By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia Okanagan, Canada)
To all those coming to UBCO, or interested in coming to UBCO, here are some differences that you might be interested in knowing beforehand:
- Term dates and alternative assessment
The second term at UBCO starts about two weeks earlier than in Manchester and lasts about four months. Since the start of the term at UBCO falls into the January examination period in Manchester, you have to arrange alternative assessment for these exams. While it is in most cases possible to arrange alternative assessment in the form of an essay in more discursive subjects, such as Politics and Philosophy, other departments, such as Economics, require you to sit your missed exams during the August resit period for the first time. While it felt nice not to have to study for exams in January, the alternative assessment, the deadlines of which coincided with the start of the term at UBCO, as well as the academic system at UBCO both require good time management.
- Course choice
Since it usually takes four years to complete your bachelor’s degree in Canada, exchange students from Manchester usually take third year courses. You are, however, allowed to take one or two second year courses. What I noticed is that some second year courses complement my first year studies in Manchester very well while in other cases third year courses were a more appropriate choice. For this reason it is useful to email the professor about the syllabus before you make your choices. At UBCO, as in Manchester, you are allowed to add or drop courses within the first two weeks. After that there is another deadline here in February, up until which you can still drop courses, but with a W (for withdrawal) standing on your transcript. Although withdrawing from a course is not recommended as you would need to do the required number of credits per semester in order to complete the equivalent of a full year at Manchester.
- Teaching methods
Different from the typical combination of lectures and tutorials at Manchester, there are no tutorials for most courses here at UBCO. Instead, there are two 80-minute classes per week for every module that you take. The class size is much smaller with usually no more than 100 students in one class. In one of my classes, there are just 40 students which is a great contrast to the 200 to 300 people you sometimes find in a lecture theatre in Manchester. I enjoy the small class sizes, since it makes it easier to get to know your classmates and generally facilitates class contribution. Many students ask questions during class and it is not unusual to do exercises in class and to discuss the answers afterwards or for the professor to engage students in a discussion. You also get to know your professor better and, as in Manchester, all professors have regular office hours and are very willing to help with any problems you might have. Moreover, there are TA (teaching assistant) hours as well. Teaching assistants are usually students that have taken the class before.
- Assessment methods
Whereas there is usually a great emphasis on the final exams in Manchester, the final exams often accounting for 60 to 100%, more weight is placed on continuous assessment here in Canada. There are a variety of assessment methods that are used, such as midterms, group work, take-home midterms and exams, graded assignments and homework. None of my finals accounts for more than 40%. If, however, you miss one of your midterms, the weight of the midterm is usually added to the final. If the midterm is worth 20%, for instance, then missing this midterm would mean that the final exam accounts for 60% of your grade. Although it takes pressure off you to do well in your finals and spreads the workload throughout the semester, this makes it even more important to stay on top of your work and keep up with the reading throughout the term.
Essays or term papers here often require you to choose your own topic or pose your own question within a certain framework, a little bit like a mini-dissertation. It gives you much more freedom in your focus and research and allows you to explore a certain aspect of the course that is of particular interest to you in greater depth. The preferred writing style and form can vary slightly from the way you are used to structure essays in Manchester so that I would recommend asking the professor about any formalities you might be uncertain of beforehand, such as referencing or the word limit.
(Can’t finish a post without a picture of the beautiful scenery, I just love the view too much. I am sure you will too if you decide to come here 🙂 It looks even more beautiful in real life.)