straight, and since I am used to 90 minute classes back home I truly feel that extra half hour even though a class that meets once a week for 2 hours is significantly shorter in the grand scheme of things than a class that meets twice a week for 90 minutes a pop. These classes are small seminars where you just speak to your professor about the assigned readings/projects as you would in any typical American classroom.
I am noticing the business courses function differently. The business courses are back-to-back (except not always! I am lucky in that regard) 90 minute lectures and 90 minute seminars. The lecture is typically huge; I have one with 230 students for my Advertising module, and then they split into smaller groups for the 90 minute seminar that follows. It is in the seminar that you review the lecture (which becomes mind-numbing and repetitive) and do any group work. This is also where you present group work and hand in any essays.
When I have two business classes back to back on Tuesdays, I literally do not like to talk to people because I am so exhausted afterwards.
Every teacher here is on a first name basis with the class because apparently they have not achieved the rank of professor yet. It's crazy to think about! They are simply lecturers, and are often referred to as tutors which has an entirely different meaning in the states. This explains why some of the lecturers look so young because you can become a lecturer immediately after leaving uni. My friend Ray who is a regular Londoner did that for biology, after all. I asked someone why they don't like to be called professors, and they told me it is because professors typically teach postgraduate school (graduate school for Americans) and most uni tutors have not earned the title.
In America, if you are teaching at a college you are a Professor because you have earned the title as part of your preparation for the job. Sure, a lot of profs have PHDs and like to be called Doctor, but many are okay with Professor. In America I have only ever had two professors prefer to be called by their first name. One was the best professor ever who was heavily into Shakespeare and so chill it just made sense, and one was from India...so I suppose this makes sense.
In the UK there is also a huge diversity among professors. Back home, the only diversity in professors I had was my public speaking professor being from India. My Italian professor was even American! Here I have 6 professors...one is American, one is Italian, one is German, one is Welsh, and two are British (though one mumbles and speaks so fast I have trouble understanding him). It's nice to have such diversity, though it leads to language barriers and lots of opinions that are a bit challenging to accept at times. Americans are often made fun of in many of my classes and I just try to slide down in the back awkwardly willing nobody to look my way or ask me to open my mouth.
Grades are so different here! When they first talked about them I nearly choked on my water. It is very hard to get an A here. An A, from what I understand, is above a 70...and a lot of teachers won't even give 80's at all. A 60-69 is still a very good grade, 50-59 a fair grade, and 40-49 is in need of help. However, a 40 is still passing here because it is the equivalent of a D-. In order for all my courses to transfer home I need a D in each, so I am unsure if that is an American D or a British D. Either way, this system throws me off so much. When I heard someone bragging about getting a 68 my eyebrows went into my hairline.
They break down your coursework for you as you pick your modules so there will be no surprises. One of my classes is two 1,500 word essays popping in at 50% of my grade each. Another class is a 25% presentation of 10 minutes, 25% 3,500 word report, and a 50% exam. One class is a 1,500 word essay for 30% and then an in-depth 3,500 word report for the other 70%. The last one is just 50% group advertising project and 50% individual analysis and report. How crazy is that? So much of your grade rides on something so little...with ridiculously small word counts! Back home I am used to 10+ page papers, and here we are talking 2-5 page papers max because if I go over the word count I am deducted points. I have to learn to be as concise as possible.
While some people think that this would make their lives easier, it is stressing me out beyond belief because there is so little room for error. I can't believe I am saying this, but give me homework and more projects and essays to better balance my grade! And on top of it all I have to learn Harvard Referencing and brush up on my King's English. AHHHHHHHHHHH
7. Breaks and Exams
There are only 12 weeks of classes here and each class has 1 if not 2 study weeks at a time of the teacher's choosing, so it's more like 10/11 weeks of classes, which is significantly shorter than the 15 week semesters in the US.
On top of that, whereas the US has one week of Spring break, I have all but five days off in April for Spring break. And then the entire month of May (May 3 - May 27) are for exams! I am fortunate to only have one exam, so that's a lot of travel time for me. But, you know, the negative of exams here is that they don't give them in the Fall semester. While that is great for everyone who chooses to study abroad in the Fall, it's terrible for full-time students because if the class has an exam, it happens months later in May! I feel like I would forget everything important by then.
I think there are both positives and negatives to UK and American schooling, and perhaps I am clinging to American schooling because it is familiar to me and what I've spent the past 3 years learning. I like how the semesters here are shorter, and I love their breaks and faculty diversity, but when it comes to scheduling, classes, and grading I find myself yearning for home.
What was your uni experience like? Which way of teaching do you enjoy more? Comment below with your thoughts and, as always, your comments are appreciated. <3