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**Enhancing Academic Experience: The Benefits of Studying Abroad**

By George Leggett, Second Year, Ancient History

During my recent academic endeavors, the contrast between my study abroad encounter at UNC (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) last term and my current term at Bristol has been striking. As a humanities scholar, the essential assignments required to complete a unit within a semester are notably limited. In the realm of Ancient History, this term presents only one formative assessment per unit alongside two other group projects, both of which are summative. The delayed deadlines for these formative assessments prompt me to ponder the significance of consistent attendance versus sporadic participation and relying solely on the end-of-term essay for evaluation.

In stark contrast, the academic structure at UNC demanded ongoing engagement to bolster one’s overall grade. Various units incorporated pop quizzes on recent readings, mandatory participation in online forums, and regular written responses in class, fostering a more dynamic and engaging learning environment. Attendance held substantial weight, often accounting for 20% of the final grade, with repercussions threatened for excessive absences. Despite initial skepticism, the accountability enforced at UNC instilled a sense of responsibility and commitment that seems lacking in the more lenient attendance policies observed at Bristol.

Reflecting on the disparity in attendance monitoring, a humorous anecdote from my time abroad comes to mind. An email highlighting my conspicuous absence during 80% of the term humorously questioned my well-being, to which I jestingly attributed my non-attendance to being continents away. This anecdote underscores the contrasting attitudes towards attendance and accountability between the two academic settings.

While initially deeming the coursework at UNC more challenging, I later realized that the difficulty lay not in the complexity but in the volume of tasks to manage. The interactive nature of lectures at UNC, where active participation was the norm rather than the exception, stands in stark contrast to the more passive classroom dynamics often observed at Bristol. The cultural nuances in academic engagement between American and British universities, characterized by varying levels of participation and interaction, offer unique insights into pedagogical approaches and student engagement.

Acknowledging the excellence of the academic staff at the University of Bristol, I attribute the observed differences more to systemic issues prevalent in UK universities, particularly within the humanities departments. The lack of incentivization for consistent attendance and active participation, coupled with assessment formats that prioritize rote learning over critical engagement, contributes to a sense of disillusionment among students. Despite these challenges, the positive experiences and meaningful connections forged at Bristol have enriched my academic journey, albeit against the backdrop of a more invigorating academic atmosphere experienced at UNC.

In conclusion, the comparative experiences between studying in North Carolina and the UK underscore the transformative potential of immersive academic environments. While each institution has its strengths and weaknesses, the exposure to diverse educational cultures has undoubtedly broadened my perspective on academic engagement and learning outcomes.

Featured Image: George Leggett

Have you embarked on a study abroad adventure and noticed similar academic disparities? Share your insights with us @EpigramPaper