Yes, it’s still mid-early April. Yes, today is my last day of class before finals. I’m as confused as you are, trust me.
Although I plan to discuss my entire experience while abroad, I wanted to also talk separately about my classes this semester. The educational part, the essential reason why I’m here.
Studying abroad is much different than just being a tourist in another place. In that case, you have immense freedom to spend your days exploring and sightseeing. When you have classes to worry about, your attention ends up dwelling on academics. It’s almost easy to forget that you’re even in another country. You’re just in college, taking classes, doing your thing. The college campus atmosphere doesn’t differentiate much depending on where you go.
Compared to past semesters, taking 15 credits is a lighter course load, as crazy as that may seem. I’ve mentioned previously that I’m not great at handling my free time. Despite not being a morning person, I am definitely the most productive earlier in the day. Most days, my brain just stops functioning after 3-4 PM. Now I know that, especially after scheduling my French class at 4:30.
That is the class that has tested me. My other classes are going toward either International Studies electives or a Religious Studies minor, so they aren’t anything too extreme. But I now realize that my previous three semesters of French in the States were fairly tame. They focused on ideas and vocabulary over the strict grammar rules and involved people all on the same page learning a second language from scratch.
This setup is different. Not only does it include over thirty people, which ends up leaves half the class time sitting around as one instructor tries to make a single comment to each student about whatever in-class work we’re doing. Compared to previous experience, not only is the French I learned previously a tad different and, well, textbook compared to native speakers. There is a larger emphasis on listening versus writing. And the tests are pretty open for a free-for-all. And they’re timed.
I’ve been doing the best I can, but learning a language in a large lecture setting isn’t exactly ideal. We take for granted our native tongue on a regular basis, but when you have to remember many grammar rules and verb conjugations and vocabulary while under a time crunch, being under pressure can really screw with you as you try to just finish and also check your work for every single detail, all of which are marked wrong.
Self-teaching is nothing new to me. But self-teaching math is very different from a foreign language. Luckily I have a couple of classmates to ask questions when need be, but I’ve reached a point where my goal is passing and putting less pressure on myself for perfection.
I think out of everything I’ve learned this semester, I’ve learned to be comfortable with doing my best, however that looks. I have already proven myself by graduating a year early with two majors and a minor, with honors. I will have multiple internships under my belt. This is my last few semesters even as a student. I just want to be satisfied with completing my degree through hard work with less concern about every little detail on my transcript, as you’ve probably read plenty about earlier on my blog.
When you’re just in a classroom, you don’t necessarily see the differences of being in a different location. Education in America and Canada looks fairly similar wherever you go. But I’ve enjoyed the new perspectives my professors bring to their classes, a refreshing change when most of my classes at my home campus are in one building and department.
International Relations is field I’ve learned I really didn’t know much about prior to this semester. I expected it to just be an extension upon the few political science or international classes I’ve had before, but IR involves its own terminology and thinking. I even had a class with a International Relations online simulation where we made decisions in a virtual world of sovereign states.
I had considered picking up a minor earlier but was having a difficult time deciding on one, until I had a religion class this semester about apocalyptic literature in Christianity and beyond. Not only is this class so fascinating to me, providing a brand new outlook upon religion itself and the evolution today’s most popular beliefs had from ancient religions and events. Plus, the professor often includes video clips from The Simpsons, Stephen Colbert, and hilariously awful apocalypse movies. I even got a chocolate bar one day for knowing the artist of a song he played. (The answer: Paul Simon).
Overall, I am beyond grateful for this almost four-month experience. No matter where you go, even if it’s just transferring to another American institution, I find great value in taking classes at more than one college. Certainly not a requirement, but it has allowed me to engage with people I never would have, in a setting that offers different opportunities. It forces your adapt from your comfort zone of a home campus and work within the confines of different subjects and teaching styles. And from there, you’re learning so much more than course material.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie