University: My Experience at a UK School

For the past four months, I have been going to school at a public university in the United Kingdom. While attending the University of Reading I noticed some key difference between UoR and my university at home. Here are some of them:

All Singles

One of the unique things that UoR has is single dorms. Every student who lives on campus gets their own private rooms. I really enjoyed this feature because it gave students a space of their own in a very big school. On the flip side, it was super important to join clubs or plan events so you can meet new people.

Structure

One of the key differences I noticed was how long the school term is. During the spring terms classes ran for eleven weeks, with week six being ‘spring break’( more on that later). Afterward, we had a two week off before exam periods started in the summer term. The strangest thing about the exam period was that it was two half months long. UoR is a big school with over 16,000 students, but having potentially two months to study exams compared to two weeks is a huge difference. I think the why UoR has such a long exam period is because of size and the teaching style used.

Teaching Style

In America, it’s pretty standard in classes to have more assignments during the year. Even if your grade is only made up of three tests and a final there is usually homework or readings students are asked to do. Most of my classes were very flexible when it came to students learning materials at their own time. There was usually only one assignment due during the spring term and a final exam in the summer. Instead of homework, the curriculum was heavily focused on reading lists. Professors would often lecture at least once a week, but there was usually a component of the curriculum that you had to learn on your own. In my Data Mining class, the professors would lecture on the basic terminology, but all the technical applications like algorithms and platforms were up to the students to learn. It reminded me of what my father told me after getting out of college. If a job requires you to know this software or skill it’s up to the employee to learn it ( it’s not always in a classroom setting). This style of teaching definitely taught me to schedule and plan, so I could keep up with the curriculum.

Reading Week?

I mentioned earlier that during week six, there was a break in the curriculum schedule. I figured it was spring break since it was the spring term, but it turned out that week six wasn’t supposed to be seen as a vacation week. I asked one of my professors about week six as we were discussing the curriculum schedule; It turns out that my professor and the students were just as confused as I was. Apparently, week six doesn’t have an official name because no one was clear on what to call it. It used to be called reading week which is confusing because the University is called Reading( pronounced redding). In the past, it’s also been called governors week and essay week. To this day, I still don’t know why there were no classes in week six, but I find the whole thing amusing.

Strike

In February, the university board changed the retirement plans for incoming professors. Now professors would be getting a significant cut in their retirement pensions. Because of this, the Reading University Professors Union planned a strike to take place during weeks seven through week ten. Each week the professors would strike on specific days. Starting from two days and week, they would increase the number of days to protest. The union would only stop the protest if the university board would open dialogue about the retirement plans. Not all professors did this, but two of my professors were on the union, so they participated. Thankfully before my professors went on strike, they posted all the documents we would have looked a for the next three weeks. Unfortunately the strike did little good since the university refused to meet their demands; However, the only people who seemed to be mad about the entire situation was the university itself. Some of the students were pretty on board and RUSU( Reading University Student Union) backed the professors union. I have never been a part of a strike before, so the whole experience was very interest to see unfold. Although strikes are a rarity in the UK and USA, this wasn’t the only strike happening. In the states, public school teachers in West Virginia were protesting for better wages and were successful in getting some change. Even though the professors didn’t get their way, it was cool hearing the perspectives of students and professors on the matter.

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