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.
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.