Taking a class in Spain are incredibly different from taking a class in the U.S. The argument could be made that most of the differences stem from taking an intensive summer class, but from the way my professors talk about their past classes, we seem to be experiencing the normal way of education in Spain. We have two Professors, Alberto and Ines. We have Alberto for the first two hours of the morning, then an half hour break, after we have Ines for another two hours.
The way the Professors present themselves is far different than I’ve seen before. Granted, we do have an incredibly small class, but nonetheless. They are friendly and kind, always willing to detour the conversations, but silently keeping track of time in their heads. Alberto told us on the first time that he specifically sets time aside to get off track and converse about random things. Ines once gave us an assignment that consisted of all of us sending her our baby pictures then everyone guess who’s who.
This seems to be a trend in classes about languages in general: being able to converse and speak the language is just as important as the grammar. The only linguistic experience I have is three years of Latin in high school, where it was all grammar. Latin is a dead language, so occasionally we would attempt to read ancient texts, but being able to hold a conversation was no even on our “to do” list.
The grading system in Spain is also very different. There’s much less pressure on getting good grades and just learning for the exam. We have nothing graded except our final on the second to last day of the course. The European grading system in general is also much gentler, I believe, but I do not know the exact differences. Unfortunately, I would not know this blessing because we’re still graded by the UMass Lowell grading system here. From what Ines has told us, they have a scale from 1-10. Any final grade above a 5 is passing, and below is a suspension. Getting a 7 or 8 is really good here, and only one or two people receive 9s.
The first time Alberto gave us an exercise to see where we were, we all worriedly inquired if it was graded (it wasn’t). The first time Alberto gave us homework, I spent hours on the simple assignment, trying to Google and check with the other girls in the class and see what they got because I didn’t want me getting an answer wrong on the homework to negatively affect my grade. Spoiler alert: the homework was not graded and just for us to learn, I got way more out of the second homework assignment when I just did it based on what I knew and made mistakes. The first time Alberto did a small quiz with us (once again, not graded), I allowed myself to get some answers incorrect, and when I did, I inquired about why they were not correct until I understood. I felt no shame or disapproval from being confused. The next quiz, I did not make any of the same mistakes.
I’ve always been extremely concerned about grades, needing a certain GPA for one thing, another higher GPA for something else, and a competitive GPA for a third thing. I can calculate my current grade and hat grades I need to get whatever for a final grade blindfolded at this point. But, with this far more laid back style of learning, focused less on memorization and testing and more on understanding and actual comprehension.
I’ve learned more in these weeks than I have years in the US. I miss a lot of things about home, but, sadly, I think I prefer the Spanish university. Also, the view from my classroom looks like something from a movie. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.