First Impressions of the University of Warwick

MA English Language Teaching 2016/2017

By Julius Onen Okot Daniel

Postgraduate students at the Centre of Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick, on a country walk

On the 21 of September 2016, I found myself on a flight to the UK, to travel to the University of Warwick via the WTI office in Oxford to study in one of the greatest universities in the UK. I had no idea what to expect, although I knew this would academically progress my entire career.  Even though I knew it was going to be a challenging study experience, I set my mind to learn and change, and to take in the new experiences.

The first shock was the excellent facilities for learning, such as the five-storey library packed with lots of textbooks - where borrowing and book returns are handled electronically, computer labs, and sport centres, gyms, theatres, and an arts centre.

On the academic side, the studies are research-based in the sense that lecturers have two hours of interactive lectures and at the end, the lecturer will give seminar tasks to students to be discussed the next day. The seminar group is comprised of 12 students and lasts for an hour. In the seminar, each student presents his/her findings about a task, while others evaluate and make critical judgement about your analyses. At the end of the seminar, each student will get feedback from the dialogue with fellow peers and the lecturer. To be successful, it requires focus on the acquisition of new knowledge from textbooks, journals, and academic publications. In a week, there are four module lectures (two hours each) and four seminars (one hour each) plus one hour on research methodology.

This was an unexpected method of teaching, but I had to adjust to fit in well in the system. The first step was to collaborate with other students, breaking down concepts into parts.  Putting our minds together helps us to benefit from a shared understanding. The next step was to build confidence and ask questions during discussions. As well as during lectures, there are drop in sessions to meet with a lecturer in the office and on the internet where students post questions on the online “moodle”.

Comparing the learning experience in the UK and East Africa has been extremely interesting. In Uganda, the more points students write in assignments or examinations with examples, the more marks you score. In contrast, in the UK, (the University of Warwick) assignment or coursework writings are all about critical analysis. You present the work, evaluate the content, you build the argument with evidence from different literature, and offer a conclusion.    

My discovery is that learning in the UK is not just about the classroom. It is also a chance to learn more about the UK, to explore the cities and the countryside, to meet with people of different nationalities and cultures and to share the experience together!