Indiana University Overseas Study

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Academic Life, Social Life, and Beyond

Philip Jiao - Canterbury, England

Before I came to University of Kent, I heard two versions of explanations about the British academic system. Kent students at IU told me that college life is much more relaxing in Britain, especially for students in the subjects of Humanities—there’s no homework on a daily basis, but just one or two papers at the end of terms. There’s more time to do non-school work and to socialize. However, my academic advisor told me that students studying abroad in Britain usually get lower grades. He suggested that I should spend more time on school work and study harder if I want to maintain a good GPA. After spending two months at U of Kent and getting more used to the academic environment, I realized that both my friends and my advisor were quite correct. The British university system is not simply easier or harder than universities in the U.S. They have different teaching and learning concepts.

As Humanities students in Britain, we are expected to study on our own and the American concept of “homework” is not an element of university-level education. Still, there is coursework, assignments, and essays in our modules (courses). The amount depends on the professor’s preference, but they are not assigned as frequently as in American universities. For instance, as a History and Political Science student, I have five three-thousand-word essays for my three modules and three exams in the summer term. There’s nothing to turn in on a daily or weekly basis. There are reading lists and suggested materials; some of them are required/core readings, and some are suggested readings. The stage of modules decides the amount of reading and the amount of work. I get a reading list of forty pages on my stage-six module, but far less on my stage-four module.

There’s not only less homework, but also fewer lectures. Instead of having two lectures per course like in IU, I have one lecture and one seminar per module at U of Kent, and that make me only have class on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. The lectures at the University are always recorded and students can re-watch the lecture online. Lecture attendance is not required, but seminar attendance is counted as a part of participation grade. There are pros and cons of the British education system, just like any other. The vast amount of free time gives students the opportunity to participate in social events and to do non-academic activities. The light amount of homework and oversight helps students to build self-responsibility and make them feel trusted. However, the lack of pressure can also cause time mismanagement, and many students might end up doing nothing. The balance between freedom and learning efficiency is truly a dilemma in British universities: should university students—who are eighteen-years old (or above) and able to purchase alcohol and tobacco, to vote and to marry—have the freedom to be in charge of their time in university? I don’t really know the answer…

I tried and I am still trying my very best to not waste the free time I get in Britain. I try to use the free time to travel and see as much as I can because I know my time at here is reaching its end soon. I made many friends through the Catholic Society (Cathsoc) at the University. We traveled to Paris and Oxford in the past months and had great times together. I had the most wonderful and memorable experiences in Paris—where we lived in the guesthouse of the Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre provided by the Benedictine Sisters and shared their lifestyle and devotion.

philip and friends

My Cathsoc friends Joe, John, Jamie, and I in Paris

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Manchester to see a friend and the city. It was also a game day for Manchester United and the train line between London and Manchester was full of loud soccer fans with red shirts and beer bottles.

Philip and painting

Work by Ford M. Brown is a painting that very much sums up the central spirit of the Victorian values—the pursuit of wealth through hard works.

Paying visits to the numerous playhouses in London is something that I always wanted to do. But I didn’t have the chance and time to watch a play until last weekend. The Book of Mormon is a hilarious yet meaningful play with great music. It is one of the musicals that you would like to watch for a second time.

stage before show

The background of the stage. Play is about to begin in ten minutes!

The next month is packed with essays from all of my modules, and I will have less time to travel in a long distance. I hope that I will continue to study hard and do my best on essays.

Philip Jiao

Adventures AND Academics

Rachel Larsen - Copenhagen

Let’s be real: everyone who studies abroad is so excited about the place they will be visiting and the people they will meet, not necessarily focusing on the courses being taught. As obvious as it might seem that STUDY abroad has quite a bit of work associated with it, it seems like some of the students who are studying around me are baffled by the expectation to complete work at such an exciting time. Along with studying during your adventures, students have all of these amazing plans that they know will absolutely work out 100% of the time and will be perfect and be life changing…

I think it’s time to set some realistic expectations for what you might experience while studying abroad. (more…)

Never A Dull Moment

Jordin Perkins

Class photo

Our Class: After handing out suckers to the entire class, Professor Schachermeier insisted we ask someone to take our picture speaking only German. This was the result.

Every Wednesday, I walk into my “Cultural Heritage of Austria” course and ask, “So… Where are we going today?”

Like most other courses, the first hour and a half is held in the main IES building. However, unlike other classes, the second half of every class is designated to physically seeing what we’ve been studying in our textbook.

So far, we’ve seen 4 museums, 3 grave-sites of important historical figures, 1 castle, too many churches to count, the library that inspired Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’s library, and many other important landmarks in Vienna.

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You could say we’ve seen a lot of the city… you would be wrong. We haven’t even seen half of it yet!

From these class outings, I’m learning not only more and more about the history of this city, but that, alongside the old buildings and artifacts, there is always something new to see. One can never complain about being bored.

World renowned Christmas markets are popping up everywhere, there is always a new symphony or opera to see for as little as 3 Euro (sometimes even for free!), and getting lost in the city (not that I’ve done that 4-5 times already…) leads you to little cafes and boutiques that, while you may never find them again, add to the charm of the city.

And the professors here sure do take advantage of these opportunities.

While not all courses can afford an excursion every class, most have at least a few scheduled into their syllabus. This sense of a classroom outside of the classroom is an eye-opening, hands-on way to learn that will make returning to lecture halls and textbook discussions difficult.

Having already met a few, I hope to encounter more professors in IU’s Journalism program who use this method of learning – allowing us to step outside of the classroom and into the lesson’s physical material.

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A Spanish Sunday

Nicole Warren

Sundays are especially wonderful in Barcelona because many shops close and the Gothic neighborhood is teeming with dancing, pop up markets, and music.  As my week is typically filled with educational requirements or tourism checklists and my Fridays and Saturdays are spent enjoying the nightlife of Spain, I relish in the slow pace of Sunday.  

In the United States, my time would be spent usually cramming facts in for a quiz or checking off tasks on a massive to do list for the week of classes.  My GPS personal dot would almost always be found in the Herman B. Wells library on IU’s campus.  For me, all of the assignments seemed to creep up on me all week and then just avalanche onto my already stressed mind.

In Spain, my life is much different.  Sure, I have some assignments to think about for the week to come but it’s nothing as all-consuming as my time at IU.  In Barcelona, nights of the week are spent meeting for study breaks at local cafés; this makes an effective combination of experiencing the food culture and finishing work.  Students in Barcelona are more inclined to commit to meeting to do homework at a local spot such as Marti for unreal Tomato Focaccia or Café Francesco for one of the flakiest and fluffiest croissants that you have ever tasted.  It’s quite an interesting dynamic.  When Sunday creeps up into the schedule, my friends and I have time to unwind and walk around the different Spanish neighborhoods.  Stall after stall line up on the Barceloneta stretch that dead ends into the beach.  I am usually always pushing to make the venture towards the beach because I personally enjoy the salty air whipping my hair and popping in for a big burger at Maka Maka.  The last time I went there I had a burger topped with buffalo mozzarella, fried eggplant, and peppers and it was a taste bud sensation!  Additionally, we tried the banana chocolate milkshakes that were equally exquisite.

spanish milkshakes

So, these milkshakes only look a LITTLE good. Ha ha.

awesome burger

My awesome burger

I have spent many a times on the Barceloneta beach, due to its essential mix of sand, sun, and amazing food.

Barcelona beach

Barcelona beach

Classes this semester have been challenging but also manageable.  The hardest part of studying for finals is that you have to exit the tough mindset that you are on vacation and buckle down for achieving your grade goal.  The end of the semester is always the hardest because its very similar to the grind of a typical college campus: assignments pile up, inevitable goodbyes to close (or new, in study abroad’s case) friends, and making sure you have done everything you wanted to do in that particular city before returning home.

I have missed many aspects of the U.S. but I will treasure these times in Barcelona for a lifetime.  I am not finished here but this city has already changed me, perspectively, for the better.  I hope to convince anyone who will listen to go to Barcelona!

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A home away from home – PUCP!

Christine White

An often forgotten part of study abroad experiences is, quite frankly, the studying. While though it might seem through my updates to friends and family that I spend all my time exploring Lima or traveling Peru, I spent three very full, very long days a week at PUCP – la Pontificia Catolica Universidad de Peru – my home away from home.


Study Abroad to Spaniard


Many study abroad students often have a goal to fit in to their host country. Knowing that I will be living in Madrid for one year, being recognized as a local is an important goal of mine. Study abroad students are often picked out in a crowd, but with time we can learn to adjust to the local culture, and even be mistaken for a local. After my two short months in Madrid I have already picked up on a few Spanish habits that I have attempted to demonstrate in my daily life.


Who Turned Up the Heat?


One week in, one midterm down. When each class is only three weeks long, the pace moves fast. But never once has it been overwhelming. The university does a great job of organizing the classes and providing social programs to let you interact and get to know your peers outside the classroom. The London School of Economics (LSE) provides an array of activities for students who wish to sign up. There are weekend day trips to Stonehenge and Oxford, and evening musical outings to The Lion King or Les Misérable. But you do need to be prepared to spend some time in the library and do the assigned class readings.


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