Being a student in the U.S. is different in a lot of ways than what I experienced back in Russia. Classes are taught differently, schools are run differently, and grades are doled out differently – some for the good and some for the bad. Here are the top 10 things I’ve had to adjust to as a student in America. Would they be as different for you?
1. Your grades are private
Louis Shackleton bucks the trend and posts his first semester grades
While in the U.S. students’ grades are not revealed to the whole class, in Russia it is the opposite. It is common for a Russian professor to announce students’ grades publicly in the presence of the whole class. It is also common for Russian professors to put a list of students’ names and grades next to the names on their office door, so everyone at the university can see the students’ grades.
2. Your parents are not involved in your academics
Another policy in line with the previous point is the habit of colleges in Russia to call or write letters to students’ parents if students do not do well academically. This is what American students would probably take as a violation of their privacy.
3. Notetaking is optional
Students in a seminar-style class, not taking notes (Photo: Marcos Ojeda)
Many Russian professors require that students take notes during the lecture or seminar. They often tell students what exactly to write down, and if they see someone is not taking notes they may ask the student to leave the classroom. In an American classroom it’s usually your choice what you want to write down or not.
4. No exam determines your whole grade
Exams in Russia are certainly more stressful than in the U.S., because in many cases a final exam is worth 90 or 100 per cent of the grade. The exam format is similar for all majors and class years. During the exam, a student receives a few random questions based on the content of the entire course, and often has to answer the questions orally in a one-to-one conversation with the professor.
5. Classes can contain students from different years, and different majors
Unlike in the U.S., in Russia, you will never see students of different class years in the same class. All students, after they have been admitted to a college, are assigned to groups according to their major and class year. Students then attend classes with the same group until they graduate.
6. Your academic decision-making requires, and receives, help
In the U.S., academic advisors play a crucial role in helping students make all kinds of academic decisions. In Russian universities, there are no academic advisors, simply because there is no need for them. Russian students cannot choose what courses to take. Colleges together with the government develop a program of study for each major compulsory for all students pursuing that major.
7. Textbooks are EXPENSIVE
Photo: Eunice (ejchang on Flickr)
Although Russian students experience some lack of freedom in shaping their college education, they are better off than American students when it comes to textbooks. Russian universities provide all students regardless of whether they receive financial aid or not with free books through universities’ libraries.
8. Financial aid can be given based on your need, not just your qualifications
Speaking about financial aid, Russian universities do not normally offer need-based financial aid. Only orphans are awarded a tuition waiver. Unlike in the schools across the U.S., all financial aid in Russian schools is merit-based.
9. You take significantly fewer classes
About half of the courses that Russian students take in universities are evaluated on pass or fail scale. Students take such courses in addition to four or five graded courses, so the average number of courses students take each semester is about twice as big as the normal course load in American colleges.
10. There’s less … ummm … “collaboration”
There is something about the Russian culture that is responsible for students’ tendency to collaborate in many situations in which American students don’t, for example, during exams. As students progress from their first year to their last, they develop more and more creative ways of “helping” each other without being caught by professors.
Do you agree with my top ten? What has been or would be most different for you?