University in England

university-in-EnglandWhen I was attending California State University at Northridge, I decided to apply to a “Year Abroad” program to study at a university in England for my senior year. Out of about 400 candidates, only two were chosen. Just about all of them had a 4.0 GPA, so I needed something distinctive to set me apart from the other candidates.

I remember going to a panel interview, with about ten people interviewing me. My heart was pounding, and I was very nervous. They asked me why they should send me and not someone else. I said that first of all, I had lived in a foreign country before, so I would be able to acclimate well to a different culture.

Secondly, since I was planning to be a teacher, it would be like sending hundreds of people over to England, because I would be gathering materials as an English teacher. Apparently they liked my answer, because they ended up sending me. So I spent my senior year of college at a university in England.

In the United Kingdom, only the top five percent of the people are allowed to go to university. If your test scores aren’t high enough, you are simply not allowed to go. The course of study is only 3 years instead of 4, and there is no general education. All 3 years are specialized. Since Americans have 2 years of general education (liberal arts) and 2 years of specialization, we actually have less specialization than they do. It can be argued quite effectively that Americans are more well-rounded, but I like the 3 years of specialization better. Why take lots of classes that are irrelevant to your profession when you could be getting better at what you are actually going to do?

Needless to say, every single person at the University of Sheffield in England was brainy. The girls did not wear make-up, and they seemed more real and down-to-earth. Conversations were highly interesting, and the exams were killers. In fact, 100% of your grade wasuniversity-in-England-2 the final exam, and since each course was 8 units, you could get A, A, A or F, F, F.

One class I took was “History of the English Language.” I took reams and reams of notes that I studied carefully, and I read all 12 books that were suggested. When I sat down for the final exam, I knew that I knew the material. I began answering the first question, and when I finished that question, I looked up to see that there was only five minutes left for the exam. I panicked, and in a frantic chicken scratch, I outlined my answers to the remaining questions using abbreviations that looked more like scribbles. Time was up. Pencils down.

I left that room with a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had told the panel before I left California that I would make our university proud. And now somehow I had broken my word, although God knows I tried.

One of the other exams was a week-long Shakespeare exam. It was a long exam, and the Shakespeare shelves in the library were completely empty without a single Shakespeare book. I prayed as to what I should do, and I thanked God for the restricted section, since those books can’t be checked out. I spent the whole week in that room.

I did better on that exam than I did on the “History of the English Language.” Later I found out that the exam I thought I failed, the professor had given me a B-. I was so grateful for a passing grade by that time. The professor must have seen the thoroughness of the first answer and known that I knew the material.

I loved my experience studying in England, and I loved the people!

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