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Student Reflections

The UK vs the USA: Course Registration and Dormitories

Maria Muhareb
September 26, 2021
Module Registration:

Coming from a university in the United States, I thought to juxtapose course registration and housing within American borders to that of the United Kingdom.  

Module Registration took place at the end of June of 2021, at which point I had believed my schedule finalized. I now see that to be extremely far from the truth. The university would release the list of offered modules and modules that accept associate or study abroad students. Students registered for three-four courses that then had to be individually approved by their respective departments. This process alone was extensive, and it took multiple attempts of submitting courses to have all three of mine approved. Of course, the catch was that timetables were not released until September. This meant that we had no understanding of what our schedule would look like until then.

I had no problem with that as long as I knew there was no conflict. I assumed there wouldn’t be since they wouldn’t allow me to register for courses that overlap, correct? 

Incorrect. 

Once timetables were released, fellow international students and I became puzzled at what we saw. After discussing the matter in the group chat,  we realized we all had one or two courses missing from the schedule. At that point, multiple of us had attempted to understand why this was the case. Emailing the study abroad course registration office did not alleviate the confusion. They were extremely timely in their responses-always getting back to us within twenty-four hours, but the answers were kind of vague and didn’t answer our questions all that well. Finally, by the lucky draw of the cards, I managed to get someone to explain what the issue was.

Scheduling Conflict:

So due to the scheduling conflict, some courses would not show up in our timetable until add/drop starts on September 20th. At which point, we would have to change our schedule by submitting more courses for departmental approval. The issue is that, as a biology major, the one biology course I am taking is not showing up.

I am an extremely creative person, and I love to write more than anything. My other two courses revolve around that love of storytelling, with one being poetry and the other being a Shakespeare class. Unfortunately, they both cause conflict with my infectious disease biology course, so once add /drop starts, a week before the start of classes, I have to reconfigure my schedule. Hopefully, I can have another two courses I love since dropping biology is not an option. 

I found it very confusing that timetables were not released until a few weeks before classes since it seems very counterintuitive. Most likely, most if not all students end up with scheduling conflicts this way and have to change their entire schedule anyway, so why not have that information be available in the first place? It would help mitigate these issues as well as lower the workload for the people approving course registrations. It was also strange when thinking of students who need their schedules to fit specific time frames. 

When I was a freshman at UMass Amherst, I needed to go home every weekend and thus would always ensure Friday classes ended early and Monday classes started late. That would be impossible to do without knowing the available time slots ahead of class starting. I’m not sure if this is a general trend in UK universities or simply the one I am attending for the fall, but it confused us. 

Dormitories:

Not unlike trying to understand how our dorms work, who our roommates are, or any of that. In our study abroad group chat, we managed to understand the basics of how it worked. My assignment, for example, was 12A, and after much discussion, we figured out that the number is your flat number and the letter is your room number within that flat. The confusing aspect is that there are 20 flats in our building. However, in all the pictures, it looks like it barely has six floors. As a result, we didn’t understand how you knew what floor your flat was on. Emailing the university did not help clarify any of that, nor did scouring the residential services website for a non-existent file of floor plans that could help.

Now that the commencement of the semester is drawing near, some students have started moving in if they came from red list countries that require them to quarantine, and if it weren’t for them, we would still have no clue. They found out that the building split into two sections, each of which is five floors. There are two flats on each of those floors, and then the ground level: the cafeteria. 

Into the Groupchat:

Everyone in our group chats has started to send little videos of how the building is structured. They showed us the location of everything and the layout of our rooms. They also provided us with 3D tours on the residential services page, but it’s not the same as a video played where you can see everything a little better.

Despite the confusion, one aspect of UK housing that has the States beat is that we each get a personal bathroom within the flats, and we only share a common area and a kitchen. You know you’re a college student when the most exciting part is getting a bathroom you don’t need to share. We generally just enjoyed showing each other a little bit more of our soon-to-be homes. We each have a mini-fridge in our rooms and multiple deep freezers in the kitchen for the flatmates to share; the next topic of discussion.

Travel Dreams:

One part of traveling I most anticipated was moving in and meeting the students I would be living with; I was looking forward to finding out who they are, where they’re from, and just generally making friends. Unfortunately, we soon found out that the university does not provide the students with their flatmates’ information whatsoever. Other than this being disappointing as you don’t get to start getting to know each other quickly, it caused inconvenience. Typically, when you share an apartment with other students, there are things to coordinate. Those aspects of living together include who can get what or if things will be shared, etc. We had to then rely on our group chats to attempt to find anyone with the same flat number; I found one of my flatmates. So I get to have at least one familiar face when I get to the UK. 

As the start of classes approaches, my anticipation only grows for this next chapter of my life. I get to explore a new setting and with new characters. In all honesty, it does not even feel real that I am traveling just yet. The reason being the passport fiasco, which I will have to let you all know about next time.