Putting the study in study abroad

One of the first things I noticed upon meeting my new instructors was the varied backgrounds they came from. The majority of instructors in my classes were professionals who used their experience to teach classes rather than formally trained educators. Though our professors were used to a different culture, and in most cases did not speak English as their first language these aspects enriched the study abroad learning piece. They were able to share insights on how classrooms operated in the home country, and when possible brought those aspects into the classroom. One of the additions to the curriculum were the field trips we went on as a class. In the course of a few months, I learned about the Spanish Monarchy at the Spanish Royal Palace, British Imperialism at the Royal War Museum, and Health Care Policy on a visit to an international NGO.

The largest difference was in the way the classes were structured due to the nature of the program. Due to its setup to accommodate travel to three countries- on a block system; class sessions cycle in six-week periods. This means in the space of one semester there were three mini blocks in which students take two classes per block. Initially, it can sound daunting to be expected to learn a semesters worth of material this way, but in actuality, it is refreshing through unusual to only have two classes to focus on at a time. Students also have the opportunity to replace classes with an internship, independent research assignment, or volunteer work if that is what they are passionate about.

A minor adjustment that I made coming into the program was adjusting to much smaller class sizes than what is common at Pitt. I moved from introductory business classes in lecture halls to small classrooms with between 15-25 students. This smaller class size led to a much more interactive, discussion centered curriculum as part of the grading procedure. The second largest adjustment came in my British literature class. Students in the UK are expected to do much of the learning outside of class, and then come to class for a recap/ recitation. This meant I was reading outside of class around 10 hours a week to keep up with British literary classics such as Oliver Twist. With technology, it was very manageable to listen to audiobooks to get through the content, but initially, the learning curve was very different.