Education Systems


Studying abroad is a rare and wonderful opportunity.  You will learn at least as much outside the classroom as in it; still, you are reminded that you are studying abroad, not vacationing. With this in mind, there are some matters worth addressing.

1) If you are receiving instruction from a faculty at a host institution, you will need to consider the role culture plays in shaping the classroom experience. Teaching pedagogies, classroom structure, and definitions of appropriate classroom behavior may be different from what you are used to.

2) Education systems vary from country to country. In a number of countries, the responsibility for learning lays squarely with the student, not the professor. Consequently, a great emphasis is placed on student's independent learning.

Professors may recommend books or articles without assigning specific readings to be completed by a specific date. Do not mistake this for a lack of rigor. In many cultures, it is up to the student to determine which readings are most appropriate and to pursue extensive independent research outside of class.

3) In many countries, it is inappropriate and disrespectful to bring food or drink into the classroom.

4) You may find that some classrooms or materials are not in the condition you expect them to be. Perhaps the walls are bare, the classroom is simply furnished, or the textbooks are old. Do not mistake these as indicators of a bad school. The material condition of most American schools is unusually luxurious by world standards, and yet international test scores would seem to suggest that our students are not learning the most. Try to avoid focusing on the material condition of your desk, classroom, or textbook, and instead focus on getting an education.

5) Depending on the country and the program you are participating in, you may find that professors may not hold office hours. They may feel no particular obligation to help a struggling student. American notions of customer service which extend so far as to conceptualize the professor as a service/education provider and the student as the customer/consumer may seem quite odd to your hosts overseas.

6) Integrating into a new education system and learning the environment may require a higher level of motivation and commitment. Do not be discouraged if it takes some time to adjust. If you are experiencing difficulties with transitioning to a new environment with different expectations, seek assistance from your on-site contact.


Page last modified July 2, 2012