Going into classes on my first day in London, I was nervous to see what was in store. I knew there were differences between the grading scales, I expected bigger classes, and I heard there were less tests. All of these were true.
Difference #1: Arrival times
I walked into my first class about 15 minutes early in order to find my classroom on time. I was one of three kids waiting, and was surprised that there were not more students waiting with me. The other students waiting were also American students from other universities. We chatted and waited to see when the other students showed up. Slowly some students trickled in but when there were only 5 minutes left until class started, the professor wasn’t there, and half of the class was missing. The professor made it in right as class was scheduled to start but still there were many students missing. Kids kept entering the classroom even 30 minutes after the class had started.
Comparing this to my classes at Butler, this was a whole new world. My professors are typically in the classroom before the class is scheduled to start. Most students come about 5-10 minutes before class start and maybe a few minutes after. I have not had classmates come in 30 minutes late for the first day before. I was a bit surprised but figured it was just a one-time thing.
This trend continued to follow for the next classes. In one of my classes, I had someone who up 15 minutes before class was scheduled to end. The professor welcomed him in and told him to find a seat. This was the first major difference I noticed between my classes in the UK compared to classes back at Butler.
Difference #2: Seminars, workshops, and lectures
The next major difference was the scheduling of classes. I have classes broken up into three sections: seminar, workshop, and lecture. Some classes are only broken up into lecture and workshop though. These classes run for 4 hours a day and meet only once a week. Back at Butler, I have class for 1 hour and 15 minutes twice a week. The first few classes felt very long as I sat there for 4 hours.
Difference #3: Homework in the UK
The last major difference is the homework load. For two of my three classes, I have a textbook to read. This is similar to what I would experience at Butler, but when we get to class, we don’t review the reading. There also are no penalties for not reading. At Butler, I have experienced tests and quizzes related to the reading. Quizzes and tests are not big here. For one class, I’m only graded on one assignment and a final exam. At Butler, I’m used to having 2-3 tests throughout the semester with a final at the end. It was a bit overwhelming when I found out how the grading worked but I feel more confident after being over halfway through the semester.
Difference #4: Grading scales
I also had to adjust to the different grading scale. Anything above a 70 translates to an A. Back at Butler, to get an A, I would need to get 93. This is quite a big difference. I did have to realize that they grade differently and harder, so although it’s a lower threshold, it still requires lots of hard work.
I was quite shocked at first when adjusting to the difference. It took me a week or so to change my mindset about what school looked like and adjust to the UK way of schooling. Adjusting was difficult since it forced me to think differently about classes, but I felt acclimated by week 2.
UK vs. US
Something that I appreciate about the UK system is that it allows students to be more independent. Doing well in classes seems to weigh heavier on the student rather than the professor. I like that schooling in the UK forces the student to be more independent and take initiative in their studies. Something that is better in the US system is the opportunity to get good grades. As mentioned above, in one classes I only have two grades for the whole semester. In the US, you get multiple opportunities to get good grades and build up a higher gradebook.
Overall, my classes while being abroad have pushed me as a student in ways that I did not expect. I have to really stay on my studies in order to retain the information to do well on the final. At Butler, I focus on more cramming before a test and then forgetting some of it if the test is not cumulative. Going back to Butler, I feel like I will be a more independent student. I have adjusted to diving deeper into my studies since everything here is cumulative. I believe I will be working harder in my classes because of the discipline I have learned this semester.