Telling people I’m going to HKU for exchange always garnered the same reaction. They tell me the students are competitive, the studying is intense and the workload is enormous. I mean, it’s not ranked 30th in the world for nothing right? (#humblebrag #justsayin). Having just completed a full month of study, I now feel I’ve gotten a pretty rounded view of the teaching style here – at least enough to write a ~~reflective~~ blog post anyways.
Reading the course outlines, trying to decide what modules to take, the glaring difference jumping out at me was WEEKLY TUTORIALS. As a UoN psychology student, you (or I) can get away with not keeping up with the readings helpfully suggested by our lecturers until about the revision period. But here, tutorials take the form of seminars (nope, never had those either) where we’re expected to actually do the readings and prepare for discussion… Psyching myself up for these tutorials, I had pictured being overwhelmed by fast-paced and intelligent discussion. Much to the contrary, tutorial sessions so far are quiet little affairs whereby there’s a main presentation, either from a lone individual or group, leading to a discussion of the topic after. Conversation seems to be a strong focus here at HKU, with the majority of modules allocating a percentage of the overall assessment grade on active participation in class. Likewise, lectures are more interactive, encouraging students to share their thoughts and opinions with the person beside them and for the brave or unfortunate, to the whole class.
In terms of workload, Nottingham seems like a dream compared to HKU. Here there seems to be a perpetual flow of work, whether it’s a test to revise for, homework to hand in, presentations to prepare, or essays to write. All of which annoyingly contribute a tiny percentage towards your final grade. Therefore, trying to maintain a good balance between study and leisure doesn’t leave much time to actually relax (a.k.a. do nothing, a guilty pastime of mine) – there’s forever something to do, something to see. At times, it can be tempting to rest on the fact that my year abroad doesn’t count to my final degree mark (I just have to pass the year), meaning I could just do the bare minimum. But (un?)fortunately I have an intrinsic prideful streak, preventing me from using this flimsy excuse not to do work. I guess it’ll be more beneficial in the long run, keeping me in the right mindset for when I return to the grim reality of completing my final year.
While there are some really wonderful lecturers at HKU and thoroughly interesting modules, I do find myself frustrated at times due to the lack of organisation and information given to us. One example: basic instructions were given to complete an online experiment, then wait for the data to be released in order to start writing up a partial lab report. Naively I assumed we would be given the statistical output to interpret the data, (oh, what a sweet summer child I was) but nope, it was literally the raw data. Cue frantic search for a computer with SPSS. Aside from having to conduct a casual 3*5 ANOVA, the finer details of the study, such as there being two independent variables weren’t immediately clear either. When it came to comparing our little sections of the lab reports in tutorial, it came as a relief that others were as clueless as me. Some had conducted multiple t-tests, others had not even realised the existence of the second IV, all a bit of a mess really. Additionally, for one of my psychology modules it seems that how we are actually assessed is still… under… assessment… (ok, so the bit under consideration is only 5% of the 20% [ugh] of my final grade, a menial detail, but still – the principle of it all!)
Despite university life being a mixed expanse of positives and negatives so far, I am working more independently than I have done in Nottingham. That’s not to say it’s unsociable, I integrate more with students on my course through our mutual panic/frustrations and my inherent laziness is forcefully uprooted as I attempt to balance work and leisure, so as not to squander my time abroad. #Growth.