The Study in Study Abroad

Taking classes in a foreign country is a scary yet rewarding experience. During my first few weeks of classes, I began to notice some key differences between how classes were taught at Pitt versus at CAPA. In addition, I began to realize how different cultures affect teaching styles.

First off, only a few of my five professors are British. When first coming over to study abroad in London, I really thought most of my professors would be British. Yet, since London is such a multicultural city, this did not really make any sense. Everyone comes to London for so many reasons and the fact that I can also see this through my professors of different cultures is very exciting. My British professors are very similar in the way they approach academic work in that the concepts and assignments are more vague compared to those of the U.S. They like to bring in their own personal experiences as examples, but then allow students to be creative with their approach to the assignments. At first, this was more of a challenge as writing assignments at Pitt are much more structured, however it allowed me to really take the assignment into my own hands and generate a unique response. My professors who are not British, on the other hand, hold teaching styles that are more similar to those of the U.S. in that many of the assignments are clear and offer direct guidance. By experiencing both cultures while abroad, I am able to grow academically.

The main difference between classes at CAPA and Pitt is that several of them hold outside of the classroom activities such as field studies and independent museum visits. This integration with academic work allows the students to experience London and understand how course concepts relate to the city as a whole. While this adjustment in terms of scheduling around site visits was easy to get used to, learning to adjust to three and a half hour long courses was much more difficult. At Pitt, I had never taken a night class or longer class so I did not know what to expect. After the first few weeks, however, I became used to the schedule of the long classes with the breaks halfway through.

Thus, after taking classes abroad for almost half a semester, I have a few tips to give to those who plan on taking courses abroad:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about assignments that may be vague. The professors are always open to helping you.
  2. Take notes and pictures on field studies so you do not forget what you learned.
  3. Make friends in your classes. It is the best way to have the time pass by and they make great study partners.

Until next time, cheerio!