Classes and America

[This is an exact excerpt from my other blog, “The Life and Times of Odd Girl”. If you liked this post check out the rest of the site here.]

As I am currently a study abroad student, I do have to go to classes every now and again. Not to say that I love having to plan exciting trips to Barcelona and the Moors around classes, but I do also need to get good grades so I can eventually pay off all the debt I will be incurring on these trips. So I guess its a necessary evil. But honestly, some of my favorite stories to tell my friends and family back home are stories I got from my classes. If you are willing to look around and listen, it is very easy to find interesting things to talk about later.

First though, let me explain, loosely, how classes work here differently than in America. At my home school (and I believe a lot of others) you have class three times a week (Mon, Wed, and Fri) for about an hour or an hour and a half, or twice a week (Tues and Thurs) for two hours. Well, here you might have class twice a week but both sessions for that class are usually on the same day. And one of them is a lecture, while the other session is a ‘seminar’, or a period for more in depth discussion and to help people grasp topics. The classes can range from one hour to three depending on how long the teacher thinks it needs to be. And because of this, I am taking four classes but I only have class Tues and Wed of the week (and technically only spend six hours in a classroom a week).

This may sound nice, but they hardly ever give out tests, projects, homework, etc. It is a lot more independent here so, for instance, I have a class where the final exam is worth 100% of my grade and another where it is 80% and a short paper we write is only 20%. In America there are usually a lot more stepping stones to help you get better grades if you are not good at taking tests or have difficulty with the material, but not so much here. Although, to be fair, some classes here do not have any exams, it is just 100% from coursework during the semester or from a project or paper. In America though, you almost always have to have an ‘exam’, even if the students are just sitting in the room watching a movie during the time period.

Now on to some silly stories from my classes:

(But just to give a warning, just because one person, or a small few, did/said something listed below, does not mean that all British people will do that.)

One of my teachers said if we do not understand the material, but are too nervous/shy to raise our hand and say so, to use our eyebrows to signal that to him. Basically we raise and lower our eyebrows really fast, he will see them, and repeat what we are talking about to try and help you understand without revealing who you are.

Most of my classes seem obsessed with America, like it is some very elite country/tribal civilization who are just idiots. (I realize those are completely different, but the teachers seem to feel both about it at the same time.) For instance, we were discussing if our current President really counted as “black” since some people only consider descendent of American slaves to be black, which he is not. And then we just got into a long debate about American politics, and I was trying to figure out how anyone knew anything about our politics.

People also like to come up to Americans and tell them all about their favorite TV shows (usually CSI), movies (usually Dark Knight), and food (usually Goldfish) that they think is from America. I am not sure why since whenever I see a British person I don’t have an urge to ask them about Sherlock Holmes.

In one of my classes we broke up into small groups to discuss some articles and in my group their was a British man. So, whenever I was passed some paper I would say “Thank You”. But this British man (speaking after me) would say “Thank You” and then mumble “Cheers” afterwards. Because of this, I tried not saying anything one time and he responded with only “Cheers” to getting his paper, but continued the trend when I started saying “Thank You” again. (I am guessing he was just hearing me and accidentally saying “Thank You”, but felt impolite if he didn’t also say “Cheers”.)

In all my classes almost no one has their laptop out. In my class of nearly 90 students, two people brought their laptops to the last lecture. I am sure they all have them, but they just don’t bring them. And of those two people, I could only see the screen of one, but they were actually taking notes and not online.

Attendance is not taking at my classes, probably because they are so large it would take too long. But because of this people probably think it is OK to skip more often since they will not be noticed as missing, although there are only 11 classes before the exam so you really have almost no classes to learn everything in. I was listening in on a conversation in one of my classes, which I do a lot when bored, and it went a bit like this:

“How’s it?”
“Tired. I didn’t go to my Sociology class this morning.”
“Yeah, that was me yesterday. When will it be over?” [Keep in mind this is the second week of classes]
“I dunno, but I’m done with it.”
*cough* “I’m coughing.”
“Everyone is coughing.”
“Yeah, everyone in our flat is.”
“Fresher’s Flu part 2.”

I know, not too exciting. I just wanted to post a conversation I overheard really.

[This is an exact excerpt from my other blog, “The Life and Times of Odd Girl”. If you liked this post check out the rest of the site here.]

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” -John Muir

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