Written by Patrycja
My name is Patrycja and I came from Poland to study BA Computer Animation Art and Design at BU. From the very beginning of my international adventure it was quite easy to notice that necessary study skills and the way of studying in the UK is completely different than the Polish one.
The biggest difference: no cramming and a lot of thinking!
In the UK they teach you how to study, so no cramming and learning by heart that is unfortunately so common in Poland. They rather give you and teach you the tools you need. In the UK you choose a small array not wide topic but you analyse it thoughtfully so no broad not deeply covered general topics, you have one small assignment but you learn many tools and skills while doing it and you can apply them in many other projects afterwards.
You learn from experience, by doing things and through your own research and by solving problems on your own.
Me and many of my international course mates were very surprised when one of our lecturers kept saying ‘Google it!’ when we were asking too many questions about how to do something using a given software, other lecturer also encouraged us to first try figure out how to solve an issue on our own for like 20 minutes, google and try every possible solution, ask our friends and later if nothing worked ask the lecturer or the demonstrators. In Poland no one will tell you to look for answers in the internet, maybe rather in thick textbooks or your notes and they will usually accept only one correct answer, even though there are usually many.
You need to study a little bit all the time.
In Poland there are short tests marked by points during the year (kolokwia) that are not so important and there is an extremely important exam period (sesja) every semester. In the UK there are more projects, presentations and coursework that is marked holistically throughout a year so it is impossible to study only for exams and not to do anything for the rest of the year which is sometimes common in Poland where students tend to study only during exam period (sesja).
Also in the UK you have to be little bit more creative and independent as people are interested in your own ideas and interpretations based and justified by others’ work, not only your learned-by-heart knowledge but rather how you use it. You have to be able to effectively use your sources to back up your ideas. You need some good essay writing and referencing skills and the ability to formulate good, specific topics for your essays. In Poland referencing is not so important, there usually has to be an evidence of some, but there is no emphasis on specific ways of referencing etc.
You will have to work a lot outside your lectures, workshops and seminars. In the UK there is less lectures and subjects than when you are studying in Poland. You are given time for your independent learning and research but you need to organise it well to not to end up finishing your projects at night before the deadline. It depends on you to do as much as you can in your free time but if you are struggling with anything you can always find help at the university.
More modern approach
At BU and as far as I know from my friends elsewhere in the UK as well we use an online platform where we can access notes and presentations from lectures as well as some additional materials that we can study in our free time and we submit our assignments through the system as well, so some basic computer skills are expected from everyone. In Poland you need to print a lot of stuff and copy notes from others when you couldn’t attend a lecture.
More individual approach
In Poland the course groups are usually enormous and everyone is therefore a bit anonymous and there is a huge distance between the lecturers and students, in England formative projects and group work are very common and course groups are usually smaller so lecturers tend to know their students quite well and students know each other. So it is necessary to be able to approach someone and be open and ready to talk with lecturers as well as peers. It is very good and important to be active during lectures here.
The way of studying in the UK seems to be a little bit less stressful and more focused on a specific course but as there are more types of projects it requires a lot more study skills, more thinking, creativity and good time management.