No Worries Wednesday - Tackling Teaching Styles

student looking into the distance
Author: Alissa Ward

No Worries Wednesday is a series where blog contributors speak to a topic which they were worried before they participated in an education abroad experience. Leaving all that you are surrounded by and comfortable with can be challenging or even frightening. This series will hopefully dispel myths and ease worries for students who are considering taking part in exchanges, field schools or other international learning opportunities!


Studying in a country where the teaching style may be significantly different to what you are used to may be something you never considered, or it may be one of the factors weighing in on your decision to study abroad. Here are my tips that supported my smooth transition into my academics while abroad and helped eliminate my worries.


1. Recognize Different Expectations of Students

Within the country that you study in, incorporated into the different teaching style, there very likely may be different expectations of students. Similar to at VIU, the classroom size in your exchange country can have a major impact on the expectation of students asking questions in front of an entire lecture or during office hours. During your first few classes, although you may meet more international students through orientations, be sure to reach out to local students, and ask them about the university culture. Understanding the expectations of yourself in this new country can help to minimize any additional stress towards your academics. Ultimately, recognize that the difference in teaching style is simply that, a difference. The difference does not make one teaching style superior to another, just simply different and immersing yourself in this difference can lead to many benefits of studying abroad.


2. Professors are Understanding

During your first week of classes, go out of your way to introduce yourself to your new professors. Whether it be at the end of a class or during office hours, this will provide you the opportunity to acknowledge that you are studying abroad and address that you may need additional support in interpreting the different style of assignments as well as their teaching style. Approach your professors in an asking format, rather than demanding their assistance. This could be worded as such “I’m having some difficulties understanding this particular course content, would you be able to go over it again with me sometime this week or direct me to additional support systems on campus that would be able to help?” This asking format will likely go a lot further than “ I have no idea what you lectured on last class and I need your help today.” Just remember, professors want to see students succeed, so reaching out at the beginning of the semester is much more valuable than one week before your first quiz when you realize you have no idea what is going on in the course.


3. Ask Other Students

Finding a support system through other students can majorly improve your understanding of a different teaching style. Although it may be out of your comfort zone, try to internalize Benjamin Mee’s quote, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” Take those 20 seconds and introduce yourself to someone in each of your classes and form those connections that you can then use throughout the semester to really gain a sense of your expectations as a student in this new country. Whether it be forming a studying group between international and domestic students to study with, or go to the gym, or show you around town on a weekly basis, these fellow students can provide major insights into the expectation of you as a student.


Acknowledging the differences of teaching styles as soon in the semester as possible may significantly help with your academic transition into this new school and embrace all of the benefits of being taught through different styles.