Taking Care of Business

Finals are upon us at the University of Glasgow. Even though the University of Glasgow is on a semester school system we only have classes for nine to ten weeks like the University of Denver’s quarter system. However, the semester extends into December due to two weeks of “reading/study weeks” before finals. The actual classes could end in week 9, 10, or 11 depending on the subject and professor. Some of my classes left the last week or two open in case they were absent for a week and had to cancel a class. The last week would then be a makeup class for the missed material. However, if no classes are missed, the seminars (in-person classes) would end early. I believe I mentioned in my first couple posts that grades are decided with only a couple assignments. There are no weekly quizzes or participation/attendance grades. It is purely your performance on a few major assignments. It’s nerve-racking for many and coming from a school system where my grades in the past have relied heavily on the small assignments and participation grades, it was difficult to adjust. Halfway through the semester when we were submitting our midterm papers, I thought about how at that point in the quarter at DU I would have already had a couple major projects, papers, or tests. Probably a quiz or two on weekly readings, as well as participation grades throughout. Thus, finals week is stressful. Not stressful because we know the pressure, it is stressful because we know we should be more stressed than we are.  I am used to wanting good grades on my finals but also knowing that the smaller assignments will boost and cushion my grade if I end up not doing well on final assignments. I know that my finals are worth 40, 50, and 100 percent of my grade out here but I find that I am having to remind myself of that every time I want to take a break from studying or I put off writing my papers. In my classes, other students expressed their stress, frustration, and worry about finals and midterms. They seemed flustered and asked each other so many questions. It seemed like everything that came out of their mouth started with a “What if…” and ended with a “I’m just worried.” I remember sitting silently observing their stress, asking myself if I should feel more nervous or worried. I remember sitting, trying desperately to think of a question about the assignment or something I didn’t understand about the instructions, but I always drew a blank because the assignment seemed fairly simple to me. I was worried that because I was a foreigner I was going to be blindsided and the assignments would be extremely difficult and painful to finish. But, everything is going smoothly. I am sure that if I had gone to school in the UK for a long time I would put more worry into the daunting finals, but I have been socialized to not put too much weight into finals because they only make up about 20 percent of your grade and it is still possible to get a good grade in the class overall without perfecting the final. I should be stressed, but I’m not. 

Blog Post Nine
University of Glasgow

Finals in Glasgow are not too difficult in the first place. In High School and college finals consisted of presentations, timed/closed-note exams, extensive research papers, and still the typical small assignment course load like quizzes and participation. In Glasgow, finals weeks consists of no in-person classes. All of my public policy and law finals are online and you have a week to work on them. Let me explain:

• Making Public Policy: This class was once a week for two hours. I wrote a 2500 word policy brief for the midterm which we were given information on in the first class. The final is five questions but you only have to answer two of them. The questions are released a week before the final is due and each question must be answered in 750 words or less. Just two short essays decide 50% of your grade.

• Education for Citizenship (Public Policy): This class had three assignments: a midterm paper of 2500 words, a reflective learning log that bullet pointed how the student prepped for the class and participated with a 500 brief reflection of how their learning will help them in the future, as well as a 750 word final paper. For the papers, the professor would send out a list of four topic questions and the student would pick one for their essays. Each paper was worth 40% of the final grade and the learning log made up 20% of the final grade.

• Law of Contract: The law class was different from all the other classes. It had a midterm that was not worth a grade. It was basically a trial run of the final. The final will consist of a problem question with multiple parts and it is worth 100% of my grade. It is timed and I will have two hours to complete it which is very reasonable. 

The assignments are broad and students have a lot of flexibility in how they structure their answers, but we are still given rubrics and the graders tend to be less harsh from what I have seen so far. I have heard rumors about exams having a different format before Co-vid but no one really knows because everyone in my classes are the same year as me and have never attended college not in the era of Co-vid. This is an interesting concept in itself for 3rd year students but also for international 3rd year students because it makes you think how my experience differs from study abroad students in 2019 and before. My finals conclude on December 16th and then after a brief trip to London I will return home on the 22nd of December. My time in Glasgow is coming to a close, but I am just focusing on finals at the moment and learning to live in the now.

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Classes

It’s very interesting to me to see how my view of classes and school has changed during my time here in Salzburg. From the topics being learned in class, to the teachers, to the work, to grades. Things are just very different here. We finished midterms about two weeks ago and I can definitely tell the difference between the United States and Salzburg. After the midterms there were quite a few people who did not feel so confident on how they did on their tests and I will admit I felt that way for certain classes. We got our grades back and not everyone was happy with what they got but what really interested me was the response from our teachers (we don’t call them professor). Overall they were very understanding and very sympathetic with those who were not very happy with their scores on their tests. They gave people the opportunity to talk to them in private instead of in front of everyone which I can totally understand could be very stressful and embarrassing. They did not understand why we were so disappointed with our grades because to them, anything over a D was fantastic. I personally did not feel any shame or pressure coming from them because they very clearly wanted what was best for us and they did not want us beating ourselves up over the test grades. Now, I am definitely not saying that the professors back in the States do pressure or put shame on us for our grades but there is definitely something different with the teachers approach to grades here in Salzburg.

Class wise the classes I am taking and the amount of work that needs to be done per class is pretty easy. The content within the classes that I am taking are very interesting and fun. The homework is very minimal (depending on what classes you take) the most homework that I have for a class is just for my German class. The classes that I am taking include: Elementary German, World War 2 and Central Europe, Music in the Age of Mozart, and Art and Architecture. I’ll admit that none of these classes go towards my major or minor back at DU but I’m studying abroad I have to take fun classes that I won’t get the experience of taking back in the States. If you were to ask me if I have any regrets of taking a class then I would have to say German because as someone who has taken years and years of Spanish, learning German was quite difficult. But, I am in a primarily German speaking country so why not? A favorite class? That would be difficult. I really enjoy the WW2 class because as Austria did play a role in the war it’s interesting to listen to an Austrian explain how the war went down and learn about it from a different countries perspective. We went on a field trip to a concentration camp last week and while it was a very emotional experience, it was also something I will never regret going to. My music class is definitely more on the fun side of things as we spend a lot of time listening to music and learning about the different types of music made by Mozart and by those in his era. The Art and Architecture class is also very interesting as I am learning about the many different types of buildings made in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. While these classes will end up going to my electives and I will have to make up my major and minor requirements when I get back, I am studying abroad to have a different experience in school and in life. I did come here for classes but why not have some fun with them?

Overall, my experience with classes have been positive so far. My teachers are all very nice and understanding and the workload definitely causes a lot less stress… something that I will not be ready for when I return to America. The program is now more than halfway done and I am counting down the days that I have left before I have to return! While I do love it here in Austria I do miss my home within the States a lot and am slowly becoming more and more ready to return as do some of the others here. I have gotten used to living here but I do miss things about the States that I do not have here… such as my family and my dog. All I am hearing these days are how people are missing their pets. Thank you for reading my post!

-Anna

Class