Adjusting to a New Educational Landscape
I have successfully completed my second week of classes at NUIM!!! While it might seem like Ireland and America have similar academic systems, I have already begun to notice some of the differences:
1. The biggest adjustment American students have to make when they attend an Irish university is adjusting to the different methods of assessment. In the United States, we are continuously assessed throughout the year. For example, in one class we may have two essays, three tests, a project, and several homework assignments, as well as a final exam that will determine our grade for the semester. However, this is not the case in Ireland. Here, your grade is mainly based on one end of the year exam. In my Microbiology class, the final exam at the end of the semester is worth 70% of my final grade, while the other 30% of my grade is from the lab portion of the class.
2. Another major difference is the cost of tuition. I am not completely sure how this all works out, but I believe the Irish government pays tuition fees for Irish citizens (who qualify for it) studying at Irish universities. Also, Irish citizens cannot pay over a certain amount for tuition (if they don’t qualify for free tuition). The maximum amount they can pay is around 2500 euros per semester (or something like that). Anyone studying at an American university can quickly spot the difference here.
3. The courses available to students are also a little different than in the United States. Students here specialize in their field of study much earlier than we do, so they are more advanced in their program than we are at the same age. Also, the minimum amount of credits you need to take in order to be considered a full time student at NUIM is higher. You must take 30 ECTS (15 U.S. credits) minimum at NUIM instead of 12 U.S. credits minimum at Butler.
4. A minor difference between the schools in America and Ireland is the time things begin and end. While the time spent in class is roughly the same as back home, the starting times are different. At Butler I had 800am classes Monday through Friday (despite all of my efforts to avoid this). Here my earliest class starts at 1000am and on some days my first class isn’t until 200pm. However, the drawback is that classes end later. I might end class at 700pm here, where as in the U.S. I would be done with classes at 100pm.
5. The dress code is also slightly different. In the U.S. it would be socially acceptable to go to class in sweatpants or even pajamas (if it’s an early class). That doesn’t happen here much. I haven’t seen one person wearing sweatpants to class and certainly no one in their pajamas.
6. One thing that surprised me is the amount of older students that are taking courses at NUIM. One of the history classes I am taking only has four students, including myself, that are in their early twenties. The rest of the students are in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and even 60’s. You don’t really see much of that in the U.S. (although the cost of tuition might have something to do with this).
7. The grading scale is also different. In the U.S. we have a top down grading system. The grading scale starts at 100 and we are marked down based on what we get wrong. For example, if you missed 2 questions on a 20 question worksheet, you would score a 90% (assuming every question is worth one point). Ireland has a top up grading system where they give you points for what you do right. For example, you could score a 70% on a paper and this would be equivalent to a low A. Also, 40% is considered passing.
8. Last but not least, there are some differences in terms used here. Credits = ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) Module = Course (It took me a while to get used to this one!) Lecturer = Professor (A professor is a title you must earn here.) University = College (People don’t say college here.) Tutorial = Small Lecture (You must take tutorials to supplement your modules.) Session = House Party (Yeah, this one has nothing to do with studying like it sounds.)
Even though we speak the same language, the academic systems between Ireland and the U.S. are very different. I had a rocky start trying to figure out how to work the Irish academic system the first week, but I ended on a high note. There was a lot of information we were expected to know in a very short period of time, but you adapt quickly and most of the lecturers are very understanding.
More to come –