I’ve never immersed myself in a culture as deeply as I have in the past few days. It’s amazing how much you can learn about the history, tradition, and culture of a place simply by looking around and observing subtle details. You can gain a whole lot more by reading local literature which takes the places around you and gives them a rich and complex past with a set of characters you can relate to. This pretty much describes my past few days travelling through Ireland with my buddy Tim. His interest in visiting local book shops and picking up books written by the local authors piqued my curiosity and I decided to grab a few myself. The experience of reading books that are set in the place you are travelling is really amazing, you can imagine the details in the book far more vividly and find it far more interesting.
Today marks the end of my 2nd week of modules here at UCL. During a presentation about academics in Brittian compared to United States, our speaker illustrated an analogy between baseball and cricket. She explained how trying to compare the two sports leaves you confused and you have to accept them as entirely different games. When I tell people that I’m taking two modules from Computer Science, one from Management Sciences and Innovation, and one from Science and Technology Studies, they are fascinated and surprised! The norm over here is to take all of your modules from the department you were admitted in.
When it comes to having a preference between the British system and the American system. I would definitely go for the American. Someone once told me that a Bachelors degree teaches you how to learn, a Masters degree gives you good understanding of a discipline, and a Doctorate allows you to produce your own knowledge. I completely agree with this. You can’t learn to consume knowledge in the broadest sense if all of it comes from a single discipline or department. A holistic approach to knowledge during the undergraduate level makes for a more well-rounded person. Furthermore, a sharply defined programme of study would inhibit newer interdisciplinary fields from emerging such as Computational Biology. The British universities are aware of this and are taking steps to change their system and mimic the American model, although it will take time. For example, UCL has launched an Arts and Sciences undergraduate degree ‘designed to provide breadth and depth, with students able to fashion their own degrees in a combination of humanities / social sciences and sciences / engineering.’