Crash Into a New Kind of "Studying"

It's the third week of studies at VGTU and I thought I'd write some experiences. I have to say, it's quite negative at this point. Didn't expect things to go like this, but seems like I'll just have to try to adjust to this.

Course Selections

The courses I selected previously had nothing to do with the courses I'm actually taking. At VGTU students are basically going through a preselected curriculum and there is no enrolling to classes or anything. So I had to just take the courses that are available for a suitable group. This means less courses, less credits, possible problems with my university. And changes to the learning agreement.

I have an entire day free at the moment, but can't fill it with any course. There isn't anything available that wouldn't clash with something else.

Saulėtekis, Saulėtekis, Saulėtekis

I study electrical engineering and the campus is located in Naujamiestis, therefore I'm also living there. That's 10km from the main buildings at Saulėtekis. If I want to go to the main building it'll take me 45-60 minutes of walking and trolleybus. So one would assume that VGTU/ESN would have things at other campuses also so that people can do things simpler (I think there are 9 campuses altogether). But no. "Here's a trip, come to our office to enroll for it, we're open two hours a day." So I'd have to travel for two hours total to put my name on a list. And I'd have to find a day when my classes don't clash with the opening hours. And of course I must also make sure to go quickly, since there are limited amount of places and they might be taken before having the time to go there.

Orientation

There really wasn't any orientation. Yes, I sat at "orientation" during two days and there were people from immigration etc talking about things. Policeman talking about how to live in the dormitories (I don't live there). This and that about the first lectures. There would also have been a tour of Saulėtekis, but I don't go there, so why would I need to know the place?

Nobody told me anything about the electrical faculty. Nobody told me anything about studies. Nobody told me anything about what to do when I need to print, scan or copy things. Nobody told me if I need to do that. No tour of the faculty.

My mentor was from another faculty, so she doesn't know how this faculty works. She probably could've told me general things about the studies if I had asked, but I assumed wrongly that it'd get sorted out.

So I was all alone trying to find out things.

Timetables

My timetables are, as I mentioned, decided by the school. I go to the courses and classes that I'm assigned to. I have lectures on four days a week. Wednesday is free and I have nothing to do. I want to study, but the only thing I can do is find my own material and study on my own. Basically wondering why I'm at the university at all, or at the classes. Oh, right, because some take attendance.

Lectures

Lectures are pretty much book based. Some have written the book(let), some use ready-made material. Some just read the slides without saying anything else. Some explain more and some have more of a good teaching style. Still I have the feeling that I'm sitting in the class only because I have to know what terms they use for what even if I already know the things we're being taught. Basically the Lithuanian term paskaita suits the situation well (it comes from "reading" etc).

Labs

All my courses have mandatory laboratory work. The first lab is usually introduction, which has pretty much no information about anything and sometimes lasts for 10 minutes. Later the actual labs start and it's mainly "here's the task, do it. Why don't you know how or what you should learn? Haven't you used this or that software/tool?" We do not have any lectures before the labs! So how are we supposed to know the subject matter, or understand what we're learning from the labs?

We might measure how accurate frequency generators are. Why? How? What's the idea? Where's the theory? What am I supposed to learn from this?

Labs may also include a test in the beginning, so we have to prepare for them. Again, without any lectures, theory, anything. So we learn the things by ourselves, do labs and then get the education of the subject? I really don't understand this backwards method.

Labs require printed reports, which are really not explained. Just a list of things that should be there. And I have to find a copy shop where to make copies of annexes, which are only in Lithuanian in the library, I have to go somewhere to print the reports etc. In 2014. I would think at this time we would be able to handle things without paper, external copy services etc.

Conclusions

Basically I'm at the moment trying to survive the labs, never knowing what I should know beforehand, never knowing when I'll be taught something that I would've already needed and not knowing why I don't just do everything by myself.

I know I may be stupid to take the exchange period as a time to actually study. Maybe I should just go to all the parties and get drunk and whatnot. But that's not me. I'm here to study, learn things about different cultures etc. But seems like that's not going to happen. Rather I'm setting my targets for just passing the courses and labs and doing whatever I happen to find interesting and being separated from the other students.

I'm also sorry that I don't live at Saulėtekis, study at Saulėtekis and breathe Saulėtekis. It would make the exchange a lot easier. But I just happen to study electrical engineering and prefer not to spend a few hours a day in buses.

It's still early days. Maybe things will get better. I hope they will.

Comments (1) -

  • How interesting! This study style is something which I also noticed as a teacher.  It is very obvious to the outsider but not so much to the insider. I would say that the mentality of students is like in kindergarten: the school takes you by hand and leads all the way. (Some may call it spoonfeeding, but it's something slightly different... There's a lot of spoonfeeding, too, by the way). Thus the students got really strong bond with their course-mates. Moreover, the students really don't think about study or self-study when they get free time, they just got released from their kindergarten... sorry university for the night. Smile  And, this explains a lack of motivation --- students which come to my lab are sort of blank slate and don't care what kind of research they will do, which is a bit frustrating and not good for anyone. Regarding the free choice of study classes (this also related to the kindergarten problem) I discussed this with some official at one of departments of one of universities. It seems "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". (= overhaul of the system could be too disruptive). It has a bit to do with the way money for the studies are distributed to the departments. If some biochemistry course is chosen by students from say several outside departments, it will be disruptive because the money is allocated to their department only, not for other department students. Or something like that. So best is to stay as it is. I don't know when this will change, but surely not on the initiative of the middle chain of the management.

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