Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How Different Is the US Education System?

By Akemi Wijayabahu
Student Ambassador,
University of Florida

I am Akemi, and I come from Sri Lanka. I am currently enrolled in a master’s program at the University of Florida, and I would like to share my experience with incoming international students.

Most of the undergraduate education in my country is lecture based. But in the U.S., lectures are mixed with other study models. For example, the new “blended learning” technique is used here at the University of Florida. It’s an interactive learning process where students can access online and e-learning materials, videos, assignments, and also engage in group discussions. During class, it’s all about interactive group work and conversations.

Some international students may have difficulty understanding the American accent. If that is the case, online study materials help a lot. If you’re struggling, you can always get assistance from lecturers, teaching assistants, or peers, as they are typically approachable and very helpful. At the graduate level, you will be assigned to a graduate advisor, who will help you select good courses or resolve problems regarding your degree program. It’s a flexible system; you can select your research mentor according to your preferences and research interests.

The first few classes can be scary because U.S. students are more collaborative, participate in the discussions, and ask a lot of complicated questions. Sometimes you have no clue what they’re saying, and you’re afraid you’ll fall behind. But don’t worry! Just go for it – read more, communicate more, join university language programs, and keep working. You have the time, and it’s not that hard. Doing extracurricular activities and getting to know other students, both local and international, helps in many ways. Try joining student groups/clubs/societies. I promise that you will get used to the new system as long as you’re interested in what you do. Go easy on yourself and don’t be stressed.

Finally, for the U.S. grading system, most courses are based on a combination of exams, papers, and group work. To get an "A," you need to have a score of about 90 or more. While it is a competitive atmosphere, if you put in some work every day, you will be just fine and won't fall behind.

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