My Academic Life at UCL

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This blog is in honor of the end of classes, which was officially on March 24th! While classes have ended at University College London (UCL), I am still working on my final exams for my classes. I am a part of the SELCS school, which stands for the School of European Languages and Society. This term, I am taking four classes: Multiculturalism and Identity, Cultures of Conflict; An Introduction to German History; and Art in London before 1600.

One thing that really stands out to me regarding any differences that I’ve struggled with in terms of what I have found different in my host country’s culture is the style of the education system run here in England and specifically London. The predominant differences between the British and American education systems that I noticed were: the maintenance of anonymity when submitting essays; reduced classroom time; final grades being based on as few as one or two essays; and the interruption of class times due to teacher strikes.

Back at Boston College (BC), it is very common for me to pop into office hours to ask my professors to read over my drafts and provide me with individualized and specific advice on how to move forward with assessments in the form of essays. However, here at UCL, anonymity must be maintained when writing essays. The fact that my professors do not know who has written each essay while marking them personally depersonalizes the whole aspect of professors being able to track student growth in a class. While this was not the case for most of my classes, in my Art in London before 1600 class, after my professor marks my essay, an associate lecturer engages in a second round of marking. Additionally, I have found myself in the classroom for a shorter amount of time in comparison to BC. At BC, I take five courses for two and a half hours each week, but at UCL, I am taking four classes each for a total of two hours. Above all, I have found the most surprising aspect of the British education system for college students to be that a student’s final grades are based on as few as one or two papers. While this is not the case for all classes at UCL, at least for the ones I am taking, 100% of my grade is based on two essays. This is very different from the classes I took at Boston College, as I had other criteria such as attendance, participation, exams, discussion posts, and essays that counted for different amounts to total up to 100%. I have found all of these differences to be difficult for me to adapt to just because I have been under the American education system for my whole life, but I am ever so grateful for this new opportunity I was able to experience.

I would also like to talk about how strikes are very common here in the UK, as, for example, my very own professors have been taking part in industrial action as disputes over their pay continue. As my professors, who are members of the National Education Union (NEU), have been participating in these strikes at the cost of their students missing time in the classrooms, I have been able to witness firsthand the power of social activism as my teachers have been reporting that they are close to reaching negotiations for their pay raise. While strikes have affected the number of times I have had class, I am so grateful to have been able to study abroad during a period in which real social change was being sought out. I truly would not have changed my experience studying at University College London and cannot wait to tell my friends and professors back at Boston College all about it. Here are some pictures of UCL attached below!