Written by Alex Pennington-Little
I never appreciated how wonderful Brock is until I had the chance to step away from home. At the opportunity to fly across the ocean and settle into a new city, school, and world for four full months, I barely hesitated to jump through the necessary hoops. It’s been about six or seven weeks since my arrival in Glasgow, and adjusting has been slower going than I had imagined.
I thought of writing this post this morning, when a professor of mine asked me how I’m finding Scotland, etc, and he asked me what the biggest difference between here and home is to me. I didn’t have a proper answer for him, and so I think I came off a bit unobservant or non-participatory in some way, as if I haven’t noticed any difference at all. But truthfully, I had to take a moment to think of a real answer to the question.
There are many differences, and many similarities. But to answer my prof’s question, I think optimism is the biggest cultural difference. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about – but the Scots seems a perpetually positive people. Aside from shop clerks and baristas, who are consistently upbeat, the people on the street and in the university offices have the same positive attitude. Nothing seems to be worth stressing over – to some frustration on my end, when half the printers on campus are out of order and nobody seems bothered about rushing to fix them.
I was delightfully surprised when, by another spectacular failure on GCU’s part I was overlooked when placing students into workshop groups and am now four weeks behind on coursework. I went to meet with my program advisor, who went over the module expectations with me and said to just show up to the next class. Now, I am a chronic worrier and automatically spin into panic mode when everything isn’t sunshine and rainbows, so I asked him outright: is this going to be a problem that I should be worried about?
He laughed. No, he chuckled with glee or something wonderful like that, and said “Nah man, it’s cool!”
So I suppose to answer the question, the biggest difference to me has been attitude. People seem happier when everything isn’t dependent on perfection all the time and place faith that the problems will get resolved in their own time. My frustration with GCU’s administration, while justified by my organized, anti-chaos Canadian culture is actually standard procedure when you take the approach that everything will work itself out. I’ll try to get used to it. But it is difficult when half the facilities on campus are broken and not fixed for weeks on end, or when the fire alarm in my building is broken and it’s a long weekend, so the squealing goes on for three days before someone is reminded to fix it.
I have been getting annoyed with a lot of the workings of GCU, and most of the time try to chalk it up to the cultural difference instead of getting upset. I will pose a question and for whatever reason, it rarely gets understood correctly and the respondent will spend an unnecessary length of time explaining something to me that is irrelevant. For example, when I asked my seminar leader about how exactly to begin my essay, he proceeded to explain the importance of title pages, paragraphs, citations, etc. as if I have never written a university paper ever before. When I emailed another lecturer about the same topic, asking the same question, he rudely responded that it was inappropriate to ask for help over email and to discuss my problem in seminar. Maybe it’s just me that found his response impolite and brash, but I am still quite put out about it. No matter how many times I’ve sought out help on my own, nobody seems to be able to give me the guidance I’m looking for. It makes my anxiety about succeeding in classes worsen, and a lot of the time I feel like I’m just on my own to figure it out. The program leaders are adamant about being available for anyone with questions, but at the moment their help seems useless to me.
Another note about my exchange: the classes offered at GCU are unlike any classes I’ve ever seen at Brock. I’m taking Creative Advertising in which we are given a brief each week and must pitch ideas to our professor, which is so stimulating and creative in a way unlike anything I’ve done at Brock. I’m also taking Radio Production in which we write and produce a full-length radio episode.These opportunities aren’t available for credit at Brock in my experience. The opportunity to explore and exercise these tasks and skills is worth the cultural frustrations… so far!