A Mishap my First Day at UOttawa. . . 

One of the biggest adjustments for me in maneuvering the University of Ottawa (UOttawa) schedule for the first time was realizing the classes will not take place in the same room, at the same time, on a “Monday/Wednesday,” or “Tuesday/Thursday” manner. It is completely opposite to the way DU schedules and conducts its classes. UOttawa may hold the certain course on two different days, at two different times, and in two different places. None of my classes are in two different places, however, all my classes that separated into two days occur among different days occur at different times.

Why go into so much detail about my schedule? Well, it’s context for this post.  More specifically, the fact that my class were at two different times caused me to mix them up mistakingly! Today , class started at 11:30a.m. instead of 1:00p.m., like it does on the other day it is scheduled. I only realized this maybe four minutes before the class actually started. Upon realizing my grave mistake, I bolted from my chair, grabbed my backpack, and literally ran out the door.

I briskly walked three blocks from my apartment on campus to Wilbrod Hall, the home of my first class ever at UOttawa. I hurried past people and glided up the cement staircase. I opened the doorknob gently and scampered inside, closing the door softly behind me. I quickly and quietly found an open chair and sat down trying to compose myself. Tardiness, of any sort, makes my anxiety go stir-crazy!

The class I was late for was my “Topics in Book History” course, a fairly new course the UOttawa English department created around the up and coming interdisciplinary field, but I’ll save talking about this specific class for another post. The professor of this course is super kind. Instead of reprimanding me for my two minutes of lateness, she smiled thoughtfully toward me and handed me the syllabus. I am so incredibly grateful for that gesture and it boosted my confidence during the rest of the remaining block.

What is the main takeaway? When you study abroad, you are bound to make mistakes. I guarantee you’ll make a mistake at some point in your study abroad journey. You may be late trying to find a classroom, accidentally switch up places and buildings, forget to do a reading or an assignment, something along those lines. Mistakes will happen, whether you want them to or not. Would have I liked to have been late today? Absolutely not. In fact, I would like to consider myself an optimistic person. I assumed that I would have perfect attendance on the stay abroad. Guess what? That didn’t happen and I was checkmated on that assumption my first day of class!

Making mistakes is human nature and learning from those mistakes is vital to your study abroad experience. Will I just assume my “Topics in Book History” class is at 1:00p.m. again? Nope. I even made a schedule and pinned it to my bulletin board on my desk to double check the correct timing of my classes. Case in point: you will tumble over some hurdles, which is okay, but eventually you need to get back up and keep going. The race of the study abroad journey will be over before you know it and nothing should stop you in your way.

Until next time!

 

The Scoop on the UK University Experience

With a large number of students heading from DU to study abroad in the UK this fall, here I write about my experiences studying in both the UK and the US academic systems.Studying in the UK will expose you to a number of differences in academic culture. Below, I’ve highlighted some of the most significant.

Generally you can expect to have fewer hours of class in the UK. In the UK many full time juniors or seniors might have just three or four hours of class time, compared to 15 hours at DU.

The time you spend in class will be much more lecture-based than at DU. Don’t be surprised to find little student participation in your classes in the UK. Often only the Professor will speak for the duration of the class. Instead, student participation is reserved for “tutorials”. Typically, these are one hour seminar/discussion sessions with the Professor, sometimes in their office with just five or six other students.

cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com
Photo Credit: cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com

Given this, there is a much greater focus on independent research outside of class and you will be expected to conduct your own research. In many cases this means picking your own books and articles to read from a list on the syllabus, rather than being assigned specific readings for each class as you are at DU.  This means that if assigned a particular essay, many students will answer it very differently based on the differing reading that they have done themselves based on their interests. To get strong grades, incorporating this individualized reading into your papers and exams will be important.

Generally, there will be fewer assessments than at DU. For many classes you might find that your assessment comprises either a single exam or a single paper, or perhaps an exam and paper due together at the end of the quarter/semester. Consequently, it is unlikely that there will be a participation grade, quizzes or midterms. Some students like the fact that they have less stress across the quarter, others don’t like that all their assignments may be concentrated at the end of the quarter.

Photo Credit: www.ed.ac.uk
Photo Credit: http://www.ed.ac.uk

This system means that there is more ambiguity and less structure in the UK system as a whole. The Professors will see you as more of a self-starter. Often, a Professor might never mention the assignments for that class and will instead expect you to read the syllabus, see what the assignment is and do it without guidance.

In the UK, particularly in England and Wales, most students only study for three years to earn their degree. The three year degree means that there is no common curriculum. In college, students only take classes in their major and therefore usually only from one department. Therefore, most students choose their College major whilst in High School at the age of 17. A DU Junior studying abroad should be aware that local students taking third year classes in the UK will most likely already have studied as many as ten classes in that major.

Photo Credit: blog.sfgate.com
Photo Credit: blog.sfgate.com

Given these differences, it will be important to adapt quickly by setting your own learning plan, making sure to meet with your Professors and by disciplining yourself to work throughout the term in order to disperse your workload rather than leaving all your work until the final weeks of the semester.

 

-Callum Forster, DU Study Abroad Peer Advisor