After writing 12,000 words worth of essays and poems, I am happy to say that I have turned in all of my final assignments. My studies abroad have officially come to an end and my junior year of college is over. It is hard to accept those facts. I am not ready to leave London nor am I prepared to be a senior. Luckily, I still have a month before returning to the States and four before my final year of college begins.
The past two weeks were tough. I had somehow convinced myself that having all of my final coursework due on the same day was great. It was not. Completing four assignments by May 3 was overwhelming and resulted in too many anxiety attacks.
I couldn’t help but panic every time I considered the weight of the assignments. My Renaissance Wordplay portfolio counted for 100% of my final mark in the class. My Mapping Modernism research paper determined 100% of my grade in the course. My First World War Literature essay was worth 100%. Finally, my portfolio of poems for Creative Writing accounted for 60% of my grade, a lesser evil, but a high percentage nonetheless.
Finals therefore entailed even more pressure than usual and I now resent the U.K. university system. Up until finals, I had no issues with my courses at King’s College. In fact, I rather enjoyed the way they were conducted. Fewer hours in the classroom and hardly any writing assignments left plenty of time to do reading and prep work before lecture and seminar each week.
I have come to realize, however, that my prep work means little to nothing when it comes to my final grades in the classes. Because I focused in on specific topics in each of my final papers, the hours I spent reading about other topics do not count toward anything. I read every text and participated in every class discussion, yet my grade will be determined by one written assignment in each course. My other efforts seem useless.
Of course, they are not completely pointless. I really enjoyed all of the reading I did and certainly learned a lot from my classes because I was prepared each week. I am beginning to understand, however, why some of my classmates were not like me. They skipped lectures and neglected texts knowing their lack of preparation wouldn’t hurt them when all they had to do was write one paper.
The U.K. university system has really made me miss the structure of college classes in the U.S., especially those at Providence College. At PC, there is a lot of incentive to be prepared for class as our class participation counts for part of our final grade. Our grade is also determined by multiple assignments and the feedback on each of them helps us do better on the next.
When it comes to these papers I submitted for King’s College, the feedback will ultimately be too little too late as I will already be done with my studies in the U.K. The comments my professors offer may help my writing in the future, but they will not improve my performance at King’s.
Furthermore, the pressure of final assignments in the U.K. is unhealthy. Finals are stressful for students in most countries simply because they require a lot of work in an inhuman amount of time. When an assignment’s worth is so high like in the U.K., however, the work becomes unbearable. One assignment makes or breaks your grade. One paper or exam determines passing or failing.
I didn’t have to take any exams though. All of my English classes required final papers as opposed to exams and were due on the department-wide due date. Some of my friends, however, are not yet done with finals as they have exams anytime in between now and June 3.
Some of my friends’ final exams are just as cruel as my final papers though. They have tests that determine 100% of their grade. Can you imagine the pressure they are feeling? They don’t even have time to construct a paper reflecting what they have learned over the course of the semester. They simply have to write down all that they know in a 2 hour time period and hope for the best. Suddenly, my papers aren’t looking so bad.
Now that my criticism of the U.K. university system is off of my chest, I must clarify that I do not regret a single moment of my studies here at King’s College. Although I ultimately did not find the structure of their classes or their grading scale fair, I have learned a lot.
The reading materials were interesting. The lectures and seminars were engaging. I have certainly taken away tons of knowledge. Furthermore, I can say that I have participated in a different form of evaluation and am eager to see if I have adapted to the system. I won’t hear about my final grades until the end of this month though.
If it turns out that I did not excel at the U.K. education system, I will be disappointed. After all, I have worked hard to prove myself in my classes. On the other hand, however, I cannot be too upset. Like I mentioned before, this semester abroad has already taught me so much both in and outside of the classroom.
Whether I do well or poorly, my final papers do not reflect my experience at King’s College or in London. A terrible grade does not take into account all of the good I have accomplished like learning how to live in a big city, take care of myself, and move past culture shock. Likewise, a perfect grade does not acknowledge the battles that I’m still fighting like homesickness and anxiety.
Ultimately, final grades do not reflect my semester abroad nor do they reflect the person I have become thanks to studying here. They’re just arbitrary letters and numbers. At the end of the day, all I can hope is that my best effort was enough. If it wasn’t, I can at least say that I’ve had the experience of a lifetime while taking in as much knowledge as possible.
The only good thing about having four finals due on the same day is that I am now completely free of schoolwork for the next month. So, you may be wondering what I am going to do with myself! After two hectic weeks, I am relaxing and enjoying my final month abroad.
The weather in London is finally improving. Although it snowed last week, it has been sunny and warm every day this week. I am enjoying aimless strolls around the city and lounging in my new favorite place—Regent’s Park.
I’m also planning to travel some more. My next trip will be to Scotland to visit a good friend studying at St. Andrew’s. She and I will be spending some time in Edinburgh too so I am very excited!
Overall, I am just trying to make the last weeks of this incredible experience really count. I can’t believe four months have gone by and I know the last month will fly by too. I’m so grateful to live in this exciting city and will be sad to say goodbye. So, here’s to 36 more days across the pond!