Cracking Open the Books

Xue_5_1It’s already half way through my first term at UCL and I realized I’ve talked little about the academics at UCL. In addition to all the fun things to do and see in London, academics was an important factor in deciding where I wanted to do my study abroad program.

I am in UCL’s political science department, but I am an accounting major at UW. Therefore, I can’t compare UCL’s political science department with UW’s, but I can provide some general insights. I am taking three political science classes and one accounting class. I believe the British and American education systems are very different; they are different in teaching times, learning style, and assessment techniques. In all of my political science classes, there is a great deal of reading. Students use Moodle, which is similar to UW’s Canvas system. For each of my classes, there is a reading list on Moodle. There is required and recommended reading for each week. Unlike back in the states where I would read one textbook throughout the term, there is no one textbook for each class. Most of my readings at UCL are from academic journals accessed online and selected by the professor. Learning is more independent at UCL because classes only meet once a week.

Xue_5_2Similar to my professors in the U.S., professors here use PowerPoint slides to give lectures. In addition, there are seminars that are similar to quiz sections, except the teacher, not a graduate student, leads them. During the seminars, we discuss the required readings and sometimes students give presentations on the readings. The class sizes are much smaller than what I am used to at UW. An average of 30 people are in my lectures and 15 are in my seminars.

If students have questions or need further assistance, they can schedule an appointment with their professor. This must be done on online and appointments are time-restricted. My appointment with my political science professor was only 10 minutes.

For each of my political science classes, I am assessed by two 2,000 essays. I get to choose essay topics from a set list. So as long I demonstrate mastery of that topic, I can get a good grade in the class. The only test I have is in my accounting class. All final exams take place in term 3.

I’ve found my favorite study spot at UCL’s Main Library. The law room reminds me of the “Harry Potter” room in Suzzallo back at UW. It’s very quiet and the architecture is beautiful. I’ve included some pictures of the campus to give you a better idea of the learning environment at UCL.