By Emily (North Carolina, USA)
Whilst it has probably been covered before, one of the biggest differences you might face in the US is the academic differences. It will definitely take a while to get used to, however having said that it is by no means a bad thing.
At Chapel Hill, classes run either Monday, Wednesday, Friday or on Tuesday and Thursday. So if you have class at 9am on Monday, you will also have that class on Wednesday and Friday. The consistency is good, and it means you don’t forget about that topic as you will have covered it multiple times.
Unlike in England, for me our time is not split between lectures and seminars. Instead, we have one type of class, that in fact feels like halfway between a lecture and a seminar. The professor will discuss the reading given briefly and then will ask questions to the class. The biggest change for me actually comes from the students. Everyone happily participates with no awkward silences, and there have been occasions where the more than seven hands will go up at once to offer a perspective. This naturally comes from a system where participation matters.
(An irrelevant yet beautiful picture, on the left is the UL library, on the right is the dining Hall- Lenoir)
If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated with a seminar because no one was interacting, and find yourself on top of set readings in England you would really enjoy the change that studying in America brings.
As an English Literature student, I had 9 hours of contact time as week (6 hours in lectures and 3 in seminars) in England whilst assessments were then split usually into two, with a 40% essay and 60% exam.
Whilst the assessments here are worth a smaller percentage they seem a little daunting. With classes starting properly only by the 15th January, my first essay is due on 29th January giving me a little over two weeks to prepare. Although as a caveat I would say that this is 6-8 pages (translating to about 1800 words).
Two actual examples of syllabi from my professors here
I really don’t want to scare anyone from choosing to study in America, this is meant prepare you for a different system. The largest positive from this system is that if you struggle or are intimidated by the large percentage assessments, the smaller but more frequent assessments would be to your advantage.
The work for English Literature largely reflects the work expected of the other humanities subjects, however I cannot speak on behalf of the ‘sciences’.
Okay, so now for the fun!
If you can get sorted early, the weekends are perfect opportunities for travel, especially if you can coincide it with a holiday, like Martin Luther King Day giving you a three day weekend to explore or if you stack your time table, either not having a Monday or Friday class really helps for travel opportunities.
There are easy options near Chapel Hill, like Raleigh, Durham. Or many people take trips to the beach (Wilmington), or the mountains (Asheville).
Travel might seem like a difficulty but everyone drives here, you just have to be confident enough to ask. On that note, E.A.S.E, the international society organises informal trips out that you can go on just by asking for a seat in a car through the Facebook Group.
Spring Break is still a while off but it is another perfect opportunity for travel. My possible options at the moment are a road trip to Chattanooga, to Nashville, to Memphis, or I might stay with a friend at Myrtle Beach, or go on a hiking trip organised by Campus Recreation.
A short visit to Durham, a local town, to see Duke (our rival) University. This was in late January- notice the snow on the ground!
My roommate and my suite mates are all part of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Often as an exchange I am lucky enough to be invited to their events (Another girl on exchange has even joined a sorority here!)
Although it’s only February it has already reached 26 degrees! This is Polke Place, full of students studying outside
My other blogs:
NC Chapel Hill: We’ve arrived!
NC Chapel Hill: Life at an American University