At the moment, it’s 4 am and I have my last exam at 9 am. I can’t sleep because I find myself thinking a great deal about the exam and how well or not I will do. The exam is for the intensive Norwegian language course I took. It’s been fun learning more about the grammar rules, but I still find myself quite anxious for the exam. I even resorted to looking up articles on what to do if you fail a class abroad. I learned about grading systems across countries, internships abroad, and how expensive it is to study in France. The feelings are tied to how students are taught in Norway in terms of often having a single exam at the end of the semester as opposed to numerous assignments during the semester. I’m anxious and can’t sleep so with that, I write this post with the intention of helping you avoid this stress by giving some tips to be successful in your courses and by default, succeed on the final exam.
Go to class
I know this seems like a basic one, but it’s worth mentioning. When you are in Norway, you’re going to want to travel and go places and do things and expose yourself to everything the country has to offer. That can include delayed flights or getting home too late after a Christmas party, both of which may result in you hitting the snooze button. Don’t do it! You’re not here to sleep through your classes. You’re here to learn and to do that, it’s helpful to go to class.
I remember taking Psychology 167: Stigma and Prejudice with Professor Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton. (He is a phenomenal professor so if you can, I highly encourage you take any course with him.) He was often casual about our grades. He told us not to stress because we get the grade we deserve. So if you you’re going to class and showing up and doing your part, you’re going to get the grade you want. If not, you probably won’t do so well. Remember, it is in these lectures where you are doing the learning. At the end of the semester when you’ve missed a few key lectures, don’t act surprised that you didn’t get that A. Although we have differing learning styles, you have to go to class if you want that A, or whatever grade you define as success.
Do the reading
My courses at Berkeley are predominantly Sociology related as that is my major. This particular discipline is like other social science classes in that there is a lot of reading to do. It’s not uncommon to have 60 pages in a week for one class. The final exams are often rooted in these readings. One of my courses at UIB is Scandinavian Politics and similar to my Sociology courses, there was a good amount of reading. There were articles, books, and sections from journals to review, but it had to be done.
Reading is one of those weird homework assignments where after a long day of classes, you almost feel like you don’t have homework because you don’t have to turn anything in. On some of those rare sunny days in Bergen, I didn’t feel much like reading. In addition, there felt like there were barriers to getting this aspect of the work done. At UCB, we often buy readers where the professor has kindly brought most, if not all, of our readings into one place.
I have yet to be given a reader and I am forced to log onto the online syllabus, click links redirecting me to the UIB library database, connect to the VPN, redirect to the academic journal, (sometimes having to create an account), download the material, and finally, read 40 pages while annotating. Regardless of these bothersome barriers, reading is still important and can play a significant role in your understanding of the course material.
Look to this post, which I will add after my exam, to find tips on how to start strong during your semester abroad.
Meet your teachers
Meeting professors through office hours has become an expected task of being in a class at UCB. The relationship you form can help you later when you want to ask for that strong letter of recommendation and this person you’ve sat with for a few hours over the semester actually knows who you are. Going to office hours is highly encouraged by professors in that they even include their hours on the syllabus.
Based on my experience so far at UIB, office hours are not an institutionalized thing here. The relationships with professors at UIB seem to be more casual from the start. For example, you call them by their first names. The Canadian on my floor told me about a time at the beginning of the semester where he, a classmate, and the professor went out for a beer. The syllabi didn’t that they should go get a beer and talk. However, my point is that even though there aren’t flashing lights on the syllabi telling you about office hours, it is still important to work to build these relationships with professors. (Note: Informational meetings are another great way to get to know them.)
Figure out your Resources
The last, but probably one of the more important points is to learn what, where, and who your resources are. I will post separately about this because I think it’s such a significant part of your success at Bergen. However, I’ll give you a few general things to think about when you consider how to answer the what, where, and who. The ‘What’ question, and subsequently the remaining questions, can be answered by asking what is important to you as an exchange student, such as class, mental health, community, and social outings.
For class, you’ll need to know what are the exam requirements, what should be your study timeline, where to locate online reading and course material, where are the good libraries, and who will you study for exams with.
To maintain your mental health, you’ll ask what are you doing to maintain your physical and mental health, where is the psychologist’s office, where can you find the contact information, and who is your community network in Bergen.
Developing a community in a new city is an imperative aspect of surviving and thriving in a new place. With that said, consider what do you want your community to look like, where and which organizations can you join to build this network, who can you include in this network who pushes you to be better without compromising your values. These are some of the important questions you will want to ask yourself when defining your resources.
With all of that said and done, don’t feel bogged down by these “administrative tasks”, if that’s what you want to call them. Remember that this is exchange and it can still be a time of growth, change, and exploration. All of which can be found by even doing your readings.
- Go to class
- Do the reading
- Build relationships with professors
- Locate your resources