Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Exam Time

Time May 15th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

Essays done. Exams loom. It’s a big thing back in the US, but the way exams are viewed over here puts that to shame. At UEA, at least, this period is called Revisions, because that’s what you need to be doing all the time: revising. Now your essays, mind you; those are already turned in, and whatever grade you’ve received on them is already written in stone and on your final grade. No, revisions refers to the near-endless process of preparing for all the things you need to write during exams, and that’s a lot. I’ve received a lot of advice I can best term as faintly alarming, the most memorable of which was to practice writing out an essay for an hour so that I can clock my handwriting endurance, how long it takes for my hand to start cramping, and just how many words I can squeeze out in a 50 minute period. When people tell me to practice my words per minute, I start to get nervous.

A large part of this, I think, comes from the difference in class structures and grading systems from the US to the UK. Exams are weighted a lot more heavily; I have some friends for whom their exam or final essay counts for 100% of their final grade. That’s a lot of pressure on  one small, timed event, so it’s little wonder that every professor is stressing heavily just how much time you ought to spend preparing to take it. I’m lucky in that I only have one exam to take, for my Witchcraft course. I’m less lucky in that I’m not fond of the course material and I’m not looking forward to reviewing and memorizing it all, but still. Another difference is the amount of guidance that you’re given. Optional readings outnumber required course reading for courses over here by a sizable amount. Essay questions you’re given on exams, and given early to prepare for what questions might be asked during the exam, are the definition of open-ended given to extremes. There’s no bullet-pointed list of things for you to memorize and regurgitate: you need to have an answer ready that you’ve come up with yourself.

It is, in short, a bit stressful. But such is the price you pay for a more relaxed workload during the rest of the time. In a couple weeks I have a break until my actual exam, so I’ll be traveling a lot. And studying. Should be fun, and I’ll post again soon.

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STUDY Abroad

Time August 18th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

I know it’s been awhile since my last post! Unfortunately, I was bogged down by my first real week of work. That’s not to say that my course schedule isn’t hard, but classes are done somewhat differently, here.

First off, classes are called “papers.” Let’s use that word in a sentence: “I’m taking four papers during my semester at Otago: ‘Gender and the Media,’ ‘Crime, Deviance, and Social Transformation,’ ‘Musical Theater Voice,’ and ‘Sensation and Perception.’” I’m lucky because I get to take papers in a multitude of areas. That’s another thing—unlike at my school in the US, students here choose a major (or more than one), and mainly take classes in those areas. For instance, one of my Kiwi Hosts is a neuroscience major and she is taking all science-heavy papers.

Another major difference is the number of assessments. Back at Wesleyan (my home school), I have homework due every week in my science classes. The homework assignments may be problem sets or moodle posts online but there is always something. There are also more tests, meaning grades are split up among more pieces of work (which makes it easier to get a decent grade if you don’t do well on one of them). At Otago, I have no problem sets, no online posts to make, and only three or so assignments per class. Because of this, I must work harder to do well on all of my assignments. Read More »

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Where Has The Time Gone?

Time April 18th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

With only a month to go and final exams looming, things are starting to become more and more bittersweet.  I am happy though because I don’t feel as though I have taken these days for granted.  I truly believe I have grown as a person and learned a ton from this experience… Hey, but let’s not get too melancholy yet.  There is still loads of time! Read More »

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It’s the End of the World (as bloggers know it)

Time December 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

…by which I mean, the Internet is down in my Residence complex. Horror of horrors! Which means I either have to hang out in the library or the Humanities cafe, both of which are a bit of a walk away and aren’t open 24/7, but I don’t really have time for that because I have Welsh to study. Hence the absence of blogging. And I really did want to write another post after my last one which was, admittedly, rather on the depressing side.

So what have I been up to? As much as I’d like to say I was living up my last weekend in Cardiff enjoying all the nightlife/social events on offer and interacting with my lovely fellow students, that would be completely inaccurate. I’ve mainly been sitting at a desk for the past week and a half. No, literally. I just move from desk/table to desk–Humanities Building, Library, Humanities, Library, my flat.

BUT I am more or less delighted to inform you that I have finished all my essays for my modules in the History and Ancient History Departments! As of 26 minutes ago, I have also completed my very last non-Welsh module here. It was a great lecture by the School of Ancient History’s very dynamic and engaging Dr. Evans, on the delightful topic of death in the Ancient Roman world (including a fifteen minute discussion about worms. Delicious).

Another thing to be happy about–the essay I mentioned a few posts back on Ancient Coins that I had such difficulty with and agonized over and thought I would fail–well I did NOT fail, far from it in fact! I was very, very excited about this, as Dr. Evans saw when I picked up my essay from his office yesterday (I think he was amused by my excitement, though).

It’s really amazing. I have learned so much from my modules here, truly; I was so scared when I got that assignment. All I could think was “I don’t know anything! I can’t do this!”…but with many hours of effort, I managed to figure it out all on my own. And I think that’s one of the great things about the academic system here, painful as it is at times–in cases like this, when you are thrust into an academic situation where you are given VERY little guidance at all and know almost NOTHING about the topic, YOU have to go and do the research, starting completely from scratch. I didn’t have any professor here giving me step-by-step instructions as to how to begin evaluating Ancient Coins. I had to figure it out myself.

So I think I get what people mean when they say that the academic system here is much more “self-motivated” than in the United States. And the interesting thing about this process (and probably part of the point) is that because nobody is pointing to reading/sources/etc. and saying “that’s what you need to read/do,” you end up doing a lot of sifting and reading of sources and things that may not be directly relevant, and you learn quite a lot from that in addition to whatever you discover about the topic.

I understand the British academic system! Maybe. Close?

In any case, the countdown to departure is now a mere three (!) days. I still have three Welsh exams, a Welsh writing assignment, and two Welsh lectures to get through, so it’s not over yet! That probably sounds dreadful, but I love Welsh so much, I’m going to try to enjoy it insofar as it is possible to enjoy yourself with your first major oral exam in a crazy foreign language looming.

Many thanks to Anjie, the IFSA Spotlight Blogger studying abroad in Chile, for her comment on my last post; she said “I have a feeling that neither of us are going to lose what we have learned nor who we have become in our semesters abroad” and I think she’s right–thanks, Anjie!

I allowed myself to wallow a little in that post, and I’m sure there will be other times when I want to (and perhaps will let myself) do so (briefly), but I think that what I must do in order to make the transition back to my American life easier is to approach leaving Wales with the attitude I tried to go into it with–a positive one. I have to leave; that is a fact. The only thing I can change is my attitude towards leaving.

I have gained so much out of this experience and I must always keep that in mind–imagine if I HADN’T had to courage to go?! I would have missed out on so much. I wouldn’t have discovered such a wonderful place to which I most dearly hope to return. I don’t know how I will go back, or when, but someday, I will.

So here’s to going out the way I came in–head held high, ready to learn from and take on anything and everything that comes my way. And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my semester in Wales, it is that I was living life a bit passively before I came here, and I don’t want to go through life that way ever again–because that’s no way to live at all.

 

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Exempt? Eximida?

Time July 8th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As mid-June approached, it almost felt as if it snuck up on me, a blur of last assignments and exams. The end of classes was nearing, and after finishing up the second cycle of exams, we began to hear word of final exams. As far as me, the two IFSA study in Costa Rica program classes finished in the last week of classes, two other classes from UCR also finished that week and my two law classes had exams scheduled for July 13th and July 17th.What a bummer huh? My exam was the last day of the last week of finals. No matter how much you enjoy your time abroad, finals are always a downer!

The professor of Systems of Investigation and Judicial Reasoning had mentioned that the final might be changed from the 17th to the 7th so I was planning on being back July 14thish, mid-summer for a few weeks with my friends, family and boyfriend back home, and then I’d be back on a plane to Cornell University in mid-August. Then what happened was one day in Introduction to Law, the professor mentioned that there was the option of exemption for some students who had gotten a nine or higher on the two exams and on the class assignments. Wait, you can do that? I never would have thought that would have been a possibility for me at the beginning of the semester being an IFSA-Butler study abroad Costa Rica student, but I realized that I had gotten a nine on the first exam, so who knows? That would mean that I could be done with three out of four classes on the 2nd of July and have a final the 17th, I could have exams the 13th and 17th or, or….I could be exempt from the exam on the 13th and the professor could move the other to the 7th and I would be home the 8th of July. There were so many ifs that I wouldn’t count on anything at that point. Photobucket

Later that week, the professor of Systems announces that we should agree on a date to move the final, at that point some brave soul blurted “el 2 de Julio,” July 2nd. I couldn’t believe it, the thought had never occurred to me, but suddenly I found myself also shouting it out, “el 2 de Julio!” Before I know it, our final was agreed upon for the 2nd of July, now I had to be exempt in my Introduction class, it was just meant to be I thought. I waited what seemed like ages but really was about a week to see what my fate would be so that I could book my flight home before the prices went way up. It was just about three and a half weeks at the latest until I would be leaving.

Thursday came, finally! I sat there patiently with my breath held as she announced the names…”Eva Dixon, y debemos anotar su mayor esfuerza en la clase…,” basically that the class should acknowledge the extra effort I had to put into the class to be exempt. I got a round of applause and congratulations from the entire class and professor. I couldn’t help but blush, it was a real honor. Not only did I get above a 9 on my last exam, I supposed I decided I would just go all out and get a 10, 100%! Exempt! Eximida! Me? Was she sure? Wow! I really did do it! So only a few minutes later did I realize that I would be completely done July 2nd!

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After talking to my professors and program friends, I managed to sneak a flight home planned for July 3rd, just in time to be home for Independence Day! Woo hoo! I would be home to celebrate one of my favorite holidays of the year- fireworks, food, sun, red, white and blue…I couldn’t wait. I called my mom, dad, boyfriend and told my best friend that in a short two weeks, I would be home… Then it hit me, I am home…here in Costa Rica. My home with a family, birthday parties, vacations, beautiful beaches…

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Where in the world then, would I be going?

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