The ‘Study’ in Study Abroad

I’ve been intending to write a post about my classes for a couple of weeks now, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I guess because I didn’t/don’t know what to write. I mean, classes are classes. You go to them. Sometimes you learn things. Maybe you write a paper or two. Doesn’t really make for an interesting blog post. At least not when you compare it to the subjects of my other posts (I mean, really, would you rather read about my classes or see pretty pictures of London?). But I am going to try, since classes are a significant part of how I spend my time here in Scotland.

I am currently taking three courses at the University of Glasgow: Scottish Literature, Scottish Enlightenment, and Reading the Screen: Cinema. First, let me explain the format of the courses. For each course, I have two lectures (for literature, it’s actually three) and a seminar. Each week, in each course, we have a different lecturer. So, for example, in my film class, last week we had one professor give two lectures on narrative and this week we had a different professor give two lectures on sound. Some of the professors may reappear for lectures later in the semester, and some we may (quite literally) never see again. Unlike the lecturers, our seminar leaders remain the same each week. My seminar leader for my film class is a PhD student. I have the same seminar leader for my literature and Enlightenment classes, and he is a professor in the Scottish Literature Department.

Lectures are pretty much what they sound like. The professor spends an hour speaking on a certain subject without any opportunity for discussion or interaction with the students. This is understandable given the sizes of my classes (my literature class has over 120 students in it, my film class has over 140), but it is very different from the small, discussion-based classes I am so used to.

The seminars are much more like my Creighton classes. You are assigned a certain seminar time with a smaller group of students (between 10-20) in which you are able and encouraged to discuss the readings (or screenings, if it’s a film class).

So now that you have a basic idea of how the classes are formatted here, I’ll write a little bit about my specific classes.

In my Scottish Literature class, we have read four short stories, two or three poems, and one long novel so far. We are in the process of discussing the novel–Walter Scott’s Waverley, or sixty years since–and next week we will move on to the next novel. It’s kind of an odd class, for a couple of reasons. Number one, although I am taking the level three course, my lectures are combined with the level one course. The only difference between level three and level one is that level three has an additional lecture each week and, instead of taking a final exam, we have to write an extended essay. And number two, we never seem to dig that deep into the works we are reading. The lecturers are constantly saying things like, “You should look at this” or “As you are reading, maybe you can consider this point” but there’s never any real discussion of the themes in the stories. We just sort of gloss over the main points.

I get that they want us to think independently, and I’m trying to do that, but I’ve always felt that I can appreciate a story so much more when I’m able to discuss it in class. And yes, I know that’s what the seminar is for, but I haven’t had any particularly enlightening seminar discussions yet. Part of that is because we are only four weeks into the semester and people are just starting to feel comfortable voicing their opinions, part of it is because I struggle with participating myself, and part of it is because one hour of discussion per week simply isn’t enough time. Part of it may also be that I haven’t found the stories we’ve read to be that inspiring. To be blunt, I found Waverley, or sixty years since boring. And I know a lot of my peers feel the same.

I know that the above paragraphs make it sound like I don’t like my Scottish Literature class, but that is not the case. It’s just taking a while to warm up. I’m sure once I give my presentation and write my essay next week, I’ll start to get more into it.

Well, I was going to write about my other two classes as well, but I don’t want to bore you to tears so I’ll leave that for another day. Until next time…



2 responses to “The ‘Study’ in Study Abroad

  1. Megan, I loved hearing about your classes at university there! Thank you! Would still like to hear about your cinema/film class. Subtitles? Boring at Waverly, or sixty years since? May talk/see you next week on skype at your home in Omaha.

  2. Megan, I loved reading about your classes. It is fascinating. Like, maybe, the ghost of Robert Burns will follow you into your lecture. Keep writing.

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