Academic Structure of HKUST vs Drexel University

Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned of certain differences between Drexel and HKUST. They are things I took for granted at Drexel and I realize now that I quite miss it. I’ve been having midterms for a few weeks now, having taken my last midterm this past Monday. UST seems to have a much more independent way of making their students study. I’m not sure if it’s part of the country’s culture or if it’s the university’s culture, but it’s different than what I’m used to. At Drexel, I have a strong support network for computer science. I’ve made many friends in my major for the past few years, so starting over with a clean slate here is hard. Because I’ve decided to only take one computer science course here, I haven’t had as many opportunities to make friends with other computer science majors. If I need help with anything, I have no friends to ask. Though the TAs have office hours and you can make appointments with the professors, it hasn’t been too helpful to me personally. Most of the TAs have office hours during my class times and making appointments to meet with the professor, as silly as it seems, gives me some anxiety. UST unfortunately does not have any tutoring centers other than for some of the math courses. Drexel’s provided cyber learning center allowed me to sit down to do homework where I had TAs readily available in case I had any questions.

The lack of available tutoring resources only became glaringly obvious to me when I had to study for my midterm. I had been struggling with the material for a bit and going to labs and tutorials hadn’t been as helpful to me, but as the midterm neared, the more I was struggling. In one incident, I had scheduled an appointment with my professor for noon on Friday and used the night before to catch up with everything and write down any questions I could possibly think of. I missed my appointment because I missed 8 alarms.

Adapting to a culture of more independence when learning has really affected me. Now I strive to push myself to learn by myself more and find that I don’t rely on my friends as much as a crutch. The lack of tutoring services have impacted my grade negatively, but it has also shown me a plethora of online resources that I could use in aid. Additionally, I’m more of a one on one, hands on type learner, and with lectures you can’t get that as much. This is why lab sections are so valuable to computer science courses—they solidify what you’ve learned in class and allows those struggling with conceptual ideas to contextualize them.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the difficulty level of classes here in Hong Kong. Most people assume it’s much harder than the classes I have to take back home, but I don’t find that to necessarily be true. The humanities classes here seem to be on par in terms of difficulty level at Drexel. They do place a large emphasis, however, on group projects. All of my classes except for my computer science class have group projects due as well as essays. I have three different group projects and two essays all due in the same week. In the four classes I am taking, only two of them have finals (one of them being my computer science class).

I am very jealous of the week break they get before finals, though, since at Drexel we have classes until Monday and finals on Tuesday. The week break before finals helps free up time for students to study without having to worry about classwork or group projects.

Overall, there isn’t as much of a difference in academics; however, I definitely miss some of the resources Drexel provides versus UST. Though the view from the library is most definitely one of my favorite parts of UST.

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