Nothing compares to school at KU Leuven. Absolutely nothing. Since I have been in Leuven for a bit over two months which is crazy in its own right, I encountered numerous questions about how the system here in Leuven is and I thought the best way to talk about school would be to compare school in Leuven with that of Loyola.
First and foremost, class is less frequent at KU than it is at Loyola. For example, classes at KU Leuven meet only once a week for two hours, while the classes at Loyola meet two to three times a week for either fifty minutes or an hour and 15 minutes a session. With this in mind, there is a lot more time in between classes here at KU Leuven which means that there is more work to be done in between classes when compared to Loyola. With classes meeting less frequently, there is much more work to be done, meaning I have to pace myself to do the work throughout the week in order to stay on top of my work. Even though I like the Loyola system a bit better, I appreciate the fact that the KU Leuven system forces me to be independent and do the work at my own pace. This is a life skill I desperately needed to learn and school is forcing me to do just that.
On top of only meeting twice a week, the type of work done for courses in Leuven is greatly different than the work done for classes in the States. At Loyola, there are readings throughout the semester, coupled with papers, quizzes, and small assignments all of which culminate for the final exam. At KU Leuven, the only assignments throughout the semester consist of reading a a lot of it! At KU Leuven, my evaluation in my courses comes from final exams or papers or a mix of the two. There are no other assignments and nothing help to help my grade if I do not do well on exams.I have to say, I am nervous about only having one grade for the entire class that rests on a single exam. However, since exams haven't happened yet and I do not know how I will do, I cannot yet determine whether or not I like this system or the system at Loyola better.I will keep you posted on exams and how it goes!
Speaking of exams, the exam period in Leuven is extremely different than that at Loyola. For starters, the exam period at Loyola takes place before the Christmas break and spans over two weeks with a single study day before exams begin. At KU Leuven, exams take place after the Christmas holiday. Not only that, we get three weeks of study period before exams start in January, not a single day. On top of that, the exam period lasts for the entire month of January. After exams, we get a week off before classes start in February. While we have much more time to prepare for exams in Leuven, I wish exams were before the Christmas break. I am going home for the holidays and I wish I wouldn't have to study during that time, but I cannot change what is. During my Christmas break, it will be a mix of visiting family, celebrating the holidays, and studying.
At KU, it's also very uncommon to buy textbooks. At Loyola, it would be common to spend hundreds of dollars on books. At KU, students are upset if they have to spend 20 euro. All of the professors put the readings online, so no one has to buy anything. This term, I bought one book that cost under $20. It is most certainly a relief to my pocket and means more money for traveling! I have to say, the European system is hands down better than the US system in this regard!
My favorite part of KU Leuven is the lack of campus. At Loyola, we all live on campus in dorms and all of the school buildings are within a fifteen minute walk away from any other building. Since the school is so consolidated, there is also little interaction with people outside the Loyola community. Loyola is also a lot smaller, with around 4,800 undergraduate students. At KU Leuven there really is no campus. Since KU has over 40,000 students, it would be very hard to have a campus in a city. Instead of a campus, there are academic buildings scattered all around they city. Leuven is a small city, so most of the buildings are fairly close together and an easy walk or bike ride away from where I live. I really enjoy being able to explore the city when I go to class or even just see people out and about. I also get to see more people out and about in Leuven than I ever get to see in Baltimore. I enjoy getting an off campus experience and it makes me feel like I really get to know the city of Leuven!
Another struggle I've had is through my required Dutch course. I really want to learn Dutch, but I'm finding it very hard to keep English, Spanish, and Dutch all separate in my mind. Every time I cannot think of the word in Dutch, I always revert back to Spanish, thinking somehow that might be the answer. I'm a bit discouraged with Dutch but I have to keep working at it to keep getting better. It's also hard to practice Dutch because people always speak English after they hear my Dutch attempt, as if they could sense I'm an American. I'll keep practicing and will hopefully continue to improve!
My final verdict? Each system has positives and each system has negatives. I enjoy each for different reasons and appreciate each system for what they are! I hope you all enjoyed the comparison between Loyola and KU Leuven and the school systems!