Academic Differences at UBC

Melisa Karasu, University of British Columbia, Canada

I thought I’d dedicate this post to the academic differences in the arts department here at UBC from Manchester, as there are definitely a fair few! Although I study English Language with Screen Studies back home, I am only taking English classes here, with one free choice still within the arts faculty, so this post could be helpful for any English students (or anyone in the arts) considering UBC.

I was quite apprehensive about the classes before coming here, as I had heard all about vigorous and intense schedules with consistent tests and homework. This is true to an extent, but it has proved far less scary than I had thought. I have found the class schedules to be not as rigid as in Manchester, with my professors willing to tailor assessment methods to what the students would prefer. The assessments are also continuous here, which is a huge difference to Manchester. So for example, in one class I have two tests, each worth 25%, one group project worth 20% and an essay worth 25%; rather than just one or two summative exams or essays worth the whole module, which is what I am more used back home.

In Manchester I usually have one lecture per module a week with a fortnightly tutorial, but here I have 2 classes 3 times a week and the other 2 classes twice a week, with no tutorials; so it is far to say that in this sense it is probably more intense with regards the amount of content we are learning, and it does push me to keep up. In Manchester I have found it easy to just leave work until the very end as the assessment is usually either an essay or an exam, but here more continuous assessment has definitely helped me be more consistent with my work. I have learned how to just do a little at a time as I go along, rather than trying to cram it all in the end, and I have also found that doing smaller assessments as we go along really help to give a sense of how I’m doing in the class, which I don’t usually get in Manchester.

I love podcasted lectures back home, and this is a novelty that UBC does not offer, but at the same time I’ve found this a good thing, as my classes tend to be smaller and more intimate (taught in a classroom as opposed to a lecture theatre) so they are almost a mix of lecture and tutorial in one, so I haven’t really missed recorded lectures here at all.

Overall I would say if you are a little worried or nervous about the academic side of studying abroad (as I was) definitely don’t be. I can’t speak for other subjects but definitely for the arts department I have found the professors to be really approachable, helpful and friendly, and the modules engaging and enjoyable. Of course there are moments of stress and panic, but nothing we aren’t used to. I’ve found the biggest difference (which is continuous assessment) to actually work and fit in better with my time abroad, as if I didn’t have to continually keep up with the work I probably would have definitely fallen behind as there is just so much to do here! Remember that while this is called ‘study abroad’, the whole experience is so much more than that, and it will never be more than you can handle. Just keep on top of it and above all enjoy and embrace all of the amazing things there is to see and do while you are here!

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