It’s been one hell of a month since I last wrote.
I was always warned before coming to Canada that the North American style of teaching meant that there was more constant assessment than back home. However, I managed to completely override this in my mind with any exchange student’s favourite phrase “PASS/FAIL!”. Due to the different styles of teaching over here, unlike Erasmus, our marks don’t count and instead we just gain credits for the year and complete 100% of our degree in our 4th year back in Edinburgh.
Somewhere along the way in my head this translated as exchange being one constant breeze, travelling every weekend, partying and playing beer pong in Canadian bars. While this has of course happened along the way, November has been different. There’s just so much more work to do here, and I forgot that passing means getting this written and handed in. I think part of the difficulty is I have never taken an Edinburgh 3rd year, so the comparison is difficult to make as I have never experienced that workload. However, just for the sake of comparison, last year in my first semester I had three hand ins. I’ve had eleven so far at Queens. It not just volume as well. There’s new referencing styles to be learnt, new teaching formats, new types of assignments to be conquered article analysis anyone?
My courses are different as well. I take 5 a semester instead of the usual 3, and have no tutorials simply lectures and readings. This however has changed my perspectives on lectures. In Edinburgh, a politics lecture usually meant 300 of us in the biggest lecture theatre on campus with handouts, slides and everything recorded on webCT for us. Here, my lectures range from 18 students to 100- and participation is seen as important in both. One of the things I have valued so much from my exchange so far is the chance to see different teaching styles. The profs here are incredibly engaged with their classes. Whereas in Edinburgh I don’t think I ever even had a conversation with a lecturer, all my profs know me by name, and encourage me very strongly to discuss assignments and essay outlines with them each week so they can give pointers and research starting points. Although I had some lecturers at Edinburgh that I found inspiring, the teaching at Queens has taken it to a whole new level, and I’ve found studying politics here very rewarding.
Just as an aside, for anyone reading this blog and thinking of coming on exchange to Queens, make sure to get in a class with Prof MacDonald- she’s brilliant and also Professor Nossal, head of the department, who has never in a single class used a prompt, script or slide, and never once lost the fluency of his argument- impressive stuff.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, Edinburgh seems to have been in a never-ending snow storm for the past week. This is upsetting for two reasons. The first: I am not there to enjoy it. The second: I presumed living in Canada would mean that I would be constantly to bragging about the knee-deep snow here. Unfortunately Ontario has had no such luck, and after a very small flurry on Halloween we’ve had nothing. Depressing when Kingston upon Thames has a higher snowfall than Kingston, ON. Fingers crossed for this week though.
My month of assignment hell was rescued by three wonderful packages from home, filled with cards, Percy pigs, thermal socks, and a Cadbury advent calender- nothing could have cheered me up more! I’m looking forward so much to heading back for the Christmas break- a few days in Edinburgh and then home for the family-all only 17 days away!
Despite all the moaning about the weather and assignments, this place is very much now home. It’s very hard to explain Queens to someone. It’s a little magical, friendly bubble that has to be seen to be believed. Anyone else know of another university holding a Quidditch tournament on Friday?! Thought not!