Balance, Career, Classes, General, Student Life

The “Study” in Study Abroad

Study abroad has been a life changing international experience where I have learned to live independently, experience a new culture, and study in a different academic environment. Most of my posts have been about the fun parts of traveling and living “abroad” part of studying abroad and now I am going to focus on the main reason for my exchange which is to “study” abroad.

Starting All Over Again and Embracing the Difference:

  • Studying abroad is in a lot of ways like being a first year again because I am in a different university, I had an orientation, and I’m in a different faculty with new professors and different class mates. But, I already have a preconceived notion of what university is going to be like. 
  • Even though University of Toronto and King’s College of London are both prestigious academic universities both ranked in the top 50 in the world (that U of Ter’s give yourself a pat on the back for being so awesome), every university and program is different. Officially, I study Music History and Theory, one of 7 Bachelor of Music Programs at U of T and which is still a broad area. At King’s, there is only one Bachelor of Music program which is integrates all areas of music. The best part about studying abroad is that even though every university offers a different selection of course topics, they still fall under a similar curriculum. At King’s I can take courses that are not offered at U of T and still get credit for them. Taking courses that are different from the ones offered at U of T have taught me new skills and showed me other interesting pathways.
  • Depending on the program degree requirements there can be flexiblily on transfer credits. The hardest part about planning my exchange was finding a school that give me a balance of courses that would match courses at my program and still be unique. Even strict programs like life science or commerce will still have some flexibility in courses for upper years and have bredth requirements and electives which can be fulfilled abroad.

 

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The Reading Room at the Maughan Library, King’s College of London. It is impossible to get a spot here during the day, but it’s Harry Potteresque beauty is to die for. (Taken from: https://witness.theguardian.com/assignment/51efb656e4b06151042bb5af/478793)

Different academic systems:

  • Not only am I studying at another university for the semester, but I am also in a different country and continent with another culture and a completely different academic system. The British university system is both more challenging and easier in many ways.
  • First off, 4 courses is a regular course load at King’s and for the 4 courses I take at King’s, I can receive credits for 5 courses worth at U of T. However, my class hours at King’s are significantly less than at U of T and I only have 12 hours at King’s where I have over 20 at U of T.  Having less class hours seems like my courseload would be much easier, when in reality the academic system requires significantly more independent work and time management skills.
  • The course structure and assessment scales are completely different from my program. All of my courses at King’s are 100% essay based. I have no quizzes, no tests, no participation marks, and my entire grade for each course is based on 1 or 2 essays, which means it is even more important for me to manage my time throughout the term. Even though it feels easier during the term not having the stress of midterm season or waking up everyday for 9am lectures, it is still stressful having my entire grade weighted on one assignment. The essay based assessment style has strengthened my writing skills and is helping me prepare for my career path. All of my classes have a heavy amount of reading and assignements that are formative, which is different from my degree at U of T. Studying abroad has taught me new time management skills and academic skills that are valuable to my program.

We all admit that university can be a stressful environment, especially with the pressure of GPA’s and grad school in the too near future. Since the credits from study abroad transfer to your transcript without affecting your GPA, going on exchange is a great opportunity to try something new and experience another academic system without the added pressure. “Studying” abroad has been a remarkable academic experience where I have learned new skills and opened my mind to different perspectives. 

I miss you U of T,

Tara