When considering studying abroad, many times we do not put a whole lot of thought into the “study” part. We think more about where we want to travel and what sort of traveling we want to do. But honestly, being here studying, I think it is important not only to reflect on what I am learning, but also how.
It is different studying in a foreign country. And not just because the school is in a different location and the campus layout is a different structure. It’s also different just because education (public and private) is conducted differently all over the world. One of the first things that struck me here in my classes at PUCP in Lima is that all the students care. In my classes, all students are always engaged in the lecture. I believe this stems from the fact that here in Peru, one doesn’t just study at the university level because it is the next step in life (as is often the case for undergraduate students in the US). People go to college because they want to and have the money to do so. Higher education is valued by the students. All of the students at PUCP will write a thesis before they graduate that is related to their field of study.
The structure of certain academic programs is different as well. For instance, in the US, most all degrees take 4 years. Here, it varies greatly depending on what you study. If you study law, it takes more time, but you finish undergrad as a practicing lawyer (there isn’t law school afterwards). I ran into this difficulty in my economics class here. I initially enrolled in an elective class, thinking that it would be more theoretical based, but I soon found out after going several times that my fellow classmates knew WAY MORE economic math than I did and had functions and models memorized. After talking with the professor (who was extremely helpful and I really loved), she gave me textbook suggestions I should read in order to teach myself the math. She also told me that, because they only recently got a doctorate program in economics here at PUCP, many of their undergraduate courses are more similar to graduate courses in the United States (she has a daughter that studies in the US so she was familiar with the system). Seeing as how I will be taking more economics classes when I return to Ole Miss, I figured it would be better to just learn the math in due time rather than try to teach myself in a foreign language.
Textbooks are another huge difference. In the US, we often buy/rent our textbooks at the beginning of the semester. Here, that’s not how it works. Instead, teachers will either upload scanned versions of books to the online system so you can print them out, or they just give you the bibliographical reference and you have to find the book in the library and make photocopies yourself. There are printing services scattered around campus where you can pay to have things printed off. For some classes, you can ask the printing service for the class folder, and within it are all the readings for the semester for the class that you can print off at one time. In my experience, this does not happen very often.
A smaller difference but still noteworthy difference is the materials students use for class. In the US, I have always been accustomed to using binders with loose leaf paper or notebooks with perforated marks so that pages can easily be removed. Whenever I went to buy school supplies here, I honestly did not even see any binders. Instead people use hardback notebooks for note taking. Also, the pages in the majority of notebooks are grids instead of lines. I’ve gotten accustomed to it and think I like it better than lined paper because you can more clearly indent bullet points.
Another thing I have noticed, but this could be a result of the type of courses I am taking, is that there is not a whole lot of homework. The main work is keeping up with the readings and studying along the entire time in order to prepare for the midterm exam. This makes me nervous as my midterm exams are very soon and I haven’t had a whole lot of graded work at this point. Guess that means I should go study now!