US VS UK: Academic Experiences of an American Exchange Student

When I stepped foot onto The University of Reading campus I had no idea what to expect academically. I had not really given the academic portion of my study abroad experience much thought. I chose the university for its closeness to London and the many airports there-in – my mind was on travelling and culture. I was far more concerned with my ability to traverse Europe when choosing an exchange university.

The first thing I noticed about the academics at the university was that my course work involved much more problem solving and critical analysis. Instead of learning in lectures, memorizing stacks of flashcards and merely parroting back information on exams, I was instead asked why certain tasks were performed or what research steps I would do next. As a Biomedical Science major I had never particularly thought of myself as a scientist at my home college in the United States however here, at The University of Reading, I started, for the first time, to see the dim outline of my scientific future. The best example I can give of the problem solving my courses here entailed was in my class Structural Proteomics. We were given the biological code for a gene, which we did not know the function of that also had a mutation. We were then asked to act like we were PhD students and formulate a research proposal on how we would go about determining what the gene encoded and what the mutation would affect.  We were also asked to identify potential gaps in research and what we would do to fill in this lack of information, detailing the specific techniques and technologies we would use. I had never done anything like this before. The task was daunting and I was, at first, very intimidated because I had no idea how to even begin such a task. Though, as I did more work on the proposal and worked with my very patient professor I discovered a love for this kind of problem-solving work. Now at my home university I am trying to obtain a research position. I was not inspired much by research before attending The University of Reading and now I am enamored.

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