Letters to Home: What's in a Class
December 14, 2013
by Maddy Stein
When I initially thought about where to study abroad, the program in Thessaloniki, Greece stood out to me because it sounded like a Greek version of CMC. It is a very small college that focuses on business and politics with many international students. Throughout my experience here, I’ve reflected so much on why I love CMC, and why it is so much more than just a small college specializing in economics and government. Studying here has given me a first-hand account what a European college, students, and professors are like (at least at this specific college), which has been incredibly enriching, despite the fact that I do not love the school as much as CMC. The sharp differences between my two colleges have given me some insights on what makes our classes so enjoyable and valuable. The relationships between professors and students here surprised me, mainly due to the different expectations that both groups have for one another. After the first day of many CMC classes, hearing the professor’s explanation of the class and reading the syllabus can be very intimidating. We’ve all had professors tell us about how much time we need to spend reading outside of class and how they want us to be prepared to critically engage in class discussions. These aspects of a class are integral to CMC, but fairly foreign at my college in Greece. Instead, professors simply dictate that we will study certain topics and have exams. I’ve noticed that students, in turn, do not have high expectations for themselves. They are not motivated or excited to be in classes, often arriving late and asking the professors when classes will end. In terms of exams, students often cheat openly and ask to get the questions for tests in advance. Because the students are not pushed to meet high expectations, they view classes as simply classes rather than an experience for personal and intellectual growth.
Similar to the lack of expectations, the philosophy of what constitutes a class is vastly different. There are some really bright professors here, and the content can be interesting, but it seems as if there is no purpose behind the classes. They are all centered around powerpoints with facts written on them. The topics we discuss are not really linked, and there is no discussion of why what we’re learning is important. Conversely, at CMC, professors will emphasize why for example, reading Aristotle or the Federalist Papers (we can’t have a gov class without those!) is essential to our discussion of American democracy. Each topic in a CMC class is related to the other topics, and they all have a central purpose, making the material more interesting and relevant to future studies.
Spending time away from CMC has helped me realize exactly why I love my unique academic experience and how I lucky I am to go to CMC. Of course, the small workload was a great break to travel and enjoy the city of Thessaloniki, but as nerdy as it sounds, I was psyched to login to the portal and design my spring schedule.