NAME: Michal Zygmunt Smoszna
MAJOR: Aerospace Engineer
PROGRAM: England, SJSU Exchange – University of Birmingham
I always wanted to discover the world, and learn how it is to live and slightly settle down in a completely new environment. Foreign universities always interested me and kept me keen to learn about how other countries teach their students. I was really wanted to experience a new culture, a new government, new architecture, new economy, new everytbing and I am so ever grateful that I had this opportunity. Discovering the differences between our two countries was one thing I was very excited for and I got just that. Not to mention I wanted to meet new people and now I have a group of close friends that I’ll definitely be visiting.
For starters, the US and the UK have two completely different and intriguing ways of delivering education. In the US you learn a little then have a midterm or two tests that are a bit short as each overs around 1/3 of the material. There is also homework which is assigned and guides students through the course. In the UK, exams are given only once per class and homework is entirely dependant on the student. The individuality and the mass material needed to know at the time of the exam was one of my weak points as I was used to a 10-20% final exam worth as in the US not 80% as in the UK. I most definitely sharpened by skills about studying on my own and reviewing throughout the year, as well as my abilities to study for an exam. Never before have I stressed so much, yet comprehended and tried so hard for the pass. It was a very challenging transition, but one that has given me insight and change for my future university years. To summarise: I will be spending a lot more time in the library from now on actually trying to comprehend what I’m learning instead of just memorising for the short term pass.
I set out in my goals list to discover new cultures and meet new friends as well as explore and enrich my academic practices. I think as previously stated academically I learnt a lot for years to come. Personally, I met people from a plethora of cultures and backgrounds and have the pleasure to call those people my friends. I also connected with other students studying abroad from Hong Kong, Australia, Germany to name a few. I think we created a network of peers which will keep in touch and support each other no matter the distance for years to come.
The biggest impact was the self dependency that I created and lived by. I was very far from home and in a completely different time zone so calls were far and few. Making friends also wasn’t instant, it took me a couple of months so I was very lonely, but that thought me that’s it’s okay to be alone, something that I never before really experienced and knew how to deal with. I also learnt how to care for myself, cook for myself, heal myself (when I got sick), how to make new friends, and how to discipline myself with my study.
I took I think the maximum load of classes that I could take to still graduate from SJSU in 4 years and that was Linear Algrebra and Linear Programming, Introduction to mid 19th century French art, and Inorganic Chemistry my first semester and Materials Engineering, Circuit Analysis (Digital and Analogue), Electromagnetism – Temperature and Matter – Circuits, and Observational Astronomy my second semester. They were difficult classes all of them to be honest, especially before I figured out how to convert to studying for UK classes and exams. I tried my absolute best to follow the material we had in lecture throughout the year and this definitely helped ensure my academic success. I also began studying relentlessly for exams 3 weeks before exams everyday for hours upon hours. This sort of longer cramming helped me refresh and retain the knowledge of the classes which helped me succeed. As I mentioned earlier, now in SJSU I will spend much more time in the library before, between, and after my lectures and actively catch up and try to comprehend material as I learn it, instead of procrastinating and cramming before the tests.
I from starters have had a very wide perspective on our world, I frequent to Poland as I am Polish and all my non-immediate family reside there. The UK, however, added a great deal to this perspective. The US is a completely different world compared to Poland, as the US is a capatilist country from the getgo whilst Poland is a post iron curtain socialist country which employs some capitalism. The UK, however is in between Central Europe and the US. The UK speaks English, yet is retains a very dense population in cities and has a very western economy. There’s many things i could say which greatly intrigued me, one worthy to mention is the lack of copyright laws, so companies such as ALDI create delicious and cheap dupes of known brands which I took. The difference in how we speak and what we understand in British English and American English and Australian English were also very interesting and entertaining for me to learn. I most definitely have gotten a much larger world view and definitely an appreciation for American healthcare.
I have learnt how to care for myself and how to live on my own and am now confident of my capabilities in being self-dependant. I also know how to manage my time a lot more efficiently than before. I think in further school and when I eventually move away from home this will be very helpful and helping me adapt to whatever environment I mind myself in.
I’d say to most definitely make a plan on how to study and research in what way a certain country/university delivers knowledge. To me this was a very big thing to overcome and I wish I had been more prepared for it once I went over. Also, I’d like to reinforce that’s it’s okay to feel homesick and lonely/alone in the beginning. It’s a key part of learning how to adapt and live with yourself. You kind of build yourself up anew doing this and going through this process of in a way starting over, which I think is only beneficial and gives experiences that will help in the long run.