College is still college, no matter where you go

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Last week, I contended with the realities of the “study” part of my study abroad experiences by attending my first week of classes! A mantra ran through my head, as I navigated dense readings, class discussions, and general Zoom awkwardness: college is still college, no matter where you go.

My classes are seminars that each meet once a week, except for Bengali, which is an introductory language course that needs to meet twice a week because of its intensity. Each session is two hours long, with a short break halfway through. The two-hour time period is definitely longer than I’m used to, especially for a seminar-style course where you’re expected to participate in discussion throughout the session. My other friends here have tutorials or lectures that are shorter, so I believe my experience doesn’t necessarily reflect the UK system. At SOAS, tutorials are short discussion classes that occur in conjunction with a course, where students gather to discuss the course materials under the guidance of a “tutor”, typically a postgraduate student who works as a TA of sorts. Though I would’ve loved to experience this while I’m here, my classes are quite small and already feel like tutorials!

So far, I’ve noticed that UK universities are less structured and seem laxer. The teachers seemed to have lower expectations for their students regarding keeping up with the readings. Given that our grade is entirely dependent on two major assignments, it makes sense that students may not be as engaged throughout the semester. Teachers know and expect this. The reading week that takes place for us during November is quite literally a time for students to catch up on the readings they are likely to have missed. Most of the semester is relatively relaxed until you’re in that finals period when all your major assignments are due. But even then, the final isn’t due until the second or third week of January, giving students plenty of time. I appreciate the extra time and independence, but it does make time management more difficult. I worry about the later deadline creeping up on me unexpectedly. Particularly with the accommodations I already require due to my ADHD, I want to make sure I’m staying on track with my studies and not waiting till the last minute.

I’m used to having to do more intense time management back home, what with big assignments constantly coming up, responsibilities in my extracurriculars and work-study, and having classes that meet more frequently. Now that my schedule is more relaxed and my responsibilities are lessened, I’m trying to strike a balance between keeping up with my homework and taking advantage of my newfound free time to develop a more rich social life. After all, I’m still abroad and in an exciting new city! I can’t forget about the “abroad” part of my study abroad experience, either. Hence, the photos of the week: my experience doing high tea with friends, and my visit to Carnaby, Soho!