The first two weeks of the semester have come and gone but I’m still in a daze. Attending university at a new school in a new country with a different education system can be quite the adjustment and I’m still trying to get the hand of it. I’m used to courses meeting two or three times a week at the same times in the same rooms. Here, my core Psychology courses are once a week for two hours and the Introduction to Irish language course is three times a week at various times each day. Other courses (or modules) meet twice a week for an hour each but at completely different times in different rooms.
After you get past the change in time schedules, there is the actual content and structure of the courses. Unlike our rounded “liberal arts” education in the US, where you take general classes in various subjects in addition to those core to your chosen major, students in Ireland’s university system practically only take courses in their degree program. So, enter me, an American liberal arts student, into 2nd and 3rd year Psychology courses. Here, my peers have completely been focused on psychological theories, methodologies, etc and I probably know less than I should for it being my major. Although I may feel like a freshman at times, I’m expected to act like the 3rd year I am. That pretty much translating to having the initiative to go out and learn on my own by reading various journal articles on related topics while using lecture notes as only a jumping off point.
What I thought was going to be “syllabus week” turned out to be a normal start on lecture material. Only one of my instructors introduced himself and talked about assessment while the other two assumed you knew what you were doing. I still have yet to decipher my Forensic Psychology instructor’s Blackboard page (after about half an hour of searching for any sign of a true syllabus to no avail). The positive is that I really don’t have to buy any textbooks (hallelujah!), however I’m still not sure if I’m supposed to be reading from one for my Biological Psychology course (again, confusing information on Blackboard). So my goal for this week is to spend time in the library picking out some sources and really digging into the material.
Continuous assessment really isn’t a thing either. Many courses won’t have true homework or exams throughout the duration of the course. Most finish off the term with a formal essay or an essay-style exam (taken a week or two after the conclusion of regular lecture). Ever since taking Calculus 1 in college freshman year after not doing so hot when taking it my junior year of high school (where homework wasn’t graded), I learned the value of homework. It truly helps you learn the material better as long as it’s presented in an applicable context (not just busy work). I really wasn’t a fan of my psych course last semester that was purely reading and tests. Now 3/4 of my coursework here is exactly that. I knew going into this that it would be a semester of challenging myself and growing to motivate myself to go beyond what was normally expected.
On a social perspective, Fresher’s Week was quite fascinating. The cultural difference of a lower drinking age truly changes how freshmen are welcomed into university life. Fresher’s Week is basically a “get the freshmen drunk” week. They claim to be introducing new classmates into the social environment of college. Night after night there were various parties at multiple nightclubs around the city catering to freshmen as well as separate ones for the 20+ upperclassmen crowd. Unfortunately, I cannot give you an account as a person fully embracing Fresher’s Week and partying every night, because I was not one of those people. “Super Sunday” and my 9am Monday class were not going to mix well so I decided against it. Sorry for the disappointment.
On campus, however, there were food stalls on central campus and various societies hosting events in the main amphitheater. Additionally, the university hosted clubs and societies days where I truly felt like a freshman signing up for multiple random groups to potentially join during my semester; from Ultimate Frisbee and mountaineering to musical and dance. I have attended an Ultimate Frisbee beginning girls training (where I dove for the disc and burned a hole in the knee of my favorite yoga capri pants while earning a nice scab on my knee) and plan to go on a hike with mountaineering club; will hopefully attend some workshops by musical society, take some dance classes, and go to my first rehearsal with choral society this week.
All in all, I have quite the adjustment to make still and will be working on getting the hang of things as the semester progresses. I’m certain I can pass my classes while getting involved and enjoying my time here at UCC. Don’t forget the occasional traveling as well. 😉