Now that I’ve been in classes long enough to assess them, I figured I should write a post about the educational portion of my study abroad experience (STUDY abroad… get it?)
I’d like to preface this with one word: drama. That’s what I am studying here. By no means is what I am studying specifically as hard as if I were to study economics or international business (very common here, like microbio majors at USF). I am also only taking one class: Digital Theatrecrafts because the drama department wouldn’t let me take any other drama modules and to be honest I didn’t care to take anything outside of drama.
My teacher is absolutely incredible. He is the ‘tech guy’ of the drama department and has worked in technical theatre for more than 25 years, so he knows what he’s talking about. The course is a brief overview of what it takes to light and sound theatrical productions, and other performances. He lets me lay on the floor at the beginning of class and actually asks me if I need to when I’m not. (The chairs are very uncomfortable, so laying on the floor helps my back). The class is two and a half hours long, three days a week. As a teacher, he’s great. A lot of the times he acts like he didn’t fully think things through or if equipment doesn’t do what he says he says he should have planned better for class. He also talks in third person when he is trying to show us how the equipment works or when he’s waiting for it to load/ turn on. Also cursing is nothing here. Everything is ‘shit.’ Even my teacher says it to us or students say it to him, no biggie. ‘That was shit/ it was shit.’ Its all good.
My work is very simple: a radio play and a final portfolio. That’s it. My entire class grade. I had to write, record, edit, mix, and finalize a radio play using specific and particular equipment that he showed us how to use in class. Accompanying the radio play was a screen shot of my edited audio on the software and a 1500 word essay explaining my choices and creative process. My final portfolio is a 3000 word essay (I believe) and a sketched out lighting plan for a production that I do not yet know.
In America, we get 1 month for winter break and 1 week for spring break (most schools that aren’t USF also have a 1 week fall break). In England, we get 1 month for winter break and 1 month for spring break. However, exam week is right after that month is over. So, even though you have all that time to relax and breathe, you are still studying, writing papers, or doing some type of work. During my month break I’ll be writing my final portfolio and working on my lighting plan… oh and travelling.
My class is 30 credit hours and puts me at part time status. In England, the most you can take a semester (or term) is 60 credit hours and the fewest credit hours a course is worth is 15. So, the most you can take a term is four classes. There are less classes but the courses are difficult. The work is so dense and some of it is hard to understand. Even if the work is not difficult the expectation of the work you turn in is especially higher than in America. I’ve gotten A- on some papers that I literally blinked out but that would not fly here. You HAVE to work on a paper for at least a week before turning it in, and that’s just writing it. Any research you do will probably have to be done before you actually start writing it.
The grading scale is somewhat similar to America in the sense that when it’s converted numeric values equal letter grades. However getting a 70 in a class is so hard. 70+ = A, 60-70 = B, 50-60 = C, 40-50=D, 40- = F. Along with that there are different values placed on different degrees. While some of my friends use the phrase ‘Cs get degrees,’ as an excuse for doing the bare minimum, they would be completely screwed here. The degree values can also be associated with a GPA, to make it easier to understand. A 1:1 is the best degree you can get, and is basically a 3.8-4.0GPA. A 2:1 is what most people graduate with, and what my degrees would be considered had I graduated from U of Exeter and not USF, that is equivalent to a 3.4-3.8 GPA. Finally, the last one that matters is a 2:2 which is somewhat equivalent to a 2.8-3.4 GPA.
Most people aim for a 2:1 because, depending on your degree, in most situations a 2:2 is not very helpful when job hunting (according to one of my sources). English students also go through uni in three years, and not 4, and most degrees require some sort of internship during the third year. Many people ask me what year I am and I’m like ‘uhhh, technically I’m a first year’ (The guys naturally seem more intrigued because the think I’m a freshman… um, no.) However, I try to say I’m a post-grad first year and they get confused because apparently people here would never get two bachelor’s degrees.
I’m also on the older end of a uni student. While in America people commend me for graduating at 21, early, with two degrees, here they just ask me why I got two degrees and am getting a third, especially a bachelor’s. Oy vey. The struggle. I would’ve never thought I would be considered old, so I just refrain from telling people my age because most of the time they just assume I’m 18 (old enough to drink). Speaking of drinking, that is part of the academic culture. It seems odd to include it, but just go with it. A local spot, Time Piece, which has become my favourite watering hole, is a draw to all the club sport teams on Wednesday nights. Most of the people there play sports for the uni on club teams (they don’t have university sponsored teams like we do in the US, i.e our American football team). Everyone here seems to study just to go out on Friday nights. It is a wild raucous affair and a good time. But I’ll do a piece on the dating and drinking culture later.
One last thing I wanted to include is how supportive my class is of each other. Its a drama course and theatre in America is a cut throat business. Everyone wants to make it an the girl next to you in your class is your competition, so it is rare to find a support group like I have here. When we were working on our radio plays, at some point the whole class was in the multimedia room together, talking about their projects, sharing ideas, asking for help, etc. It was something I have never seen before. In America, I would’ve never told anyone my idea for my radio play because I would’ve thought someone would steal it or tell everyone what I wanted to do. Its a really great studying and learning environment and I knew that I couldn’t come back to America and study theatre because it would not be the same. Its kind of sad but even though I’m giving up on this dream, there are other dreams out there for me and I’m very excited to pursue them.
That being said, in pursuit of this dream, I will be leaving England early. I will leave the first week of May because the term ends the last week of April. However I will have more wondrous adventures for you all because next month I’m going to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day (oh boy.) and I will be journeying around part of Europe during my month long spring break. Weee get excited because I sure am!