Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Today I completed my first four weeks of classes here at the University of Leeds. The way that grades are set up are a lot different compared to Madison. At Madison, I’d usually have one or two midterms that would be around this point in the semester. But at Leeds, I have nothing to do. No assignments due or exams scheduled in the near future. My midterms happen around the end of March and then finals are from the middle of May-early June. Other than that, I have no other assignments that will go towards my grade.

I’m used to constantly being busy with homework, online quizzes, or studying. Since at home I’m usually productive during the school day, I find myself coming up with things to do to fill my days here in order to feel somewhat productive. I’ve done things like make flashcards and re-write my notes. This difference in learning is weird to me and I’m still trying to find the best way for me to learn the material. I never thought I’d say this, but I sort of miss homework (I know, crazy!) because even though homework is a pain, it is extremely helpful in applying what is learned in class. Here I don’t have homework to practice my knowledge, but I think as exams get closer, some professors here post practice problems, so hopefully that will help. So, if people ask me, “Are you working hard or hardly working?”, my response will be, “Both. I’m trying to work hard but with the lack of homework, I’m hardly working.”

Even though I don’t have any busy work to complete, the classes that I’m taking are about the same difficulty level as the ones at Madison. Since there aren’t a lot of assignments throughout the year, exams end up dictating your grade. Two of my classes have the midterm worth 20% and the final worth 80% of my grade. Another class of mine has the midterm worth 50% and the final worth 50% of my grade. And my last class has the final exam weighted at 100% of my grade (!!). It is a little nerve-wracking because I’ve never had my exams have such a strong weight on my grade. Thankfully, we have longer than a week for finals, so hopefully I should have adequate time to prepare for them.

When I ignore the fact that I need to take super heavily weighted exams at some point during my time here, I am genuinely enjoying most of my classes here. Below I’ve described a little bit about each of my classes:

  • Biology of the Mind: The neuroscience topics covered in this class can be complicated, but the professors make this class fun. So far, I’ve had two professors for the class, and they are a cute Irish couple (that I’m assuming met over something neuroscience related). Their senses of humor and passion for the topic make the class interesting. Near the end of the semester, we are going to talk about neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, so I’m excited to learn more on that topic once I gain a better background in neuroscience from this class.
  • Introduction to Childhood and Child Development: This class is one of my favorites that I’m taking this semester because of the people in it. I am the only American in the class and my professor has made me feel so welcomed since the first day. She knew my name by the second class, and she gives me recommendations on things to do and see throughout Leeds and England. With only about 12 students, it is the smallest class I’ve ever been a part of in college. These students are not typical undergraduates because they are part-time students earning their degree while working in a childhood related field. I really appreciate that they’ve welcomed me in, even though I am not a student in their exact program.
  • Forensic Psychology: This class is my other favorite that I’m taking this semester. So far, we’ve been learning about how eye witness testimonies are not always accurate because our memories can change, and people tend to remember things differently than what actually occurred, which I think is fascinating. My professor for this class keeps everyone engaged, even though it is a larger lecture with about 100 students. He will have videos or pictures for us to test our own memory and criminal case examples to prove how certain concepts relate to the real world.
  • Introduction to Immunology: Unfortunately, not all classes can be a favorite, and this class is not. Whether I took this class here or at home, I’m sure I wouldn’t have liked it regardless. This topic can be interesting but there are so many various complex components that can get confusing so easily. Based off of the first four weeks, I think this will be my hardest class this semester.

For anyone reading this that is interested in coming to Leeds to study abroad, don’t let the fear of the heavily weighted exams stop you from coming here! Whenever I start to get nervous about those exams, I remind myself that plenty of students come here and do well on their exams. Plus, the professors and other students in my classes are so welcoming and kind that I know if I had a question, they would be more than happy to help. I’m excited to see what I think of my classes as the semester continues!