We have visited a lot of places around London that have taught me about the culture and history of England. But when it comes down to it I cam here to do my learning at the University of Reading. Now that I am in the heat of my finals, I can finally compare my school load here versus my school load back home. The difference in how the schooling works here is one of the things I did not expect before coming. I have always experienced the exact same schooling basics even if I switched through different systems in the states. I knew I would experience some cultural differences, but I figured since they spoke English it would be fine. Again, I was wrong to rely on this safety net, I guess I was just naïve about this.
The work here is much, much more independent study. There are no quizzes or in between work to try and fluff your grade up. Depending on how your classes are structured you will either have a couple things to make your grade (exams, presentations, papers) or you will just have one single thing to determine it. For me, I have two classes where I only have one thing determine my grade for the whole term. I have never had any classes set up like this ever, so it was quite a wake-up call. That is why doing the readings is so important. I would be so incredibly lost if I did not do the readings and I learned that the hard way the first day. You can bet after that first lecture I marched right to the library and got my readings for the next two weeks. The amount of time you spend in class is way less than you spend back home, so you will have plenty of time to do the readings. Also, most of the readings are kept in the library so you are forced to get things done because you will be in the library!
Lucky for me, I am no stranger to essays. I have had to write quite a few essays in college back in my day (so like, the past three years since I’m really not that old). So the fact that all of my course work was to be essays did not bother me. However, it might depend on what you are studying whether you will have all essays, all exams, or a mixture of both. Regardless, the exams tend to have essay portions cause they just love writing here! The main difference between the papers here, is the weight that they hold. I am used to having five papers, at least, a term for one class. Now I have one paper a term for one class. The thing about the essays though, is that you are given the essays well in advance (sometimes at the beginning of term) and you have all the resources at your fingertips. Once you pick your topic make sure you do all the readings! I know I have already written a whole paragraph about it but I really cannot stress that enough. If you do the reading, you will be amazed at how easy it is to do the writing.
Okay so I may have lied about seven seconds ago about the main difference between essays in the UK and essays in the US. In hindsight I should have told you that the biggest difference is that essays here go by word count versus by pages. I mean it ends up being about the same amount of work, but I feel like going by word count was way less stressful. However, since they do not care about number of pages, they follow a different formatting. What that formatting is, no one ever really specifies, so this caused me quite a few freak outs. Through my extensive (and probably unnecessary) research of formatting I came across two that were used: The Number System and the Harvard System. These are pretty much just systems on how to format your citations and references, but if there are specific formatting as far as font and font size, your lecturer should specify, or you can always feel free to ask. Below are the links to the Harvard and Number System that I used while writing my papers, so you can check it out and be a little familiar with it.
All in all, the main things to remember about schooling here is to be responsible for yourself, have awesome time management, READ, and do not be afraid to ask any questions you may have!
University of Reading Library, Always the safest place to start when you have no idea where to start