10 Ways College is Different in the UK

After my first couple weeks of classes at the University of Roehampton, I’ve already learned that there are some major differences between classes here and my courses back at UC.

1. It is normal to meet for classes only once a week, but for three hours and sometimes four. I have classes Wednesdays and Thursdays, so either way I have a long weekend, which is nice, because I can explore and travel in my free time.

2. Classes are composed of lectures and seminars, which back home would mean the same thing. But here there is an hour lecture, sometimes with multiple instructors. Then you will have a seminar with one instructor for about two hours.

3. That’s another thing: They don’t like to be called professors—they are instructors or lecturers. Back home you call your teacher “professor”  to show respect. Here it’s normal to call your teachers by their first names. Also, if your instructor happens to have a PhD, which most of them do, don’t even think about calling them “doctor.”

4. Back home, students would know the required reading materials ahead of time before they even thought about starting school again. Here, there are no reading lists that are sent out prior to the start of classes. This instituted some anxiety for me, because most students here rely on the library to have the books they need for class. I am used to having my books a month before school starts, and I like to rent them from Amazon or Chegg, because that means you can write and highlight in them.

5. On the lines of reading materials, it could be expected for you to read an entire book by the next session, so in a week. In one of my classes I was to find this book by Charles Dickens and come prepared to discuss it in class. I couldn’t find it at the library, so I was worried I wouldn’t get the book on time, but the I just ordered it off Amazon.

Starbucks on Oxford Street

6. Class schedules for the semester are referred to as “timetables,” and it was kind of strange at first when everyone was saying, “Refer to your timetables.” Now that I am used to it, I bet when I get home I will refer to my class schedule for the spring semester as my “timetable.”

7. Instructors have a different relationship with students. Back home at UC, I’d have professors trying to help me in any way possible if I had a question or concern, but it’s a bit different here. For example, on Wednesday my name wasn’t on the attendance sheet for the class, and I knew I was in it because it was on my timetable. So I asked the instructor, and he walked away from me. Better luck next class, I guess?

8. Independent learning is proponent in all classes. Don’t get me wrong — back home I do my fair share of independent learning, but sometimes you don’t have to read every single word in every chapter prior to class, because professors sometimes just read out of the textbook anyway. Here it is expected that you are reading the materials, because the instructor won’t go in depth about what you were to read during lecture.

9. You may only have your grade riding on one exam or paper. Yes, thats right, ONE. This was a shock to me, because back home we would have tests, quizzes, participation, homework and attendance all compiled together to give an overall grade for a class. So far in my classes I have one project or essay that I will submit in November that counts for a majority of my grade.

10. Grades might not be out right away. In orientation they were saying grades could take a few months to be finalized. WHAT? Back home we don’t even have to wait a few weeks for our grades. I guess we’ll see about that.

Wish me luck!