Learning Curve

Chloe Diggs University of the Western Cape, South Africa


August 22, 2017

Fact or Myth: Your workload abroad will be virtually stress-free.

That statement is 100% myth in my situation! Georgetown University requires students studying abroad at The University of Western Cape to enroll in an equivalent to 15 U.S. credits. This does not, however, include the additional class that Arcadia requires you to take outside of your traditional major studies on campus.

The first assignment I worked on was a reflection for my Sociology of Crime and Violence module. I was typing away in the computer room, making sure to cover every base the lecturer noted in the prior week’s lecture. Come time for tutorial (essentially a discussion section for the class), I was locked and loaded. I eagerly participated in the discussion and came prepared with my written submission printed out in hard copy. I felt like my adjustment was getting off on the right foot when our tutorial leader began to outline her expectations of us.

  1. There should be references to theoretical literature from the book list.
  2. The reflections were to be strictly academic (no writing in the 1st person).
  3. The reflections should consist of three pages total
    1. Cover page including a student identification number
    2. One-page reflection, 1.5 spaced with in-text citations
    3. Bibliography

I did not make any direct references to literature from the booklist. I wrote in the first person. I did not print a separate cover page. My idea of a reflection was completely different from what my tutorial leader expected. Despite me explaining this to her, my 25% grade still stands. I failed my first assignment.

In all my years, I cannot remember scoring so below the expectations of an academic authority figure. I felt hot tears racing down my cheeks as I speed walked from the classroom to my transport shuttle. I felt incompetent, out of place and as if there was no use in trying if my grade was already doomed to mediocracy from the beginning.

Usually when I don’t start off well in a semester at school, I lose confidence. I get the feeling I was way in over my head during registration and that I shouldn’t have too high of expectations for my marks in that class. However, this is a self-defeating practice I fall into. It seems easier to fail when I don’t try, whereas the weight of failing after I gave an assignment my all is crushing.

While I chose to study abroad, in part, to take care of myself, I did not make it all the way here to become complacent with an average work ethic. Part of evolving and learning this semester will involve me pushing myself despite my rocky start.

I spoke with the tutorial leader and plan to attend her consultation hours to make sure I stay on the right track. The second submission I turned in fit within all her guidelines and I am hopeful that the next grade is high enough to somewhat offset my low grade.

Whether Georgetown required of me to take 15 credits on campus in addition to the Arcadia course or not, I know I would have been challenged in the classroom. I have a hunger for knowledge that is never completely satiated unless I push myself to do more. So, I was destined to take the study in study abroad very seriously.

Fact: There will be a learning curve, but with dedication and perseverance, you’ll overcome it.