Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What is studying in UVA like?

Hello everyone! Sorry I am backtracking, but I’m gonna write about the academic life at UVA that I never had the chance to write earlier!

So, what is studying in UVA like?
  1. We have continual assessment. This is alien for those who came from the British education system! Continual assessment means that there is no “big exam” at the end of the semester that makes up for all your grades. Rather, everything that you do in the semester is counted towards your final grade. This is both a bad thing and a good thing. The bad thing is, we have to worry about every single exam, quiz, and papers. This can be tiring when you’re expected to do this throughout the semester. The good thing is, you are always, always on top of things, and you study more, and you get the most out of your education here! Also, you won’t get into too much trouble if you screw up your final exam.
  2. If you are in the College, you can take classes that you’ve never, ever taken before. Astronomy, sociology, psychology, American studies, anthropology, Russian, politics, international relations, studies in women and gender… You name it. When else can you have the chance to learn all these, if not now? And how else would you know that you have a passion for any of these things if you don’t try it out right now? So studying in UVA is a great way to open your minds to new disciplines, and to the world.
  3. The professors/TAs are much more interactive and flexible than your high school teachers. They often change their lecture outlines to fit the class’s needs. They also insert many interesting random stuff like videos, websites, etc., that engage the students more. This makes the learning process much more interesting and fulfilling than a typical high-school class.
  4. There is way more teacher-student interaction in uni than there is in high-school. People ask way more questions, people are willing to discuss and challenge professors’ opinion. In fact, maybe “teacher-student” is not the best way to put it. It’s more like “instructor-participant”!
  5. The professors and TAs are always willing to talk to you outside class. My Sociology class professor was always up for “lunch dates”. My Religious Studies professor is even better; he can swipe you guys in for a free meal in the dining hall! Try to come for office hours even if you don’t have questions particularly related to the class. Come and have a chat, ask them about what research they are involved at, discuss a particular lesson that you think is highly relevant to real life, whatever. That way, you get so much more from your classes. And you get to know the professors and TAs more on a personal level, which can be very helpful for your future academics career (e.g. if you want to be involved in research or if you need a recommendations letter – they can’t write anything about you if they don’t know you!).

Now, let me share my #1 most favorite class in UVA so far: PSYC260 – Introduction to Social Psychology by Prof. Timothy Wilson! Maybe I’ll share more about that class when I have more time in the future. Check back often!


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