Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First week of classes

I started my classes with the other British students this week and was surprised at how different the format is from American university classes. I’m taking three classes for ten weeks(while it seems most third year students only take two) and each class only meet two hours a week. So this means I have two classes on Monday (Jane Austen and Sense and Sexuality: Women and Writing in the 18th Century…side note: both these classes only have girls in them!) and one on Wednesday (Wordsworth). Despite not going to class for very many hours, we are expected to read a great deal. I have at least two novels to read each week as well as long poems and then on top of the core reading, we have critical and background reading. It’s much more independent than I’m used because at home, where the professors tell us exactly what to read and when our papers are due. While as here, for my Jane Austen class, we have a 1,500 word paper due in the middle of the term that isn’t graded at all, and we do presentations in class that are also not graded. The only real thing that we’re graded on here is the final essay, which for the British students is due in the Summer term (June), but for us unlucky Americans, is due before we leave. This means I’ll be writing at least 10,000 words (over 30 pages) due in December (4,000 or more each for my two Special Author courses and 2,000 for my Women Writing course). This is very different from WashU where I write three to four smaller essays per class throughout the semester and go to class at least 15 hours a week. The final essays here are often referred to as dissertations, as if they weren’t intimidating enough already. It’s also intimidating because all the students studying English here only study English, which means they are experts at studying English and they often know one another and even the instructors. It’s a less well-rounded and a more focused way of learning. It’s definitely going to require a lot of self-discipline to get through this term. I’m certainly not in the US anymore, and this has been confirmed by the rain that started last weekend and hasn’t really stopped since. Hopefully I can come up with a workable schedule for myself that allows me to get all my work in but still enjoy being abroad!

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