Halfway into the quarter has brought with it mid-term exams and papers, in addition to the weekly dose of assignments, class works and readings. Having been here for a while now, I feel somewhat equipped to share some tips or guide for navigating the system at Drexel as a new [exchange] student. I must mention that whatever knowledge I share here is solely from my experience, and not at all a generalization of all incoming exchange students’ experiences here.
The Quarter System
Drexel University uses a quarter system, which has 10 weeks of classes that usually begin sometime in mid-September and culminates with a week of exams in the second week of December. An academic year consists of four quarters and undergraduate students mostly take between 12 – 20 credits per quarter. Coming from the system in Germany, this was very new to me, and I initially assumed it was common in the US. I have come to figure out that it is in fact just a ‘Drexel thing‘ as majority of colleges in the USA use the semester system (which I am more familiar with).
Create a Schedule
Following up from my first point, because the academics is rigorous and everything is very fast paced, it is very helpful to create some schedule and stick to it – or try as much as possible to. Classes here usually come with assignments, readings, discussion boards, midterms, quizzes, papers etc., and with four or five courses in a quarter, this clearly adds up. Therefore, developing some sort of schedule or having a planner that helps to plan when to perform all these tasks, keep note of their deadlines, and also to create time for your personal activities is necessary. This would be helpful to stay ahead of things and limit procrastination.
Mid-term creeps in quite quickly after the start of the quarter, and soon after that, finals approach; while it may look like there may be some future time to complete tasks, it usually is not the case as everything goes by rather swiftly. I understand that everyone is different, and some are able to catch up on all tasks in a very short time, nevertheless, I believe that some kind of structure and plan would guide even the highest-performing student to not just get by, but also thrive.
Explore and network
The importance of exploring and networking cannot be over emphasized, especially as an exchange student. With limited time in the study abroad program, and Drexel’s rigorous calendar, it is important to make out time from one’s schedule to travel, visit new places, try out new foods and experience the culture. Besides, this is one primary reason to study abroad instead of just taking classes at one’s home university. Attend events for exchange students and new students, join an organization on campus, talk to your professors and let them know you are an exchange student. In general, it is beneficial that one makes the most of their time in Philadelphia and the US, outside schoolwork.
Ask! Ask Questions!
This cannot be stressed enough: do not be hesitant to reach out for help whenever needed; you would be surprised how many people are able and willing to offer help. Moreover, there are people in these offices that deal with such situations regularly and thus, have a wealth of knowledge and experience that is relevant in providing you with answers.
Sometimes, you may refuse asking questions because you do not want to appear some certain way, or you just want to try and figure out things yourself. While that may not be essentially wrong, it would be much easier and faster to utilize the resources provided to you and ask questions, when necessary, even for the small details you are unsure of.
Of course, there still exists much more guiding principles to making the most of one’s time at Drexel University and the United States, generally. This article, however, aims to provide some little tips and ideas for successfully navigating Drexel, solely from my experience as an exchange student.