One Semester Down! Any differences between Queen’s and Manchester?

[By Emily Privett, Queen’s University, Canada]

Before I get started about all the of the academic differences between Queen’s University and Manchester, I would just like to express my incredulity that I am already half way through my year abroad…I am struggling to understand how time has gone that quickly, but I guess as the well known saying goes; ‘time flies when you’re having fun!’ This is 100% accurate as I am having the best time in Canada! In subsequent blogs I will tell you more about what I’ve been up to, but for now, let me give you a clearer picture about what Queen’s academics are like compared to Manchester.

During all the excitement of meeting my housemates, new friends and the new city that has become my home for the year, I almost forgot that I was here to actually do some work! After four months away from any type of academia, I thought I was pretty ready to get back into it. I wasn’t, however, expecting quite what was coming in the first weeks!

The first difference I noticed was the amount of work that was given in Week 1 and the amount of reading that everyone actually does! (There were already readings listed in our Moodle site (like blackboard) before lectures had even started?!) At Queen’s, although the reading lists are shorter, you are expected to read every single one and the Professor will almost always refer to them in the lecture after you have been set the reading. You really do need to stay on top of things otherwise you tend to feel slightly lost!

The second difference is the amount of deadlines. I think I had a deadline (or two or three…) every week since week two in Semester 1 which is something that I am not used to! Queen’s University likes to assess their students in as many different ways as possible. This means that our marks are not merely based on one essay and an exam, or two exams which is what I am used to. Instead, in one of my modules I had an in-class test, a group tutorial presentation, a reflection on our presentation, an essay proposal, a main essay and a poster presentation with the other modules following similar assignment patterns. To start with, I was quite overwhelmed by the amount of work I had to do each week, but soon got used to it and now I even like the fact that I had already done 50% of one of my modules and 40% of another by week 6! Also, I have managed to avoid having any mid-terms last semester which I was very happy about!

One massive plus to the cumulative assessment is that I only had one exam and it was before the Christmas break! Yes, it was on the 21st December and so I didn’t come home until the 23rd but it does mean that I get a Christmas break totally free from any work which is lovely!

Participation marks were a source of mild stress at the beginning of the year (now, it’s all good, don’t worry). These are marks given for being an ‘active participant’, mostly in tutorials. Having never had these in Manchester I was quite worried about whether I was going to get them. All through school my teachers told my parents ‘Emily is a great student but I just wish I’d hear more from her during class’…aka I never put up my hand. Ever. After many years of doing this, it was mildly terrifying to hear that I was going to be expected to offer up my own opinions. My fears were soon silenced however when I realised how relaxed my tutorials are and how easy it is to say your opinion without fear of judgement. A few great discussions have arisen from some of the issues in our tutorials and it has been really great to be able to discuss with fellow students.

Although there is a large amount of work to keep me busy, I have still been able to spend every Saturday travelling with friends or with Queen’s Bands (the University marching band) sporting our wonderful tartan uniform (as you can see below) and playing at all Queen’s football matches whilst still keeping up with the work that I have to do which has been a lot of fun.

Queen’s Bands at one of our many events. This photo was even featured on the Queen’s University website!

Anyway, Queen’s does not let up and although it may only be the second day of classes in semester two, I’ve got a rather large stack of reading to dive into, so I should probably get started on those!

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