Culture Shock, College Edition

Today I gave my last lecture for the term. The class isn’t over quite yet but the rest of the lectures and seminars are being taught by other members of the teaching team. I will grade the final exams.

The other day when I was going to give a seminar one of the students met me outside of the classroom. He was standing with someone (a roommate, I gathered). The roommate began to explain to me that my student was very anxious about the class and that he stays up all night worrying about it. He explained that the model of education here in Sweden is so different from his home country and that he is absolutely lost. So, I set up a meeting with the student.

It was a shocking meeting. It turns out that he had no idea how to read a syllabus. He had no idea how to get his hands on the books. He had already missed the assignment (30% of grade) because he just was not understanding what was going on. I tried to establish some understanding of his expectations of the class, coursework and teaching, but that was extremely difficult to do. He just kept saying that he wanted me to tell him what his “daily work” was.

In the end I showed him how to read the syllabus. Then I made an itemized and detailed list of what he needs to do. I showed him where in the syllabus it lists the books and told him to go first to the library and then, if necessary to the bookstore (including directions), to get them. I made sure that he knew how to get on the course webpage. I gave him an extension on the assignment that he already missed and explained in detail what I wanted him to do. I printed out the instructions for the final (even though he does not have it yet) so he would get some idea of what is coming his way. I also told him that I would like him to check in with me again before he turns in the final because I would like to read it first (oh please let it be passable!).

As we were wrapping up he started crying and thanking me for being the “first person” to help him figure out what he is supposed to do as a student. He said that he has been so anxious about his studies he cannot eat or sleep. He shared that he is hoping to be admitted as a B.A. student. The whole thing was heartbreaking and left me thinking that there are some people who are feeling even more lost in Sweden than me. I really hope this student manages to get acclimated and turns out to be up to the coursework but I am a bit puzzled as to how he managed to enter without what I would expect to be basic preparation and adjustment assistance.

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2 Responses to Culture Shock, College Edition

  1. mamacravings says:

    Wow. What a blessing this student had in you to show him how to navigate the course!

    • janerowena says:

      A bit late I know – but my husband teaches at a large private school here, and they have many overseas students. He says that they are sent an exam paper to complete before they come over, with parts of it to test their English. He reckons they get someone else to do that part for them, or the parents do, because sometimes after a few weeks they have to ship them straight back home again.

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