What (and how) will you be studying on Southern Connecticut State University’s English modules? Rupert French investigates…

LJMU English interns with SCSU's Professor Charles Baraw
LJMU English interns with SCSU’s Professor Charles Baraw

During our time at Southern we were fortunate enough to meet up with several Professors of the English department, who helped us understand the differences in their learning strategies for students. Professor Charles Baraw teaches a module on comic books, ‘Comics and the American Experience’. He gets his students to learn how to read comics differently from standard fiction. As well as studying from a diverse set of texts such as Maus (and hopefully We:3, all about the Grant Morrison love), certain classes also learn how to create their own storyboards based around topics of their choice. Professor Melissa Talhelm teaches a module titled ‘Lyrics as Literature’ that looks at lyric composition as a form, but is primarily a creative writing course. Professor Talhelm is also a singer-songwriter and a Richard Thompson fan. You should definitely, definitely take these classes if they’re on offer when you arrive.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-17-01-15What becomes apparent through our conversations are the differences in our education systems and exactly what you as an LJMU English student are set to gain from taking part in Study Abroad at Southern. A semester or a year over there will give you the opportunity to study a versatile range of modules in literature and writing. You can get a better sense of your range of options in English at SCSU, and a clearer look at the courses on offer, here.

Each lecturer at SCSU is in charge of their own syllabus and therefore the assignment hand-ins and marking schedules. One clear difference is in the work you’ll be asked to do for your classes. You may be assigned reading as well as writing to do on a weekly basis. At LJMU we’re used to handing in one large assignment at the end of each module, with a smaller piece of work due earlier in the semester. At SCSU, you’re likely to have a 250-500 word assignment to be done for your next class – and two or three (shorter) classes a week per module, with feedback available via Blackboard. Blackboard is also used as a community site for each course: you can be marked on there, receive feedback, ask questions, and are sometimes offered the chance to rewrite certain sections of work you may have struggled on.

The Professors of the English Department that we spoke to made it quite clear that writing and reading as a process is really emphasised on their courses. At SCSU, the Professors see you regularly to hone your understanding, while in the British system, the focus tends to be on the development of independent study skills (with help on hand when we need it, of course). Both have positives, but also both systems offer different ways of understanding and analysing literature. As a Study Abroad student, then, you’ll have the amazing chance to refine every aspect of your academic skill set.

You’ll be studying from books like these. So you thought Literary Theory was dull?

Both of the classes mentioned above are part of Southern’s LEP (Liberal Education Programme) and all students are required to take at least one of the courses in this category in order to graduate. So this is an incredible opportunity for you as an English student (as well as a human being), as you will inevitably be in a class with Business majors, Science majors, Geography majors etc. This doesn’t mean you will automatically be top of the pile, but it definitely gives you a chance for new, fresh and varied perspectives on the texts you study from different kinds of people. You might begin to see lyrics in a whole new light if a chemistry major sits next to you and you have a discussion. So: keep an open mind and choose topics you are interested in as well as topics you know. Study Abroad is as much about broadening horizons as it is consolidating a grade and spending a few months in a great place.

That’s about as Saved By The Bell as I will ever write, so you know I’m serious.


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