First Day as a British Student

Yesterday I attended my first two classes at London South Bank University. Having been on campus a couple of times before for enrolment and orientation, I felt comfortable finding my way around the compact campus. However, finding my way to the lecture theatre where my lecture was held proved to be quite the challenge. After finally crossing the threshold I immediately noticed some similarities and differences simply in the structure of the room from the American higher education system. In the state the seats seem to have more prominence in the room over the open area where the professor stands. In this particular lecture theatre (that is a difference too, in the name versus an American lecture hall). The lecture hall I entered into had a largo open space for the lecturer to stand and present with a computer and monitor. The seats for students consisted of one narrow stairway with three long tiered tables with fold down seats attached to the small wall behind. This created a logistical problem when someone near the inside had to get in or out and everyone had to get up out of their seats and physically move either out of the aisle or squeeze up against the wall to let the person pass.

During the break in the lecture I decided to treat myself to a hot chocolate for the second half of the lecture. When I entered the canteen I saw the bright shiny coffee machines. I, assuming they worked in a similar way to those in the U.S., assumed that when I pushed “hot chocolate” that is what would be dispensed from the machine into my cup…. I was wrong. No, instead my class was filled, after multiple attempts and repressing of a button, with steamed milk. Then I had to go over to the counter where I was instructed to pump chocolate syrup into my cup of steamed milk. With no stir stick available, I ended up scalding my finger trying to incorporate the syrup and milk. Needless to say, after returning to my seat and letting everyone past I was a little fatigued heading into the second half of the lecture, with three more hours of class to go I knew I was in for a long first day.  I have already made a mental note to bring my beverage with me before getting to campus to hopefully improve my expereince next week.

Not having finished my steamed milk mixture before the end of the lecture I then headed off to the building where my corresponding seminar was held. The building was part academic offices and classrooms, surrounding an art gallery; a bit of a strange combination if you ask me. The seminar for my class is closer to the type of class I am used to; small, discussion based with guidance from the professor. This seminar allows me to interact directly with British students and discuss in a practical setting the materials presented in the preceding lecture or preparation readings. I feel very optimistic that I will be able to contribute and be well recepted by my academic peers in this setting. While they are only entering their time at university and I am quite established in my practices, I am interested in seeing how their experiences are to mine when I was in their position. While I feel like the section of the seminar dedicated to learning how to conduct yourself in a higher education setting may be a little below my standard of proficiency, I hope to gain some insight into the differences between the British and American higher education system through this lens.

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