Although I have heard that in some countries university education is free, it is different to actually see it. I was more than slightly annoyed to discover that the American students are practically the only students paying tuition to go to the Warsaw School of Economics. I live on the international floor of dorm and one of the other Americans found out that the other international students were not only going to SGH (Warsaw School of Economics) without paying tuition, but were also getting a stipend from their home institutions. It one case, a student has a 4,000.00 euro stipend which anywhere is a lot of money, but even more so in Poland.
In Poland, the day classes for full-time students are free at every level including graduate studies. So while I am attempting to discover how I am going to pay for six years of graduate school, students here do not have to worry. Granted, other factors such as paying for the dorm and other living expenses still do exist for the students. After discovering this information, I renewed my wish that the United States would have the same educational policy. As this is unlikely especially to be put into effect to apply to me, I will simply have to keep on dreaming.
Besides not having to pay for tuition, the structure of classes differs as well. First of all, they mostly have lectures, lectures and more lectures. Class participation counts for each class, but really besides asking for clarification of a topic, there is not too much to say. Every so often someone brings up a good point, but this is far and in between.
Probably because the classes have only lectures, there is a ten minute break for every forty-five minutes of a class. Some professors take artistic license on this and only give us five minutes or end the class ten minutes early. Regular classes here also only take place once a week for two hours. I say regular because this does not apply to the CIEE students who have four to six hours of each class a week to make up for the week long trips to other cities in Poland. For this reason, I have heard that many students here take more classes than we do in the states. There is also little to no homework. In most classes, only one test is administered during the two week final period. Because there is only one test,the student has more than one chance to pass the test. Unfortunately the CIEE program differs with only one chance for the final, but to balance it out also a paper in every class combined with class participation.
I know this is all so boring to hear, but for those interested in educational systems, there you go.
Classes at the school are really interesting and the professors add their own personal experiences to make the subjects more real. The professor teaching the politics class was actually one of the people consulted during Solidarity and was one of the major people. She is also one of the top three scholars of post communism.
My knowledge of politics is not that great because as a psychology major, I have not taken a class on politics or have even read a book on the subject. Most of my other professors have been in jail which is conveniently directly across the street at one point in their career. I have learned a lot about communism in this way and am beginning to understand Poland's history better. When I attempted to read the history books which were "required reading," I ended up confusing myself with who these people were because I had my brilliant American way to pronounce Polish names and could not discern who was who. I have never taken a history class on this region either.
My only knowledge of history is Japanese and Chinese history which I know fairly well. I am glad to say that many of the professors talk about these countries in their lectures and I am able to follow these parts which makes me happy that I am not completely ignorant of the world. Even though, I have lecture after lecture, I am able to pay attention even though as every student will admit, I space out from time to time.
This makes life difficult because many professors like to draw shapes on the board instead of names and dates. So when you come back to reality, a variety of shapes on the board with dots and lines. The pictures are like clouds, you look at them and attempt to find objects in the chaos. I have seen human faces and pizza more than once. I think the pizza came from the fact that my one class is right before lunch and I have worked for Pizza Hut for nearly four years.
Overall, everything is going well. This includes my amazing Polish skills.