Communicate with Your Professors during Classes
By Park You-jin, Guest Reporter
Since last September when my exchange program started, I have found a few things which were interesting and unique in Canadian classes. As for student evaluation, attendance was not considered an evaluation factor or was relatively less important, compared to other factors such as participation, assignments and exams. The University of Winnipeg has an environment in which group discussion is very active. As well, what I was taken aback by in the first class was that the students of the university appeared to feel free to have meals in class, which is totally different from Korean students who would be loathe to eat so much as snacks in class. However, what was impressed on me the most was a different atmosphere of learning in classes.
The Canadian students I met were very active. Plenty of them did not hesitate to raise their hands and ask questions in the middle of lectures. Some professors were flustered by the sheer number of questions asked of them. Furthermore, the students felt free to deliver their opinions by adding comments on what other students mentioned; there was no need for professors to set aside time for discussion. That is different from Korean schools where professors intentionally organize discussion times for students who tend to avoid expressing their views in public.
The differences between Canadian and Korean students might be caused by relationships between professors and students. In Korea, professors are the symbols of authority. Their status is sometimes characterized by power that students should obey regardless of its justification. Thus, it might be difficult for students to feel comfortable talking and to move their lips in authoritative atmospheres. On the other hand, in Canada, professor-student relations are more horizontal. Students learn from their professors by paying tuition fees, and professors just convey knowledge which is appropriate to the fees. The different perceptions of the relationship might have influenced the dissimilar attitudes of both students toward learning.
The different atmospheres in Canadian classes were a problem for me to overcome for the last few months. This is something that you, too, will encounter if you wish to or are going to study abroad, but do not have as fluent language abilities as native speakers. However, here is the solution: keep the professor-student relationship mentioned above in mind. The relationships in Canada are not as stilted or formal as those in Korea. You can definitely ask your professors for help when you feel difficulty keeping pace with students who frequently ask questions and make comments. They might give you the PowerPoint files they use for classes or allow you to record their voice during lectures. I believe that frequent and open communications with my professors were pivotal in helping me keep up in classes.
You might want to know other difficulties I went through in classes and more tips on overcoming the difficulties, worrying about many problems you might face while doing assignments or studying exams in other countries. However, I think that the fundamental solution to every problem is the same: attempt to communicate with your professors. They could introduce classmates as study helpers if you struggle to study in different learning environments or could delay assignment deadlines for those who are not adept at English writing. Do not forget that professors are the first people with whom you should consult as to problems with classes.