I spent my first two weeks in Scotland going through the tedious process of registering myself as a student and temporary UK citizen. I did a little traveling, but mostly I waited in lines and stood in crowds of college students.
I packed up my brand new backpack with all my brand new school supplies.
You really would have thought it was my first day of kindergarten, not the beginning of my Master’s program.
I tried really hard to get a grip on myself. I am, after all, a sophisticated, intelligent postgraduate student visiting from another country.
Though I don’t have the best track record of being well-spoken or mature.
All the same, I walked into class.
Only to walk out of the room two hours later needing a pub.
See, my first class isn’t so much a class as much as it is a dissertation-writing guide, so the first day’s class comprised of a long, intimidating-as-hell list of responsibilities and expectations for a perfect dissertation.
Alright. No biggie.
I can handle this.
I didn’t travel 3000 miles to be intimidated by my first class.
I pumped myself up and went to my second class.
The rest of my classes were much better.
They contained fun, friendly professors and 5-12 students all sitting around a table in studies with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
I saw it as my opportunity to strike.
It’s time to work my Amy charm
And meet all sorts of new people!
Unfortunately for me, we all had to introduce ourselves by our research interests and why we chose the University of Glasgow. I’ve had to repeat this for each professor (including guest professors), and every answer I’ve given has been different because I haven’t the foggiest idea.
I have a million interests for dissertation, and I picked Glasgow Uni because it was old, looked cool, was highly ranked, is Scottish, and is a top research institute. Basically, it serves my self-interest and vanity.
My problems with focusing on a topic were quickly eclipsed by a bigger problem as classes settled into a routine. The classes’ format was entirely different than what I was used to (and not for the better).
The method that I am used to and like a lot is lecture style, where a professor teaches us something. I then take the new information, add my own interpretation to it, and run with it. My new classes are “taught” seminar style, and I seriously did not understand what that truly meant. More discussion, sure. But in seminars, professors don’t teach us anything. They sit and listen to what we, the students, teach the class.
Because, yes, the students are now the teachers. Each week, designated students present a topic for discussion to the rest of the class.
There’s a lot of pressure to make a logical, unique point that doesn’t overlap with whatever your co-presenters are talking about and that also provides enough fodder for worthwhile discussion in class.
All while having little to no experience in the topic at hand. I have to formulate an original thought on a set of reading without ever having learned about it in class or knowing what I’m supposed to take away from it. And apparently, I suck at it. Give me a starting point, an idea to work with, and I’m golden. Off and running. But you really want to know what I think about something? I’ve got nothing.
(Probably because no one’s ever asked for my honest opinion before, which I’d never realized before this.)
So I find myself pulling my hair out in trying to figure out what the professors and the class want from me.
I just want to run up to the professor and force them to teach me something. I need to learn concrete information! Teach me what you know!
I’m slowly getting used to it. I’ll either learn valuable lessons on analysis and critical thinking or have a nervous break.
It’s about this point that I’m starting to think I should have quit while I was ahead. But hey, that’s…