As a student of Hope College, I have always wondered what that “big school” experience was like. I wanted to know what it was like to have a massive campus, to find my way to class in the maze of a small academic city, and to share a school with thousands of other students. Thanks to studying at the University of Canterbury of Canterbury (UC) in Christchurch, I can now say that I have had my big school experience – although it is somewhat different from what I would imagine a big school in the United States would be like.
As New Zealand’s second oldest college (founded 1873) and approximately 15,000
enrolled students, the University of Canterbury provides quite a draw to the suburb of Ilam, about two miles West of the heart of Christchurch. So much is the same to what I am used to at home, and so much is different. No-one uses the word “college” instead they say “I am a uni student”, or “I go to uni”. “Uni” – an abbreviation for “university” seems to be the term used to refer to college education here. Instead of taking classes we take “papers” – it must be a reference to the insane amount of writing that we do! Additionally we have a school chancellor instead of president – I can finally relate to Kelly Radner from Neighbors.
The structure of learning is also different. I have written more papers and more words in this semester than I have written in my entire combined time at Hope College. It seems like every other week I have another paper due. From a teaching standpoint I see the purpose in this. To be able to articulate your thoughts well in writing requires that you truly understand a subject. To balance all of the writing however, there are barely any exams! When I first got my syllabi for each of my four “papers” I was shocked to see that one of them had no exams, and the other three only had a final exam. My excitement was checked however when I noted that the weight of this one exam in each paper varied between 40%-60% of my grade for the entire paper. Also it was essay style – big surprise. Yet other than writing a short novel’s worth of words for each of my classes and handful of online quizzes, all I had to do was show up to class. Honestly I did not even have to do that as all lectures were video recorded and posted online making it easy to watch from bed as many kiwi students do. But don’t worry – I still went to class.
At Hope I am very used to online homework, worksheets, exams every three weeks (non-essay style), quizzes online and in class, reports, and papers. I feel that I always have something to be studying for. Strangely I never had that concern here at UC. What was even stranger was that I felt that I have been learning more. Due to the relaxed nature of classes and requiring papers, every time I had to write for class I truly was able to put 100% effort into my work because I was not drowning in other work. Having more time made the work more important to me, which also then peaked my interest, meaning that I ultimately learned more. Hope College gives a quality education and I am so blessed to be able to attend. Going to UC has been a different experience but despite an “easier” and more relaxed approach to assessment, I feel that I personally have been able to learn more and remain excited about what I am learning! I look forward to finding ways to bring the mindset towards learning that I have earned here back home and apply it at Hope College.