Perceived differences between my home university and the university abroad

In this blog contribution I compare the university system or some aspects of the University of Bergen (Norway) with my home university in Berne.

I experienced the university system in Bergen as being different from ours in Switzerland. After the two introduction days in the very beginning of January, my first course called ‘childhood and parenting in diverse contexts’ began just the following week, on January 9, 2017. In Switzerland we usually start only in the middle of February. However, not every course I attended started that early. My other psychology lecture began towards the end of January. In the beginning I thought that’s really early and wondered if the semester would last until the end of May like in Switzerland, because then it would be much longer. When I looked at the schedules of my courses, I realized that they stopped at different times and also much earlier than they do at my home university. Of course the end of the semester also depends on which lectures one attends.

The course I began with was a mixture of lectures and seminars, which was not common in my studies in Berne. I either had lectures or seminars with the exception of one course where we had to conduct an intelligence test with a child besides attending to lecture. Another difference was that e.g. the course ‘childhood and parenting in diverse contexts’ did not take place on a certain day and time every week, but on two days per week in a period of five weeks. This lecture reminded me of the ‘Ringvorlesung’ in my first semester in Berne, because different professors were teaching us their specialist field. What I found special was that we sometimes changed the room even though the same professor lectured the next lesson. Before the end of all lectures we could already start to write on our essay, which was the major course assessment. I was astonished that we had to hand in a draft of our essay so one out of three assigned professors would give us feedback. We could even choose between receiving a written feedback or a personal feedback meeting the respective professor. This was not common either in my psychology studies at the university of Berne. My other psychology class also took place quite randomly, differing from once to three times a week. The end of the lectures was already by the end of March. Besides the lectures we received a really long reading list containing several chapters or articles for every single lecture. I think it is important to read besides going to lectures. However, I expected also more information of certain professors. The assessment of this course will be an electronic exam where we have to use our own laptops. We’ll have to download a program so we cannot cheat. It will be an essay exam where we have to answer just a few questions. In Berne I was more used to multiple choice exams or exams with a couple of open questions. I don’t know what I will think of the electronic exam after having written it. But given that there is the possibility of technical problems, I would prefer a paper-pencil exam. In my opinion this would be less complicated. Like in my other psychology course, we had several lecturers. The way of presenting their material differed quite a lot, from rather listening to the professor to discussing a lot. Since these two courses did not begin the same week and were distributed quite randomly, the problem of overlapping existed. I did not have problems to deal with this. However, I prefer the way it is at the University of Berne where all the lectures usually take place every week on a certain time and day.

In contrast to the psychology courses I attended, the Norwegian language course took place regularly and always on the same time and days.

At the university of Bergen they use a similar platform like Ilias where one can download the presentations, write e-mails or professors can make announcements in case of important information or changes regarding lectures. There’s also a calendar, which shows the upcoming lectures one has signed up for. Grades are registered on another page. In contrast to Switzerland, grades range from A to F and only F means fail whereas in Switzerland we have different levels of having failed. A friend I met here in Bergen found this way of grading strange and said that if you failed you just failed, why should there be different marks to show how bad someone was at an exam. However, I think the levels of having failed give you an orientation of where you ‘stand’, if the failure was marginal or if you should learn much harder for the resit.

In general, I did not have problems do accommodate to these differences; it was just new. I felt comfortable with this system. Some things might look different if I attended to more lectures and studied here for a longer period and not just one semester.

Dominique Glaus

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