It’s time to talk about work (and a little bit of play!)

By Olivia Ehrnreich, North Carolina State University, USA

21st November

The last three months have been filled with outings, events and lots of work. In the last two months I have taken a trip to Chicago and spent a weekend hiking in the mountains in Blue Ridge Parkway. Some of the events that have stood out in the last month are the state fair which took a good four hours to walk around. Also I have now attended several football games, making me a fully-fledged member of the wolfpack as I and can finally understand the rules and join in the chants. I also got to experience my first American Halloween which is huge here, with the university putting up decorations and themed Halloween events on, a week before the actual day, leaving my wardrobe filled with costumes and face paint. I also had the most memorable birthday, turning the big 21! However, with all of this going on, every spare moment has been spent working, with exams at least every other week, lab reports due in and homework after almost every class, all of which counts towards my final grade, it’s safe to say there has not been much time for Netflix.

The grading system is very different here, rather than just having one exam at the end of the term, every single piece of work counts, which seemed slightly daunting especially with the different grading scale. An A grade achievable at 90% seemed impossible to reach when being compared to 70%, set as a “first” in the UK. There is a much more constant workload, with questions to be answered and handed in every week. In most of my classes, I will have three exams over the semester and a final at the end of the term that is cumulative. However, some classes also require a presentation or report to be written which is good for those of you who prefer coursework to exams.

At first the workload seemed overwhelming but after a few weeks I started to get into the swing of things (with a few hectic weeks here and there). The professors here have all been really friendly and helpful and they have office hours two times a week so you can drop in and ask questions. To look at more information on courses and professors, there is a site called ‘rate my professor’ with reviews from other students and a page on the mypack portal showing the course overview and class grade averages  from previous years. Taking Chemistry with graduate students means I have been encouraged to read articles and keep up to date with new research, which I had not done as much in previous years. There is also a bit more independent work in some of the classes where you have to make sure you’re up to date with work you have learnt in previous years, or possibly that you have not seen before, to make sure you’re ready and prepped for the next lecture. I’m not going to lie, being in graduate courses has been challenging as attending classes with PhD students when I’m just a third year has been a fairly large jump. However, this has made me feel prepared for my fourth year where I will be doing my own research as I carry out my Masters. Speaking to some of the other students who are taking undergraduate courses here, they have said that the style of work and exams differs depending on what course you’re taking. Quite a few of the exams include multiple choice and short answers but if you’re taking a humanity, there will also be essays and other written work to submit.

Don’t let the amount of work put you off, as well as keeping up with studying here I’ve been able to get involved in a huge amount of the student life. I’m having an amazing time at NC State and with the end of the semester coming up in only one month, I’m glad I have the opportunity to stay for the full year.

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