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Adjusting to a Different Educational System

It is difficult to generalize about different educational systems around the world. Most undergraduate instruction will include lectures, seminars, laboratory sessions, papers, and examinations, but that may be where the similarities end. Although it may not be explicitly stated in the syllabus, attendance is important. You must be sure to pay close attention to your host institution’s policies and course syllabi. If you have any questions, be sure to ask them so you understand how the course will be taught and what is important.

For instance, you may attend lectures, but a larger share of the classroom time may be spent in small tutorial and seminar groups. You may be asked to be an equal contributor to these discussions. Generally speaking, emphasis is put on reading widely and making use of what you have read in essays and during seminars. Your reading will not usually be based on a textbook or directed in the detailed way that is common at MSU. If you are told: "You may wish to have a look at these specific titles," that implies strong advice that these books should be read! Don't rely on being told exactly what to do or when to do it.

In many cases, the professor may be expecting you to be reading on your own and ask you for original research and thought in the exam essays. You will be expected to provide your own motivation and to assume responsibility for your own education and learning, and not to simply wait to be taught the course material.

It is likely that exams will be essay-type. Before you take your first exam, ask for clarification of the grading system. This will help alleviate any surprises when you receive your results! Grades issued for certain courses on partner programs will be translated into MSU numerical grades (3.0, 3.5, etc.). This translation is based on MSU agreed-upon standards, which can be found at the MSU Education Abroad Partner Programs website. You may appeal your initial grade through the usual process defined in Spartan Life; however, because the grade is issued by an instructor abroad, the process can be lengthy and involved.