Hiya! University, or “uni” as the Brits call it, in the United Kingdom is quite different then in the United States. There was only so much that I could anticipate and prepare for before my departure to London. With study abroad becoming increasingly popular among UMD students, for today’s edition of Peer into Your Career, ‘London Style,’ I decided to address student and university life in the UK.
Before I dive into the academic differences, I want to address the initial change and ongoing emergence one will experience with their time abroad. One of the first things that study abroad programs will address is the transition you will have to make as a student when it comes to study habits and class expectations. Along with course layout, programs will also prepare you for ‘culture shock’, and ultimately the emotional ups and downs you will have while submerging yourself into a new environment. As silly as this transition may sound, it is important that foreign students understand this concept in order to be successful with their academics abroad.
Now let’s get into the ‘nitty-gritty’ and break down the major differences and transitions US students need to make when studying abroad in the UK:
1. Semester Timetable: First and foremost, you can expect a different semester and timetable layout when studying in the UK. As similar to the US, many universities in the UK run on a semester basis. However, depending on the university in the UK, there are many different formats the semester can have depending on where you study. At QMUL, first semester is about 15 weeks and second semester is only 12 weeks. The major difference is that finals are held at the end of the whole academic year. When second semester courses end in March, the whole month of April is off for students to take a break, but also review the years’ academic material. The month of May is then dedicated to finals where some students may have up to 8 exams!
2. Course Schedule & Class Structure: When it comes classes, or modules as the Brits would say, there are quite a few differences. In the UK, a full semester load is seen as taking four modules. With university only being a three year study in the UK, their studies are more directly focused on their major, and therefore, they do not take may classes outside of their studies, or what we would call electives. This means that the modules they need to take have a pretty uniform and timely structure during their years.
The course itself if broken up into two different learning formats, lectures and seminars. This is very much the same a lectures and discussions in the US. However, the total time spent in class a week is very different. Depending on the department and field of study, it is most common to have only one lecture session lasting one to two hours in one week. More of the focus is placed on the seminars where attendance is not only compulsory, but individual participation is also marked for grading. Overall, you can see that one would spend less time in a UK classroom than one in the US, however, academic expectations seem to be much higher in the UK.
3. Academic Expectations: With less time in the classroom, there is much more emphasis placed on individual studies in the UK. Through my observation, classes in the US use assignments, projects, quizzes, and testing throughout the semester for students to keep up with course material. In the UK, much more weight is placed on essay based exams at the end of the semester, where the best way to have prepared yourself is through active participation in course discussions and through analyzing academic articles provided by the course instructor. All-in-all, the transition in academic expectations is quite manageable. Just like with any university, it is important to stay on top of your academic studies, and actively participate in the course to receive the most successful outcome.
With the transitions from US classes to UK modules, there was much that I needed to do to adapt to my study techniques and academic styles in order to stay on track. Looking into the two societies, we may speak the same language, however, you would be surprised at how many differences in culture (including academics) there truly are. To date, study abroad has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life. This opportunity has pushed me outside of my comfort zone in many different facets, but honestly, I believe that is where the highest form of learning comes from!