Letter from abroad: Chanmony Chea, Long Beach, California, USA

Letter from abroad: Chanmony Chea, Long Beach, California, USA

Fail to plan, plan to fail. We all know this very well. So when do I need to plan my class schedule for spring semester, which will not start until late January? The answer is as early as mid-November, though the earlier I start planning, the better and easier it will be for me.

Just like other university students in the United Stated, I am responsible for my own degree of progress. At first, it did appear to me as a challenge, considering my past experience as a student at Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Back then I did not have to worry about which courses I was required to take to graduate or who my professors would be because school took care of these hassles. All I needed to do at the beginning of every semester was to obtain a copy of the pre-arranged schedule and find out who my assigned professors turned out to be.

That is not the case here, obviously.

A few months before semester starts, the university will list all the classes being offered along with the information about instructors, room numbers and day and time of the class meeting. Once the information becomes available to students, my planning will soon follow.

I may have to decide whether to take an accounting course in spring or save it for fall semester and take marketing instead. Once I have chosen to take one particular course, the next question will be who the potential instructors are. Very often I need to weigh the benefits of having a strict professor from whom I will learn a great deal against the luxury of not having to write a thick report should I take that same course with a relatively easier professor.

To be able to make an informed decision, the process may involve some research. I usually consult Ratemyprofessors.com and seek advice from fellow students who have taken the course.

It didn’t take me long to adapt to this routine. I no longer consider it a challenge as I once did. Rather, I now appreciate and even enjoy the advantages that come with the freedom to make decisions regarding my own academic path.

One of the major benefits is I get to decide who I want to have for my professors. Taking classes with instructors whose teaching styles match my study techniques makes learning significantly easier and more effective and ultimately is good for my GPA.

There is also the freedom to select courses also allow me to efficiently balance my workload. By planning ahead, I can spread the deemed-to-be-hard classes instead of taking them all at once, so I hardly find myself in the situation of either under-load or over-load.  

The distinct sense of independence and responsibility I have experienced is probably the greatest nonacademic reward. Not only do I get to make critical decisions, but I also learn to take full responsibility for the consequences that follow. I very much like the feeling of being in charge of navigating my own journey.

Personally, I find the education system in the United States more flexible than that in Cambodia. In addition to promoting independence, it encourages individuals to take charge of their education in a way that students in Cambodia cannot.

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