This article stems from a conversation I had with a couple of friends who have lived in the US since middle school, where we discussed the differences of Indonesia’s and US’s education system. In this article, I’ll share my reflection on the topic as a freshman at a US university. Prior to coming to the US, I studied in a state senior high school in Malang, East Java.
Explore Before Making Your Decision
One notable feature of the U.S. education is the flexibility to choose and change majors with ease. Students are empowered to explore what they are interested to do, and the university tends to make the major declaration process as painless as possible. For example, my friend changed his major twice between a year – from finance, to music, then back to finance. He just talked to advisors from both departments, then voila! He was able to still use the credits he earned in prior quarters as a music major. Scenarios like this are potentially tricky to pull off easily in Indonesia, but not here. This flexibility in choosing major allows us to explore what we are really interested in before making an informed decision.
Need Help? Ask, and You’ll Get Help
Adjusting to life in the U.S., socially and academically, could be challenging at first. Time and time again, I found comfort in knowing that most U.S. universities, including mine, offer an incredible wealth of support system. Writing assistance offered by University Writing Center (UWC), for example, helped me through English courses. Many free tutoring classes are offered all around campus, available at least once a week to help students with difficult classes. Instructors and teaching assistants offer office hours for students. My international student advisor provided me with a professional and highly qualified person to talk to when I felt homesick. Recently, university legal service helped me understand the legal agreement I had to sign for my apartment lease. Need help to find a job? Career center helps students to find jobs and internships, edits students’ CV and resume, and holds mock job interviews. In some universities, their recreational center will provide free health training for students. Ask, and you’ll find all the help you need.
Effective and Integrated Academic Procedure
Here, I am continuously impressed with how effective and integrated the academic procedures are. Everything is made crystal clear to the students – syllabus, necessary books, exam schedules, grading rubric, material schedule, project deadlines… I have not seen lecturers who missed class. Office hours are helpful for students who need help, sections are offered by the teaching assistants to solidify concepts learned in lecture, as well. Online submissions are used for most homework, assignment, and paper, with late policy constituted in the beginning of class. These online submissions can be graded online for science subjects, and checked for plagiarism with an automatic system. In most classes there are transparency in student grades; students know their own grades and are responsible for every assignments.
These are some differences I observed between my university experience in the U.S. and the education system I experienced and heard about in Indonesia. I have been continually impressed with US universities’ commitment to make students enjoy their learning experience as much as possible, by allowing flexibility in major exploration, helping students with almost anything, and providing an integrated, clear and effective academic procedures. While these fundamentals might exist in some educational entities in Indonesia, I hope to see more such organizations adopt these ideas.
Image: Texas Tech University – 1925 (wikimedia)