Hooray, I survived my first day of classes! And I think I finally have my schedule all sorted out. Glad that’s over with. Now onto the real work . . . actually studying and learning. You know, the whole reason I’m actually here at a university, instead of just touring the countryside.
I never realized how different the school system is over here compared to the US. I’ve also never been so thankful for things like “core requirements” and “electives.” Did you know that students here literally only study courses in their major? Like, if you’re a biology student, you only take biology classes for three whole years. I’m sorry, I love my major and no offense to any professor, but I do not want 3 full, packed years of it. I like being able to intersperse that time with classes like English and philosophy and even math (which by the way is referred to as “maths” here, plural. Huh). And to the British students that I talk to, when they ask what “course” I’m taking here, it’s like I’m speaking a foreign language when I tell them what classes I’m taking. To them, you take one course and one course only. It’s unheard of to take classes from a different college on campus. You stick to your college, be it history or psychology or biology, etc. Unless you’re an international student from the US, then you get special permission. Hehe 🙂
And if you didn’t catch it up there, college (or as they call it, “uni”) only lasts 3 years. As far as I can tell there’s also some sort of foundational year which is (I think) what they refer to as “freshers.” Except it doesn’t count toward your GPA. Not really, anyway. It counts something like 6% of your overall grade. That’s what I overheard, though, so don’t quote me. It’s so foreign, I didn’t know quite what to make of it. But can you imagine? If freshman year didn’t count, one of two things would be guaranteed to happen: A) the freshman would party so much that they probably wouldn’t learn anything and it would be a complete waste of tuition, or B) all of those people who had a hard time adjusting to college would actually have much better GPAs because freshman year wouldn’t be bringing them down, and maybe more students would actually stay in college rather than dropping out. My vote is with the former. Although I feel like, to a certain extent, that already happens in college, so it might not have a significant difference. So maybe B is a more likely scenario to be significantly affected. *shrug* Who knows. Crazy British people and their schools.
The class structure here is very different too. Naturally classes are prone to be larger because the campus has 30,000 students, and my classes today were anywhere from having 14 students to 60. But each class only meets once a week, for only an hour or two. Then on top of that class time, most classes also have a tutorial/seminar session another time during the week. Those are usually smaller, like for instance my Shakespeare class normally has 60 students but there are 8 tutorial sessions for it. All that being considered, however, you still get probably half as much contact time in the classroom with the professor as I’m used to on the Hill. It’s certainly different, but I think I’ll be able to manage it.
The hardest part, though, is figuring out how long it takes to get from one place to another! I have to take a bus from my dorm because walking takes at least 45 minutes if not more. But the bus system is so unpredictable! Buses may come every few minutes, but you never know how many stops they’ll make from point A to point B, or how long they will have to spend at each stop because someone has to go digging in their purse to find change for the bus fare and then ends up holding up the entire line. As a result, today I felt the need to still leave my dorm at least 45 minutes before class (which is how long it would have taken me to walk…). Of course, I’ll admit that was just a little ridiculous because I got to my classes obnoxiously early. So what do you do when you’re the first one to get to a class and you don’t don’t have anywhere to go because there’s still a class going on in that room? Go hide in the bathroom, obviously. Pretend to fix your hair or something. And then hopefully by the time you come out, others will have started arriving and can confirm that yes, in fact, they too are waiting for biochemistry in lecture theater 6. You’re not alone, or lost, or confused. Just early.