04/06/2013

Procrastination: Learning and the University

I'm meant to be revising, but surely writing about my exams is the same as revision? Yeah, I'd say it definitely is. Anyway, I'm going to let you know exactly how the Universidad de Zaragoza works, the subjects I've studied, and why I suddenly agree with spending thousands of pounds of higher education (although the £9000 a year thing is still pretty steep...).

I don't have any pictures of the university,
so the pictures for this post are going to be like this. Sorry in advance.


Right, so, the university is Aragón's main (or only) public university, there are private universities in  and around Zaragoza too, because Zaragoza is the capital of Aragón, so it makes sense that most of the universities are based here. A public university in Spain is one which is funded by the region it is in, so the prices/quality differs from region to region (thank you, Wikipedia). I have no idea how much it costs to go to Zaragoza, but I can only assume the students aren't going to leave £30,000 in debt - although neither am I.

The university isn't as fancy as other universities, and by other universities, I mean Edge Hill, as that's my only basis for comparison. In most of the classrooms, there is literally just a blackboard and a projector screen. By blackboard, I mean blackboard, not a whiteboard, a blackboard. With chalk. It's a bit of a culture shock when you first get here. In a similar vein, there aren't as many resources as there are in the UK. There isn't a library filled with computers (haha, as if there's a library filled with computers at Edge Hill - YOU KNOW. YOU GUYS KNOW.), it's instead filled with books. But maybe not enough books for each course, which I know could be an English complaint too, but there is seriously like one copy of each book for a course. While we're talking about the library, if you return a book back late, you don't have to pay a fine, instead you CAN'T TAKE OUT ANOTHER BOOK FOR A CERTAIN PERIOD OF TIME, which was a truly marvellous shock when I was writing an essay. Good one, Zaragoza.

When I say that there aren't enough books for each course, it's not necessarily a bad thing (i.e., you'd only need them if you were writing an essay) because you have to buy all the compulsory texts, which are photocopies of the books instead. Compulsory texts in Spain means compulsory, or it does in Zaragoza anyway. It's not in the loose 'just as long as you have a general idea and know who said it' sort of English approach to Literary Theory - which, of course, isn't the English approach and I have never blagged any exam or essay because of this technique - the Spanish approach is more 'remember that small insignificant part of the text you didn't highlight? You should have done. Welcome to hell' sort of way. I panicked in the first lot of exams when that happened.

Speaking of which, exams! Wonderful, wonderful exams. It would appear that, at Zaragoza, there's no such thing as a coursework-only module. Essays are generally optional (unless they aren't, listen in the first few classes or that'll come as a bit of a shock to you) and the optional essays are used to bump up your grades from the exams. The compulsory essays, however, are torture. When I say torture, I mean that I've only had one really bad one - although I hear other courses set horrific essays - and I handed it in a couple of days ago. It was 19 pages of hell. Hell here is 'A Study of the Illocutionary Act and Its Use in British Sitcoms'. Ugh.

For English courses, I have only had one open book exam, and all the others have been closed book, however not in the English idea of 'closed book'. It's more of a 'six-closed-books-and-three-essays-and-four-literary-theories' sort of approach to an exam, so you're more being tested on your memory and ability to revise than your ability to analyse (of course, analysis is involved in the exams, however context seems to be the be all and end all - most exam questions tend to begin with 'contextualise and analyse...'). I have a terrible memory and a complete inability to write a cohesive argument in a time limit, if exams are your forte, though, you're in for a treat.



I think now I'll let you know about my classes, if you're all ok with that? Yeah? Good. Ok. So. The credit system in Spain is different to how it is in England, in that, at home, there are about 6 modules a year, all amounting to 120 credits, because each is 20 credits. En España, however, each course is worth 6 credits, and the overall amount I need to get is 60 credits (if you're a language student and this is your year abroad, however, the amount of credits is significantly lowered). I had to choose 10 modules in total. These were: Historia de la Lengua Inglesa I, Estudios de la Novela Inglesa, Literatura y Cine en los Países de Habla Inglesa I, Estudios de Literatura Norteamericana, Variedades Geográficas de la Lengua Inglesa, Gramática Inglesa II, Otras Literaturas en Lengua Inglesa, Tendencias y Contextos del Cine en Lengua Inglesa, and Literatura Inglesa IV. Some (*ahem* two) of my classes are absolutely pointless. I won't name names, of course, but the tutors generally just go through that week's reading in class - no powerpoint or anything - and that's it. For another of the two, the students do presentations on the readings, which get marked, however the tutor says no more about the topic, and I, personally, find it really difficult to make notes on presentations given by my classmates in the offchance they're wrong. But that's only two classes.

And that, to my knowledge, is everything I know about studying at Zaragoza, or everything I can remember anyway. If you have any questions about it, just let me know. :)

Also... If you're studying too (and don't want to, and are in university), search #gcse or #alevels on Twitter - or the equivalent if you're not from England - or just the words on Tumblr and cackle maliciously. #schadenfreude  

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