Tag Archives: Academics

Preparing for Final Papers and Exams

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  These few weeks might be the busiest weeks for all the university students because everyone starts to burn the midnight oil to prepare for the final exams and papers. Although it is an extremely exhausted period, I encourage myself to keep working hard until the end of the semester. While preparing for those finals, I discover that some teaching approaches professors take here are so different from those in Taiwan.

    For example, according to my own experience, what I really appreciate the professors in GWU is that they often provide study guides for students before quizzes and exams. By doing so, I can follow the guide and get prepared for all the materials that the professors want us to understand and memorize. Due to the study guide, I will not feel too nervous because I know I am on the right track. Providing a study guide is not so common in my home university. At least for my own experience, instead of a detailed study guide, in most cases, I was only informed of a rough range of page numbers that the professors might choose to make some questions.

    In addition, what I also appreciate is that professors here provide a clear description and rubric for the assigned papers. As a result, I have a clear understanding of what the professors expect me to write in my papers, and I know the grading standards in advance, so I can rearrange my paper as many times before I submit them in order to get a good grade. In my home university, it is also rare to get so detailed information about our assignments. Most of the time, professors just told us the title and the rough idea of what we should write. Therefore, I often feel anxious about whether I am doing right.

 I hope more professors in my home university can adopt the teaching methods that I just mentioned, for it is a win-win to both professors and students. By doing so, students can be more well prepared and submit rather high-quality papers; on the other hand, professors can grade the papers smoothly because the final papers have already been proofread by the students.

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Springbreak no springbreak

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I did not have a spring break. That was completely my choice. Despite the absence of classes, I kept working at my internship, where business went on as usual in a quiet DC, depleted of students.

I spent the week seeing pictures of friends that were actually on vacation: Florida, Mexico, California, you name it. I came to the realization that maybe I should have taken some days off. D.C was cold and empty. Work was unusually little stimulating and fairly repetitive. Other than a cool event at the Organization of American States, where they served amazing Colombian coffee, I spent the rest of the week doing  mostly secretarial work.

I still managed to have fun after work. I tried a few food places that I had never tried, such as Founding Farmers, which I enjoyed.

I climbed up the rooftop of the Hepburn apartments, which has to offer one of the best views in all DC. Also, the Hepburn is an amazingly classy apartment complex. There is a pool on the rooftop and so many amenities. The Hepburn is the epitomization of wealthy, corporate D.C. Unnecessarily luxurious, in my opinion. Although it could be argued that Luxury is by definition unnecessary, depending on your understanding of necessity. I also did something productive and future-related: enrolled in Masters. Starting in August, I will be in the SciencesPo Economic Law Master in Paris. Cool, right?

Anyhow, going back to my spring break. I managed to have fun regardless of the city’s emptiness.

One thing, though, was occupying my mind over the past week.  An underlying sensation of an imminent, fast-approaching and unpredictable threat. The ancient romans would call this feeling “horror vacui”, which literally means fear of the void. Far from being scared, I felt some sort of uneasy feeling as if something was just not right. After a lengthy and thorough internal dialogue, I had an epiphany. Today, March the 19th, it is the beginning of the end.

I have been in the US since August. It will soon be 7 months since I’ve been here. And less than 2 months left of the exchange.

Spring break has been the turning point. 75% of my exchange year is now gone, and I don’t know how to feel about it. The second semester is literally running in overdrive mode, and it feels that I have no control over the things that I wanna do. My days go by very quickly, from a report to a memo, from a midterm to an essay, with little time left to stop and stare.

I have to find a solution to this: in the coming days, I will draft a bucket list of what I should do before I leave the US at the end of this academic year.

Stay tuned.

The Differences between GWU and My Home University (2)

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   Last week, I talked a lot about the professors’ teaching styles and how students interact with them in class. This week, I would like to introduce the environment in both GWU and NCCU.

Campus

    The most obvious difference between the two campuses is that GWU is an open campus, but NCCU is a relatively closed one. To be more specific, in GWU, you do not have to go through a gate that indicates the entrance of the campus. The campus is in between other stores, residence halls, and so on. Therefore, it is a huge area where two campus buildings could be as far as a few blocks away. However, in NCCU (or I can say almost all of the universities in Taiwan), we have a specific closed area designed only for the campus. Thus, you will have to pass a gateway to enter the area and all the buildings inside the area belong to the university. In other words, people (if not students or professors) living off campus could not drive their cars or walk into the campus at their will.

Dormitory

    Here in GWU, we live in the dorm that is similar to an apartment. That is, we four people live in two separate double rooms and we share the living room and the kitchen. I really like this dorm because it makes me feel that my housemates, roommates, and I were just like a family living together. Besides, I love the kitchen because the appliances are so complete that I could cook or make almost everything I want by using them. In my home university, however, it is not the same case. In all of the dorms on campus, we have to share the restrooms and kitchens with other people who also live there. As a result, we seldom cook for ourselves because it is too inconvenient. Instead, we buy food from student cafeterias on campus or restaurants outside. Hence, those who do not feel satisfied with the environment will choose to rent a house off campus. But obviously, they have to pay a lot more if they do so because the price of the dorms on campus might be the cheapest (especially in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan).

  In addition to the courses and environment, I would also talk about the students. For the personalities or behaviors of students in GWU and NCCU, I did not find a significant difference. We all work hard, play hard, and find interns during winter or summer vacation to have some working experience. I think one of the most different part is that students here really enjoy parties. They will dress beautifully before they go to parties and they enjoy drinking alcohol. On the contrary, we do not really have the concept of “party” in Taiwan (perhaps partially because the space in the dorm is limited, so it is inconvenient to find a place to throw a party) and we do not drink so often (perhaps because of the warm and humid weather). Take myself for an example, when I want to relaxed or have fun with my friends, we will either go shopping, watch movies, or go to KTVs to sing overnight, but not throwing a party. Anyway, it is just the cultural difference as I mentioned in my previous post.

    It is really interesting to observe how people live differently in different countries, so I am glad that I have the opportunity to study abroad and share what I have observed with you. I hope you like the series of posts in this two weeks!

The Differences between GWU and My Home University (1)

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  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.

Courses

    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.

My First Few Days at GW

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After over ten hours of flight, I finally arrived at D.C. safe and sound. In the first few days, I spent most of my time exploring the campus to make myself get accustomed to the whole new environment and I found a lot of interesting things so different from my hometown, Taiwan, which I would like to share with you.

First of all, it took me an extremely long time to find my dorm and the places I needed to go for check-in on the first day because the road naming system differs from that in Taiwan. In Taiwan, the names of most streets or roads are a combination of proper nouns and numbers, such as Nanping First Street; however, here in GW, a lot of streets are merely named either with an English letter like E Street, or a number like 23rd Street. Therefore, it was really hard for me to tell the differences between different streets and I got lost easily. Thankfully, I still have my google map to rely on!

Also, learning the currency system in U.S. is another new class for me. When I was going to pay for my first meal at GW, I was totally confused about the value of the coins because it was so complicated. In Taiwan, in terms of coins, there are only fifty, ten, five, and one. The size of fifty is bigger than ten, ten bigger than five, and so on. However, in U.S., there are pennies, dimes, nickels, quarters, and their sizes do not correspond to their values. As a foreigner, it is really a challenge to grab the right amount of coins at the counter, so sometimes I just took out all my coins and asked the clerk to kindly do me a favor, or I would probably block the line when I was slowly counting the money.

In addition to road and currency system, I am also still trying to get used to the tax and tipping culture. The prices of commodities in my country always include tax, so we can pay for the exact amount of money shown on the products’ price tags, but in U.S., the situation is different, for the tax is shown separately here. Sometimes I felt nervous when I could not prepare for the right amount of money in advance under these circumstances. Giving tips is still another unfamiliar culture to me because we do not give tips almost on every occasion.

Although there are still so many things I need to learn, I feel excited to conquer all the challenges. My first few days in GW were awesome, especially under the guide of those brilliant ExO leaders. I believe I can explore more interesting things in the following few months.

Introducing: Melissa Chen!

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“Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough/ Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades/ Forever and forever when I move,” says Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Hello! My name is Melissa from National Chengchi University in Taiwan. Like the poem above mentions, I am an optimistic person who willing to embrace new challenges every day and I enjoy making friends with people from different countries. Thus, I participated in the exchange student to attend the George Washington University in 2018 spring semester to brave myself, for this is my first time studying abroad.

As a student majoring English, I am considering to be an English teacher as my lifelong career in the future. Therefore, this exchange program is appealing to me because on one hand, I am granted a precious opportunity to polish my English skill while studying and getting along with native speakers. On the other hand, I have a chance to learn the American teaching style when taking courses in GW. Both language proficiency and effective teaching skills are necessary if I want to be a qualified and professional teacher, so this program, which helps me improve the two abilities, serves my long term personal goal.

I chose GW as my exchange institution is important to me because it is a famous university full of diverse courses, cultural resources, and it is located in the capital city, surrounded by the White House, museums, banks, and a lot of renowned tourist spots. With these resources, I believe if I can make good use of my time, I can not only acquire knowledge from classroom, but also broaden my horizon outside the classroom.

In brief, I expect and believe that I will definitely enjoy a great time for my upcoming semester in GW. If you want to make friends with me, or you are interested in reading journals from a Taiwanese girl’s perspective, keep on following my blog! The blog will be updated at least once a week.

Winter is here!

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The countdown to the end of the semester is here and I can’t believe we reached that point where only two weeks are left to the end *CriesCries* Time really flies in GWU and I feel like orientation week was here days ago.

Having two of my exams really early made my week an intense studying week in Gelman library. Even if the library is really big compared to what we have in our home university, you need to go early to find a table especially when you’re in a group which I never do since I always wake up late and procrastinate a lot before actually starting to study.

The weather in Dc is getting colder and colder and this week was the first snow of the winter. I usually prefer warm weather and hate snow and rain but the first snow of the year is always exciting especially in Christmas time. We usually don’t celebrate Christmas in Morocco so it was really nice to experience the holiday vibes in the US. From Christmas tree, to free hot chocolate and cookies to all the Christmas lights decorations and lights, Washington DC and its weather were really welcoming the holiday season. And to really get into the winter vibe, we decided to go ice skating in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink. It was my first time ice skating and I was really bad at it, my only goal was not to slip and break my bones. But it was fun to start learning how to ice skate, maybe one day I’ll be good at it.

We ended the week by a final Christmas party where we had cookies, brownies, candy canes, made ginger bread house and danced to Christmas songs. Since most of us are busy with finals and some will be leaving soon, it was nice to gather one last time and spend great time before we get hit hard by finals.

One more week left in GWU. Stay tuned.