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I forgot that things are different here. Yes, it seems silly, and I have been here for a while and still notice small culture differences from my America, but now it is normal for me to just notice them then move on with my life.

But, unfortunately, I got a very harsh reminder of how different European university systems are than the very straightforward, over-organized way American universities communicate with their students.

I am taking a class called Linguistics:Intercultural Communication, which is perfect to complement my study abroad experience. This class is in English, but has both Master and Bachelor students in it, and half of the Bachelor students are on exchange. The only grade we have is one presentation.

The professor assigned me and a Master’s student from Poland to present about Business English, which also happened to be the first day of presentations. And there was another pair assigned to the same topic on the same day that are both in school for linguistics and have had several classes with the professor.

Already looking melancholy? It gets worse.

I am used to professors that stick to the syllabus, to projects that have defined and clear expectations, to getting some extra points for creativity.

So my partner and I made a really tight presentation about Business English, without any “rules” to follow and we thought that we did a nice job preparing. We even e-mailed our professor our presentation, she said we were “in the right direction.” Unfortunately, ten minutes before we presented, she said that our presentation was not okay.

Um..what? Our presentation that we have spent the last two weeks on is NOT OK? What EXACTLY were the expectations on this thing?

To make matters worse, we had to sit through the linguistic students’ perfect presentation before we presented ours. (which seemed like our presentation except more boring..)

And I still do not understand where we went wrong. We had pictures, we stayed within the time limit, we spoke about the topic.

But apparently, it was not good. Why European university–why do you have to be so confusing to my poor habitual American way of learning?

After our presentation (which seemed to take days), our professor asked that we meet with her for feedback. My partner asked if we would be okay and the professor told us to “Relax.”

Relax. Right. Like I am going to relax now that you told two foreign students that we needed “feedback.” In America, feedback=failure. Maybe (hopefully) that doesn’t mean the same thing here.

It is really ironic, because this is the first time in my history of going to school that I really do not understand why I may have failed something. In America, I have always one of the best students in my classes, but here, I constantly feel like I am drowning and I have no idea why. Why is it do different here? What is better? The “sink or swim” technique used here in Europe or the “lay it all out on the table” way that American schools use to teach?

Does one way make you “smarter”? Is one more effective than the other?