Time really flies! It has already been two months since I arrived at GW for the exchange student program. Since I have stayed here for quite a while, according to my own observation, there are some interesting differences between students, courses, environment, etc., in my home university, National Chengchi University (NCCU), and George Washington University. Some of the differences are caused by the essential difference between Western and Eastern culture, and others are not. Just bear in mind that it is nothing right or wrong, but only distinctive ways of living.
Before I go into details like teaching styles or approaches, I would like to tell you the difference between the length of a semester in GWU and NCCU first. In NCCU and most of the universities as well in Taiwan, a semester consists of 18 weeks. Within a semester, students have break time only on a few national holidays. That is, there is not a one-week spring break like GWU and most universities in the United States. Because of the relatively long semester, students in Taiwan often feel exhausted and discouraged during the final few weeks of a semester because they have already been stuffed with excessive knowledge and materials.
In addition to the length of a semester, the teaching approaches professors take in GW are also slightly different from those in NCCU. From my own experience here, no matter in a big or small class, professors encourage students to raise their hands, convey their thoughts, and interact with them. Apparently, they lay much emphasis on the two-way learning. In other words, although professors are obviously more knowledgeable than students, they are also open-minded to learn things from their students and they believe the courses are designed for both the professors and students. Therefore, they have to work together throughout the whole semester to make full use of the class. On the contrary, in NCCU and most universities in Taiwan, even though there are still courses in which professors take the similar teaching strategies that I just mentioned, in most courses, professors adopt the traditional Eastern way of teaching. That is, they play the role of the authoritative lecture givers who are distant from their students. Especially in big classes with over 80 students, there is seldom interaction between the professor and students. Besides teaching approaches, students’ personalities might also have something to do with this phenomenon because Eastern people are raised up in the environment where “showing-off” is not encouraged. Gradually, they become more afraid of conveying their own ideas or feelings in public for fear of criticism or making mistakes.
In brief, what I stated above are just my personal point of view according to my observation these days. Both of the teaching approaches have their merits and weaknesses, so they are not superior to one another. There are still some interesting differences between GWU and NCCU that I want to show you, so I will update them next week.