Guide to the American Classroom

Howdy friends!

Thus far, my blog posts have touched on my experiences outside of the classroom, so today I figured that it was time to spice things up and reveal to you the behind the scenes scoop to academic life while studying in America. After all, half (maybe even more) of the experience of studying abroad is the whole idea of STUDYING.

For the most part, the education system in America (or at least the one here at UNCG) follows a similar structure to what we are used to at Brock University. For example, a full class schedule consists of 12-15 “credit study hours” which mirrors our 5 courses a semester type thing and lectures run between 1-3 hours in length 1, 2 or 3 days a week respectively. Nothing new there. Lectures consist of a professor teaching and asking questions of the group, assigning readings and homework along the way and throwing the occasional pop quiz. Nothing new there either. The core elements of education are identical which has helped to make the transition to a new institution that much easier. I thought I would be overwhelmed by the idea of GPA’s yet this is proving to be easier than I expected however as I’m sure you can imagine, there are some clear differences that opened my eyes to the fact that “I’m not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy”.

One of the new concepts (at least for me) was made clear on the first day of class in the bold, underlined letters in the course syllabus: Attendance is Mandatory and is recorded by the professor at the beginning of every class. Failure to attend 2 or more classes without an excused absence will result in a grade lowering by one full letter grade! Now I know that going to class is a no brainer. From my experiences back home at Brock, I realized that by not going to class I was taking the risk of missing important information; however the idea of having such severe consequences for playing hooky is new and frankly a little scary. I must say though, that the tactic has worked wonders because I have yet to miss a class (and I have two 8am lectures…TWO) It just goes to show you that American schools take education very seriously and want to ensure that all students are getting the resources they need to succeed in their selected fields. Keep in mind that not ALL classes adopt this technique for encouraging attendance; this is just my experience in a few classes.

Another difference that I noticed is that seminars and tutorials are a rarity here. Unlike our system at Brock which provides a secondary component to all classes, very few classes (in all disciplines) have the added luxury of seminars. In courses that are especially demanding, this may help explain the strict attendance policies by ensuring that students are getting all they can out of lectures. Of course, the professors of each class are more than happy to provide feedback on assignments and offer extra help outside of class if you need it, yet the responsibility is placed on student to seek that assistance. We are fortunate to have that opportunity provided for us and it has made me appreciate the support we are provided, (even though we sometimes see it as just more work rather than help…)

By far the coolest difference I’ve noticed between Brock and UNCG has been the usage of the iClicker (not be confused with the iPod/iPhone or any other apple product ha-ha) In each of my biology lectures, to show that I am in attendance, I use this little do-hicky to answer a quiz question for extra credit and it marks that I am present. Isn’t technology so cool these days?! I think it is so neat and definitely a convenient way to track attendance of so many people.

Well that about sums things (even though I just realized that I completely ignored the musical aspect of my academic life….since I am a music student after all lol – I guess I will save that for another time. Spoiler Alert: Practice Practice Practice.

‘til next time

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