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A Swede in America

March 2, 2012

Being a Swede in the U.S. means discovering new ways of living every day. When I first came to America, I expected the biggest differences to be on the political, the cultural and the environmental level. I was extremely wrong. Little did I know that what I was about to experience was an academic schedule which represented the opposite of what I was used to.

Here at Monmouth College I am studying several classes parallel with each other. This is something extremely new for me. In Sweden we study one class at a time, for five weeks. Normally, we have three to four professor lead lessons a week. Each lesson is one to four hours long but, due to the fact that we do not have participation points, going to classes is not mandatory. We might have two or three mandatory seminar sections during these five weeks.

There is no such thing as homework and there is no professor (which you call by their first name, of course) forcing you to do anything, not even the reading. If you want to learn you are on your own, together with you fellow students. At the end of each five weeks period we have a test, comparable to finals. Usually we get one week off to study for this specific final. The final is, depending on the professor, either an advanced research paper or a written/oral exam. The exam lasts for four to five hours and consists of multiple analytical questions.

This form of education may sound complicated because the education here at Monmouth College is mainly based on what happens in the classroom. In Sweden we have far fewer hours actually sitting behind a desk listening to a professor. However, the knowledge we lose in the classroom we gain by hours of independent studying and even more hours of analytical discussions with classmates. In Sweden, discussing with your classmates is your tool for succeeding in school.

Monmouth College offers an educational system which is the opposite of what I am used to. Not only do I need to go to my classes but I also need to be active in the classroom and actually do homework assignments. This adjustment was not an easy one to go through. I really enjoy studying after my own schedule. I really enjoy the close interaction between the professors and students that Monmouth College offers. This gives you a great opportunity to be friends with your professors instead of just knowing them professionally.

Choosing which one of the educational systems I like the most is an impossible task. I have come to realize that I do not need to choose. That is the beauty with being an exchange student: I can combine them both. 

Ida Hedqvist
Contributing Writer


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