Monday, 23 May 2016

Universidad de Ibagué


Last thursday I had my last day of university here in Ibagué (and maybe even my last day of university ever). So I would like to tell how studying here was like. First, I only took two classes, so one could say I had it pretty easy. But then, everything was in spanish so it took me way more time, especially the first month, to read all the material, prepare for classes (and without preparation I was lost), do the tasks, prepare the presentations and study for the exams.

The grading system is quite different from here. The grades go from 0 to 5, almost like in Austria, but here 5 is the best you can achieve, and also, while you need 50 % to pass in Austria and achieve a grade better than 5, in Colombia the grades are more like points to gain. So if you don't do your task, you get 0. If you do it, but not that well, you get 2,5. And if you do it very well, you get 5. In the end, you need at least 3 to pass the class, therefore 60 %.

The class is seperated in three mostly egual parts of the semester. At the end of each part they tell you your current grade for these part so you know what you need for the following part to pass the class. Like I said, I took two classes and the grading was also different in those two classes. In the first one, there were no exams, just tasks to do in class as well as homework and two presentations. At the end of each part there was an autoevaluation where you could grade yourself as well (which made up 15  % of the final grade).

The other class did have exams, there was an exam with the value of 25 % at the end of each part with questions of the content we learned in those weeks, and the last one had questions from all the semesters. The exams were multiple-joice, so no need to write something, just making your x on the one answer that is right. And, what I thought to be really strange: The questions as well as the answers used exactly the same words as in the texts we had to study. Good for me - I don't think I would have understood the questions if they used different phrases to make it more difficult. But strange for me nevertheless.

The other 10 respectly 5 percent each part were achieved by doing cases in class and preparing presentations. That quite annoyed me. In Austria, we have this one exam in the end that decides your grade. In most classes you don't need to do anything before. Maybe you have do to an additional task like write a paper or do a presentation. But that's it. No cases every class, no two presentations, three exams and two additional quizzes. I guess it's better for the students to always do small pieces of work instead of one huge pile of work once and it makes class easier to pass. But it took me some time to adapt to "there's always something to do for each class".

The professors of my courses were all really nice and helpful, I even got the number of one of them so I could contact him if I had questions, and when I didn't understand, they translated what they said for me to english. The students here do know english, they even told me they have classes in english. But nobody is pretty eager to talk in english and it seems their english classes are more like "the texts are in english, but you can speak spanish in class as well". So, I guess right now my spanish is better than the english of most of them.

Also, what I noticed right away is that all the students tend to dress quite nice for every class. Almost all guys wear button-down shirts or polo shirts, and blouses, dresses and even high-heels are not incommon for girls. I guess that's because it is a private university - at the University of Tolima, same city but public university, punks were a quite common sight. Also, students here are quite young. They are allowed to enter university at 16 and, because it's private, tend to finish it as soon as possible. I met noone my age (except for the other exchange students), which I definitely wasn't used to.

What surprised me was the punctuality. Yes, I knew they wouldn't be as punctual as in an university in Austria. But still, it's not normal to arrive half an hour late to class. And it's quite strange that class finishes an hour early just because.. well most of the time I have no idea why we finished so early. I guess they just didn't want to continue anymore.

And then there were the group works. It was not that bad everytime - but I do remember this one time when we were told to prepare a presentation but noone of our group had time so we ended up meeting 2 hours before class started, therefore almost no preparation time at all, everybody showed up half an hour late and when we at last had some slides half an hour before start of classes, they started discussing if we shouldn't change the whole presentation because another concept would be better. I am not a stressed person, but this quite freaked me out - I had no idea what to present (in spanish!) and saw myself standing infront of the class reading the text on the slides and even then making mistakes because it's the first time I ever see that slide. Fortunately, we didn't have our presentations until three weeks later because after one presentation class finished and we could all go home. I guess I will miss that back in Austria - I got quite used to it until now.

I got to write for a newsletter of the Unibague, you can read it >here<.