Many of you will be studying within an academic system that is very different from the one you are accustomed to. In order for you to achieve academic success, it is important that you understand the difference between the system that you are accustomed to and the one you will be studying in. What follows are some highlights of system differences. Please note that each school abroad will do things a bit differently and it is up to you to determine how the system works at your study abroad site. If you fail to find out how things work academically, you may find yourself failing academically. It is important to note that students from the University of Scranton have historically done well academically while abroad - regardless of how different the academic system is.
At the University of Scranton, your attendance or lack thereof, can have and effect on your final grade. If you miss more than the alloted missed classes, you will find that your grade can be lowered or in the worst case, you could fail the class. Most institutions abroad feel that it is your responsibility to see that you attend class rather than the faculty member and as a result, attendance is not taken. Be aware that your class attendance practices abroad should mirror what they are at the University of Scranton; failure to attend class could result in not having information that you need in order to do well academically.
Grading and Grade Scales
Grading scales and practices at the University of Scranton are not generally the practices of universities abroad. The fact of the matter is that differences between the University of Scranton and universities abroad are great. What might be considered a poor or failing grade at the University of Scranton might be a perfectly acceptable grade at the university abroad. For example, at the University of Wollongong in Australia a grade between 50% and 64% is considered a "Pass" or a "C" at the University of Scranton. It is critical that you understand how grades and grading scales work at the university abroad. You will want to ask how the system works once you arrive and you can always contact the International Programs and Services Office for clarification on the grading and grade scales.
Most classes at the University of Scranton use a variety of methods to determine your final grade in the class. It is not unusual that you have papers, quizzes, a midterm, a final or presentations that you give in class that determine your final grade. Methods that universities abroad use to determine your final class grade vary greatly. You may find, for example, that the grade in a class is determined by a midterm exam and a final paper. You can generally count on the fact that you will have fewer assessments that count for more of your final grade than at the University of Scranton. As a result, there is less room for error in terms of your academic performance. It is absolutely critical that you understand precisely what work you need to do and when you need to do it in order to do well in the class. If it is not clear to you, then you need to ask other students, the faculty member or the international office staff at your university. Note that University of Scranton students have done and continue to do well academically abroad.
Classroom etiquette varies from country to country and university to university. At the University of Scranton, you are probably accustomed to asking questions at will and engaging in dialog with the faculty members teaching your courses. It is not unheard of that such a practice is considered inappropriate in other educational systems. A lecture class might be precisely that; a lecture and the time to ask questions might be in a different forum such as a seminar. It would behoove you to learn what appropriate classroom behavior is - ask fellow students or staff in the international student office about appropriate behavior.
Once again, there can be vast differences between the way you are accustomed to writing papers and the writing style required at the University of Scranton and universities abroad. If you have writing assignments, you will need to understand clearly what is required for an acceptable paper or other writing assignment. Writing in the wrong style or citing references incorrectly could result in doing poorly on the assignment. Be sure to ask what is expected from a writing assignment and the style you are supposed to use.
A syllabus or a reading list can mean one thing at the University of Scranton and quite another at other universities. You might find that a syllabus abroad consists of a general outline of the course and perhaps has a reading list attached to it. It might not tell you what each lecture topic is going to be or by what date you should be reading certain material. You might also find that the reading list consists of dozens of books and or articles. If this is the case, you should not panic. Odds are, you are not expected to read everything, but rather select different reading from the list that you are interested in and use what you have read to support answers to questions posed in an exam or paper. If you have doubts or questions about a syllabus or a reading list, you need to ask either the faculty member, other students or the staff in the international student office. You want to be clear about what is expected of you.
Steps to Take to Ensure Academic Success
As you probably suspect, classroom/academic life will likely be different for you while you are abroad. Once again it is important to know that University of Scranton students have done well and continue to do well abroad. What follows is short list that you can use to ensure your success:
- Learn the grading scheme of the university you are attending
- Go to all your classes (even if there is no attendance policy)
- Learn the writing style that is required of you
- Get to know students from the host country
- Keep copies of your syllabus, course work, reading lists, tests etc. in the event grades need to be contested
- Maintain a healthy balance between your social and your academic life
- Approach your classes with the perspective of earning the highest grade you can as opposed to earning just a "C"
- If you don't understand something, ask someone the question!