Surprisingly, it actually does not rain particularly often here. Most of the people I talked to in the States who had been in England before made it sound like it would be wet and drizzly almost all the time, but it really isn’t. That said, I have heard that the weather has been quite unusual this year, so it may be that there is usually a lot more rain. I have also heard that southern England is usually a lot rainier too. But now that the temperature has dropped down to the 40’s, I am glad that it isn’t any wetter. The hills here are bad enough when they’re dry, so I would be terrified to have to face them when they’re frozen over with ice.
At first I was skeptical about there not being much homework for my classes. But now I think it is actually really nice. Because I have less homework to do, I have more time to spend doing the homework I do have. And that means I can actually take the time to try to understand what it is I am doing. Also, most of my professors post additional homework that is not assessed, so I can work on the homework without worrying about a deadline, and I can put as much or as little effort as I like into the problems because I don’t have to worry about them being graded. It is really quite nice. I also discovered that receiving an A in the States is the equivalent of passing with over a 70% in the class here. That makes the finals that are worth 85% of my grade here much less daunting.
Classes started last Monday, and I can already tell that this semester is going to be a bit of an adventure. For one, the classes are not scheduled at regular time intervals. At OU, classes are always at the same time on set days of the week, like 3:00-4:15 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But here, my classes are scheduled at random times on random days, like 10:00 on Mondays and 1:00 on Tuesdays. The meeting time or place can also change for a week randomly. That means that my schedule is a lot harder to remember.
Probably the part that is most different about classes here is that the final is always worth at least 85% of your grade. That is slightly terrifying to me, especially since I’m going to have a month between when classes end and when finals start. I really don’t understand why they would put Christmas break in the middle of their semester! That means I have to be studying and worrying about finals instead of actually having a relaxing break.
It is nice that I won’t have so much graded homework though. At first I was concerned that we wouldn’t have any homework at all, which would be bad for me since I rely on the homework to actually learn the material. But it turns out that they just make the vast majority of the homework optional. There are one or two assignments that are actually graded, but the rest you just do on your own and check your answers when the key is sent out. That is actually kind of nice. Less pressure to make the homework perfect. I do wish the final wasn’t worth quite as much though.
I arrived in England two Sundays ago, and I spent all of last week getting acclimated to the new city and culture. Probably the greatest difference I have noticed between England and America is that everything in England is way smaller. The roads are tiny, the cars are tiny, the stores are tiny, even my room is tiny.
The drive from the airport to the university was an hour long, and during the entire drive, I saw a total of five trucks, including commercial ones. Coming from Kansas/Oklahoma where you are guaranteed to see at least five trucks at just one intersection, that was pretty strange. I was also amused to see that there were one-way bridges with stoplights at either end to allow two-way traffic to pass. There are actually places like that in the city too.
The tiny stores are a bit annoying, but I can appreciate them too. The fact that they are small means that you have to go to a different store depending on what you want to buy. You buy your pots and pans at the hardware store, your food at the grocery store, and your shampoo at the pharmacy. There is definitely nothing like Walmart around here.
There is also not a large selection of merchandise either. In America, the shampoo aisle has probably a hundred different types of shampoo to choose from. At the little pharmacy down the street, there were about ten options to choose from. Even the “huge” grocery store was rather limited. But it’s not all bad. The fact that they are small means the quality of what they do have is much better than what I am used to. There is a wonderful little fruit store (dangerously) close to where I am staying. I bought three pears for one pound (about $1.25), and they were the most delicious pears I have ever eaten. The juice was literally dripping out of the fruit when I took a bite. I could definitely get used to paying so little for such great quality.