Rishana Tah shares her experience of all-round study at the University of Wisconsin.
A couple of years back, when I was in high school, I took part in this debate on the topic 'studying abroad is a mere fad'. I spoke against it. I spoke on how it’s not a fad. I won the debate because I truly believed in the points I had put forward. But now that I am here in the United States of America, studying at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, I am all the more convinced that studying abroad is not a fad at all! The opportunity given to me by my university to experience the U.S. education system at one of the premiere institutes in the U.S.A, is one I will always be grateful to them for.
It has only been about two-and-a-half months that I've been here and the amount of things I've learnt is humongous. It’s not just the education system, but the fact that you are in a different country all together which makes the exposure you get from studying abroad a great one.
Freedom and flexibility
The U.S. system of higher education is very different from the education system we follow in India. It is characterised by multiple models, and a complexity of interactive educational systems and subsystems unlike our hierarchical or centralised system. The main difference is the fact that the education system in the U.S. is characterised by flexibility for the individual student, who can choose from a variety of subjects and change from subject to subject easily. In India it’s not that way. Students are assigned or must choose a fixed plan of study and not deviate from it. In the U.S., students have a great deal of freedom to choose their major field of study, courses, research topics and designs. They also have the ability to change their academic path, almost at any point during their education.
The U.S. classroom learning environment is learner-centric where in we actually gain knowledge and apply it to new situations and use our critical analytical skills rather than memorising texts and absorbing knowledge.
The classroom environment is very casual in the sense you do not have dress codes and you can eat in class if you wish. That being said there is a level of discipline and decorum the instructor expects. Classes are more two-sided in the way that students can ask doubts freely and instructor-teacher interaction is there. Students are required to figure things out for themselves, and learn by doing.
The infrastructure and facilities available for students is overwhelming! There are a total of 42 libraries in the UW-Madison, out of which some are open for 24 hours. Opportunities for internships, volunteering, working and learning are many. For me the experience has been great so far. I am taking courses in computer sciences which keep me busy all the time. I have projects to submit, assignments to complete and presentations to make. There is always something to do!
America is not a country, it is a way of life, where people work, learn, study and enjoy in a balanced way. It’s a way where you learn how to be responsible for yourself and your future. For those who are planning to go for their studies or are contemplating, I’d say try to withhold your judgment of the U.S. classroom until you actually are in one. The experience would be an amazing one, trust me on that! And as is the case with everything in life, YOU can make it or break it! Don't miss the opportunity of getting the exposure that studying abroad offers you. And last but not the least, the peanut butter cups and butterfingers you get in the U.S. is the epitome of chocolate awesomeness!