Well, I just walked out of my last seminar at the University
of Reading. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic already. So, I thought I’d write a
comparison of the biggest differences between taking a class at Berry College
and at the University of Reading.
The Class Structure
At Berry: In a
typical literature class at Berry, I would attend two longer lectures on
Tuesdays and Thursdays, or two shorter lectures on Mondays, Wednesdays and
Fridays. The lectures themselves would be part teaching from the professor and
part discussion about the book we were reading. Occasionally there would be a
presentation from a student or a proofreading session during the class. Classes
go for sixteen weeks, from mid-January to the first week of May. Classes can
range from seven students in an upper-level to around twenty or thirty students
in a general education course. Pretty straightforward.
At Reading: Classes
here are very different depending on which class you are taking. First of all,
a class is called a “module,” and what they call “courses” we call degree
programs. This was infinitely confusing as I tried to navigate Reading’s website
when I first started looking at studying abroad.
In a given class, you might have lectures, seminars or
tutorials, or any combination thereof. A lecture is basically what you’d
expect, with the exception that at lectures you aren’t supposed to talk to the
professor—no questions or comments. You just listen. A seminar is when you meet
with a smaller group of people—say seven to fifteen—sometimes with a different
professor to have discussion and questions. A tutorial is when you meet one on
one with the professor and have a private lesson.
The two classes I am taking here are considered “coursework”
classes, which means I only have seminars. While at Berry I’d be taking two or
three English classes (plus whatever general education/fun classes I wanted),
here I am taking only two English seminars. I meet once a week for two hours
with each class… which means I have five day weekends.
While at Berry we have fall and spring semesters (and summer
blocks), here they have fall, spring and summer terms. The spring term is only
ten weeks long. It’s followed by a month long Easter break. Then summer term
starts, which is when students turn in their final projects and take tests for
their final grades.
The Course Load and
At Berry: A
literature class at Berry generally has two to three essays (between four to
ten pages, though that varies), a journal or short papers, and potentially
tests or a final in-class essay. We’re also expected to read all the novels
assigned. My grade would be divided between these various projects and my
attendance/participation in the class, and my professor is the one who gives
At Reading: My
coursework classes grade only one thing: My final project. I’m not marked up
for attendance and I’m not allowed to split my grade over multiple smaller
assignments. It all rests on my final, eighteen page paper. And if I want a
good grade, that paper’s got to cover something that hasn’t previously been addressed
in academia. Pressure much?
At Berry: Professors
love to see students outside of class. Many times during the semester, I’ll
find myself stuck in an essay or kicking around vague ideas. I can just pop
into my professor’s office, and normally I’m met with a smile and enthusiasm.
When I pass professors outside of class, they’ll often say hello or even stop
and have a chat. I normally get feedback on my essays from the first concept to
the thesis to the rough draft. It’s a warm, friendly atmosphere that’s really
helped me thrive.
At Reading: The
first day of class, my professors told me they weren’t allowed to even discuss
my final project. Say what?! I do have one assignment that doesn’t get graded,
but does get feedback, which would at least let me see if my quality of writing
was going to meet their expectations. But I’d get very little feedback on the
It’s also much harder to meet with professors here—usually
you have to go and sign up on their door, and sometimes there aren’t enough
slots. Though by the end of term I feel pretty familiar with my professors, I
definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable popping in and asking a random question.
My professors have been great, though, and have found ways
to encourage me in the right direction. But it’s still nothing like the
experience I have at Berry.
At Berry: Normally
the accents are Southern or at least standard American. (I’m not sure that’s a
thing. Whatever isn’t Southern but also isn’t northern or city.) I have nothing
against this. But…
At Reading: British
accents. In literature classes. British people reading and discussing
literature. It… it is beautiful. It
makes me cry inside.
Stay tuned for more of my adventures abroad!
By the way, there is an option for you to leave comments on
this blog. If you have any questions about study abroad, or Berry in general,
do let me know!