The Classroom: US vs UK.

I always feel as though I have so much extra time here in Brighton.  I definitely think that, at least in part, it has to do with the differences when it comes to actual contact hours at Sussex.

Physical_Sciences_Classroom

By that I mean the time that a student spends talking to a professor, or sitting in lectures and seminars. At my home university, the schedule would be vastly different. Here, of course, you have a lecture each week, along with a seminar. Some modules might have more, I suppose, but mine haven’t during my time here. Back in Texas, things are very different. For example, we don’t call classes “modules” – but that’s just another of the words I’m telling myself to use while I’m here.

In Texas, we have the same average number of classes, but you’ll either have a class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for an hour each, or on Tuesday and Thursday for an hour and a half each day. There are some exceptions, and some classes meet more often, depending on if it’s a lowerclassman or an upperclassmen course.

And no, I don’t mean “upper class,” like this:

castle_howard_turquoise_drawing_room_by_kippa2001-d7csjz5

Lowerclassmen are those in their first two years of university, and upperclassmen are in their third, fourth, and even (sometimes) fifth year.

I think the main difference, though, is that at Sussex, much of the learning is done via readings or personal work throughout the term. At home, we would be more likely to have those lectures every other day with a little work in between. I can’t say that I really prefer one over the other now that I’ve experienced both, because in one case, you have class basically all day every day but once you’re out of class you don’t really have as much work. The trade-off, of course, being that you are expected to spend time outside of lecture learning whilst at Sussex. And in some ways, that does work better for people who prefer to do it on their own time.

I’m definitely someone who likes the hands-on hours, but I also enjoy having more time off during the day. On that token, schedules back home are planned by the student. We choose from a variety of classes, and pick the time of day we take that course. Typically, a professor teaches perhaps a few classes, but then spends their time researching. You do get to choose the professor as well if you’re lucky, but your preferred one may not be teaching what you need to take in order to fulfill your requirements for graduation.

Here, you take courses with the same people throughout your years, with many professors you’ve had before. Thanks to a schedule that’s planned for you, you have the responsibility of going regardless of if you like the time it’s at or not. Students leaving university here have had to force themselves to attend lecture and do the work regardless of when they prefer to do so. Both systems will surely allow graduates to feel prepared for the real, adult world, but I’m extremely glad I’ve experienced both.

Lindsay Howard is a 4th year International student from the University of Texas, Austin. She is studying an English major, with minors in Communications and Sociology.

 

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