It’s Monday morning and after an amazing couple of days galavanting through London, I find myself waking up at 8:30 in the morning getting ready for my first class at Queen Mary. As I didn’t know this too well before I got here, I wanted to run through what to expect from the UK University system, in case you may be interested in studying here!
First off, everything is somewhat similar to the US system, but has very different names. For example, a ‘major’ in the U.S. is called a ‘course’ in the UK, and a ‘class’ is called a ‘module’. So make sure if you decide to study in the UK you don’t call your classes ‘courses’ like we tend to do sometimes. People will get confused as to what you’re talking about.
Second fact to know about University here is that everybody picks one or two courses, and only takes modules in those courses. So, if you decide to study History in the UK, you only take courses in History. As an international student, you are not restricted to one subject or another however, giving you the flexibility to take courses in any school you would like. Personally, as a Music Industry major at Drexel, Queen Mary does not offer any courses similar to those that I have to take for my major, so if you’re like me and study something specific at home, studying abroad in London is great for taking care of elective credits. I decided to take two English courses and two History courses while I am here, not just because of elective credit, but because I am generally interested in the subject matter of the courses. That being said, there is quite a bit of work for each course.
At University in the UK, you are much more responsible for your learning than your professors are. That means you have two types of meeting in your courses, lectures and seminars. Lectures are exactly what they sound like, you go to class with everyone in your class, do a general lecture and then leave. Unlike in the US, lectures here are very small, capping at maybe 30 students. Once your lecture is completed, some of your courses will also have a seminar, this is a smaller class of maybe 10 people that meets at a later time in the day to discuss the subject matter of the week more in more detail.
So, now that you know the basics let me tell you a little bit about my first day. My first class of the week is ‘Making of the Modern Self’, a history course on the topic of selfhood throughout history. At first, I was incredibly intimidated walking into a class of people I didn’t know that only study History. Whereas I study Music Industry and haven’t taken a history course since high school. But as the course goes on I realized that that history in high school really paid off and I was ready to go through this vast idea of selfhood in European history from that earlier education.
Seminars may also seem intimidating, but I personally felt very comfortable in my seminar and was excited to hear what other people were thinking about the subject. Most of the courses here are very discussion based, so if that is something you enjoy, the UK education system may be for you. A little interesting tid -bit I heard from some student from England and New Zealand is that they think Americans talk the most in their discussion, which isn’t a bad thing, they enjoy the fact that we seem to be confident enough to speak up, even if we’re completely new to a course. That definitely helped me feel more confident in contribution to conversation.
All in all, it seems that the course work here is very similar to Drexel in particular. Queen Mary has a twelve week semester with one week off in February, and exams way at the end, (which if you study abroad in the spring, you won’t do by taking courses without exams). It is also similar to Drexel in the fact that you only have class once a week for three hours at most. But do be prepared for A LOT of reading and much less tests. I hope this was a helpful guide to what to expect going back to school for a semester in the UK!