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.
Studying abroad can be very fast paced and intense. For a lot of people, it is their first time in America, leaving home or moving countries. Although we are only here for a semester, six months is a long enough period of time that DC is very much home. Once you are finally settled and all of the practicalities of sim cards, bank accounts and medical insurance are out of the way you are able to go about your daily life as a GW student. Being an exchange student gives you the best of both worlds. You are able to experience a country whilst learning new things and meeting new people. Whether it is travelling, chilling in Shenkman or late night study sessions in Gelman the memories you make are shaped by the people you share them with.
Along with all the exciting experiences of being abroad, this week was time to fulfill the other element of studying abroad – study! It was the first time I have stopped and lived life as a normal student. This is largely due to the fact that it is currently midterms and so people have been spending their time in the library on one too many cups of coffee rather than out exploring DC! The nature of assessments is drastically different from back home as the American education system is so much more flexible. Professors set the exams which typically range from essay based questions to multiple choice, fill in the blank and short answer questions. The majority of the exchange students are pass-fail and so studying becomes more enjoyable than stressful as you can focus on the content rather than the grade.
One of the benefits of studying in DC is the access to all the museums that frame the National Mall. For my African American history module, we had the opportunity to visit the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture. Being able to interact with the content of the course really enhances the experience of the module. The museum provides a chronological account from slavery to present day. You begin the narrative seventy feet below ground with the origins of slavery and gradually make your way through centuries of struggle and progress. They have original artefacts such as slave shackles, the coffin of Emmett Till and the couch from the Oprah Winfrey Show. It is one of the best Smithsonian museums and tickets are currently very hard to come by so if you have the chance, definitely go!