By Katie Lewin (Simon Fraser University, Canada)
Finals have just finished, ending semester 1, and I head home for the holidays in a couple of days, which I’m so excited for. My first semester at SFU hasn’t been the easiest, however, once I finally settled in and found my feet, things have only gotten better. The academic side of life at SFU is what I’ve had the least issues with; it was what I expected and hasn’t yet caused me any major difficulties.
Lectures are fairly similar to Manchester in layout and teaching, although not all professors use slides or put them online. The size of lectures depends on the course, mine range from around 40 to 100. Other differences are that people participate in lectures more by asking questions or actually answering the professor’s questions, which wasn’t really done in Manchester. Lectures are usually based on the week’s reading, plus some extra detail. Therefore it is vital to do the week’s reading, especially as they are then discussed in that week’s tutorial. Tutorial participation and attendance is a percentage of the course’s overall grade, so people get involved a lot more and show interest in the topics, which makes the content easier to understand and remember.
In terms of workload, there are fewer essays: I only had to do two this semester. Instead, there are smaller exercises such as group presentations, weekly readings, midterms and final exams. The grade boundaries here are also a lot higher than Manchester with a B- equalling 73-77 and an A- 86-89! Exams for geography typically involve some short answer questions and definitions, and an essay. SFU has exams morning, afternoon and evening during the exam period and even on the weekends! I am definitely not a fan of 7-10pm exams!
However my first semester hasn’t been all work. I’ve been up to lots, including visiting Seattle, watching the Canucks play, visiting the Vancouver Aquarium and much more. Vancouver also gets very festive over the holiday season, with snow, the Vancouver Christmas Market (definitely not as good as Manchester’s), Roger’s Santa Claus Parade and Bright Nights at Stanley Park. I can’t believe how quickly this semester has gone and that I’m halfway through my exchange. Time is running out so I really need to get started on my dissertation, as well as doing all the other things I want to do and see. I’m looking forward to second semester and the adventures it brings!