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Comparative Studying

by Jen Wagman Monday, March 19, 2018

Picking classes is stressful in the US and we do it a full semester ahead of time here, stress and deadlines often take a more lax approach. Registering for classes happens a few weeks before the class actually starts and once the semester actually starts, we have a shopping period where we can add or drop classes based on a variety of criteria from how well we understand the professor to how much our expectations differ from the reality.

This makes the first couple weeks of any semester abroad that much more challenging as you weigh trade offs of finishing your degree against free time in your foreign country to trying to make new friends and adjust to a local culture. This semester, I had decided that I was going to try out classes in a language institute for our study abroad program, one of the top private universities in town, la Universidad Católica de Argentina (la UCA) and the top public university in Argentina, la Universidad de Buenos Aires (la UBA).

The classes can be anything from around 10 to 100 students, just like at UW-Madison, depending on the subject and time that the course is offered. For the most part, they are all lectures with mostly reading as homework, but of course each class has its own expectations.

In a lot of ways, it feels very much like Madison in the fact that you are held responsible for your own work, behavior and participation in class. However, in a lot of the business classes, the classes are offered at night because a large majority of the students, especially at UBA, work during the day and take 1-3 classes at night.

This is more common at UBA because students attend the public university free of tuition, which implicates a variety of other things. However, what has struck me most is how college here is seen as something you want to do to better your situation. Most students are older and, for those attending UBA, they will take about 7 years to finish their university studies.

There is also a different grading scale and different ways in which finals are administered, which can be hard to understand. Grades are given as numbers, where a 10 is the highest and a 0 is the lowest. To pass, you need at least a 4, which translates back to about a C. Most students end up with about a 6, but students who are in the medical school to become doctors average 8s as their, promedio, or cumulative average.