By Uschi, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Stanley Park 10K
On Saturday 21st October Millie, Carrie, Lottie and I completed the 47th James Cunningham Sea Wall Race around Stanley Park. Being a spontaneous decision to sign up to the race 3 weeks before the event, none of us really did much training for it, and so when race morning came around we didn’t really know what to expect. Sheff was an absolute babe and drove us to the start line which saved us the dreaded journey downtown on the 95 bus (curse of living on a mountain). On the way down we listened to a mix of Beyonce power ballads and jump-up to get us pumped up for the run. Despite the weather being against us (it was pretty rainy and cold) and not being dressed in the right gear (all the Vancouverites had donned their fancy lululemon rain coats whilst we were shivering in t-shirts), we were all excited to start the race! The run was a loop of the sea wall all around the edge of the park, so we were really spoilt with beautiful views out to sea during the entire time – I even saw a seal bobbing along in the Harbour which was a real highlight. The trees were beautiful colours of red and orange as they began to shed their autumn leaves and at several points during the run I forgot about my aching legs and was just taken aback by the beauty of the park and felt such gratitude to be able to be where I was, doing what I was doing. Designated a national historic site of Canada, Stanley Park is a magnificent green oasis in the midst of the heavily built urban landscape of Vancouver – a must-do for any trip to the city. Twenty-seven kilometres of trails meander through evergreen forests filled with a rich diversity of lush plant life. You can walk, run, cycle, skate or rollerblade through it.
At the finish line we were met with the best banner, loudest cheers and a bottle of bubbly… anyone would have thought we had just completed a marathon! Jess, Sheff and Lucy you guys were the best morale boosters and really made the race for us all!
Sources of funding for your year abroad…
Doing a year abroad is undeniably more expensive than studying back at home in Manchester (food shopping in particular is extortionate here, and I am definitely spending more than double what I would be back in Manchester on my weekly shop). Whilst student finance does give you a larger loan if you are studying abroad, and there are bursaries available from the university, I wanted to explore other options for funding my exchange. I heard about the BUTEX scholarship competition at one of the study abroad talks, and entered earlier this summer, and am chuffed to say I have won £500! BUTEX is an organisation dedicated to promoting learning abroad, and every year they hold a scholarship competition open to students studying abroad for either a semester or a full academic year. You have two options: design a poster promoting exchange or answer the question “Studying Abroad – Global Learning, Global Life-changing. The study abroad experience can have a major impact on a student’s career, academic outcome and skills development. Discuss.” Since I enjoy being creative, I entered the poster competition but not really taking it too seriously I only made it the night before the deadline, so was very pleasantly surprised to hear that I had won! I would definitely recommend entering this competition as £500 is a really significant amount of money to win. I think I am going to use my winnings to put towards a Christmas skiing trip to Whistler with friends!
Another scholarship open to study abroad students…
Academic Differences Between UoM and SFU
With mid-terms having been and gone and various deadlines looming I thought now would be a good time to compare the differences in teaching styles between Simon Fraser University and the University of Manchester. Equally, just clarify to anyone wondering actually how much studying goes on during an exchange. Having taken the past year out from university and working, I was definitely a bit apprehensive before starting here: would I be able to get back in the in swing of attending lectures and studying, let alone adjusting to a completely different education system? Two months in and I am feeling on top of the work here, and can reassure any prospective students that whilst the work load is more than at home, it is definitely manageable. Making sure that I do the majority of my work in the week has meant I still have plenty of time at weekends to explore the city and go on trips out of town.
· Much more of a focus on continuous assessment here. At Manchester I am used to one big essay and an exam at the end of the term, which means I’m often guilty of coasting my way through the term and then having a very stressful last few weeks as I try and make up for all the work I should have been doing as I went along. Here it is very different. There are a lot of smaller assignments throughout the semester that count for 10, 15 or 20% of the overall mark for the module. This means that you really do have to keep on top of your work and readings. There are many benefits for this style of learning, as it takes the pressure off the end of semester exams, and means if you do badly in one essay it won’t have a significant impact on your grade, and you have plenty more opportunities to boost up your grade with other assessments.
· Different types of assessment – class presentations, smaller assignments and mid-term exams.
· Class participation is graded. Therefore you can’t skip lectures or tutorials, and have to actively contribute to class discussions in order to get a good grade.
· Students are very vocal in lectures and tutorials. Speaking only from my experience studying anthropology, I have spent many a painful tutorial at Manchester where no one really says anything in the tutorial, and the whole time everyone is uncomfortably shifting in their seats and trying not to make eye contact with the tutorial leader. At SFU students actively participate in the tutorial, and as a result I have enjoyed some really intellectually stimulating debates.
· You HAVE to read the required reading before class. If you don’t it’s really obvious that you have no idea what is going on, and you just look like a lemon.
· Longer classes. Four hours long, which is possibly the worst pedagogical style. Not all classes here are this long, but for all the anthropology classes, they are four hours long which is the lecture/ tutorial combined into one. It’s really hard to concentrate for this long, but there’s plenty of coffee shops around campus to get a caffeine boost in a break.
· Textbooks are expensive. I spent $250 on my textbooks which seems so much money, but I was actually let off lightly… one of my friends spent $600! That’s just for one semester as a well, so definitely budget some money for this! Luckily, there are Facebook groups of people selling old textbooks, and if your textbooks are in condition you can sell them back to the bookstore at the end of the semester.