A stay abroad is always culturally enriching, especially if, as in my case, the chosen country corresponds to personal and academic interests. Therefore, the academic added value of my semester at the University of California, Davis should be the focus of this report. The extensive planning process, which I initiated in the winter of 2012, culminated in my departure to the United States last September. In advance, I thought about how I could expand or break through my previous academic career by choosing my courses.
While the humanities discipline of American Studies is only a cultural and literary subdiscipline at the English Department of my home university, it is the rule at US universities that American Studies represent an independent, autonomous subject with its own faculty. During my semester abroad, I took three seminars from the upper division area of the American Studies program (ie courses that are usually given by students who are about to graduate). In my opinion, all three seminars were characterized by the fact that I couldn’t find them in this form at a German university.
The seminar “The Individual and Community in America” is a prime example of the contrast between external observation of US-related topics at German universities and self-observation at US universities. The focus of this course was the discussion of current social justice issues American living environment, such as the so-called Prison-Industrial-Complex in California (the entanglement of university research, economy, law and crime), access to higher education especially from the perspective of institutionalized racial discrimination, as well as the individual and the community in the field of tension Liberalism to Neoliberalism in the 20th Century.
While it is potentially possible in Münster without any problems to reduce the personal workload during the semester in such a way that the final exam or term paper is decisive for the seminar or module grade, everyday study at UC Davis required personal commitment, disciplined time management, as well an early preoccupation with the final course project. Percentage grade-determining examinations include oral participation in course discussions, submitting several essays in the early weeks of the semester, keeping a course blog in which the project work is documented in interaction with fellow students, performance queries, etc.
Together with two American fellow students, I worked on a project on the so-called K-12 Education, which involved financing publicly accessible education from kindergarten through to college. We used power-theoretical concepts of population control by the French philosopher Michel Foucault to explain how the dependence of public education on municipal or sub-municipal income tax levels determines the access of marginalized population groups at the structural level. In addition to the theoretical elaboration, we designed a case study in which we compared two individual fates of primary school students from the states of California and Washington. Among other things, I took on the creation of flyers, which could be used for course presentation and potential distribution among the American population. This project, my final term paper entitled “Making Public Schools Public: K-12 Funding and Access to Higher Education in the US”, my participation in the twice-weekly course discussions, my essays, blog posts, etc. all resulted in an “A” as a final grade.
My second seminar was entitled “Militarism, Media, and Technology” and dealt with the processes of militarization in American society and how these discourses are reflected in culture, history and (foreign) politics. This course was in the form of a classic reading seminar, in which, in addition to a final term paper, the writing of essays and the management of a seminar session were among the examinations. In terms of content, there were concepts such as the post-9/11 security state, the USA as a modern empire, individual and structural discipline or alignment with militaristic forms of social coexistence, and above all the influence of technological developments in the military on everyday US American life experience Focus.
For me personally, this course was an extremely suitable opportunity for interdisciplinary linking of my two subjects, as I was able to illuminate genuine topics of American Studies from the perspective of Media Studies. In leading a seminar session, I addressed the cultural studies negotiation of militaristic discourses in video games – a central theme of empirical communication studies at my home university. In this course I have now been able to look at this complex of topics from a completely opposite methodological perspective. In my final project, which was part of a term paper entitled “Empire’s Journalism? The Negotiation of War culminated in US Video Game Coverage ”, I took up this complex of topics by analyzing the negotiation of concepts such as Empire, Otherness, Glorification etc. on a higher level of discourse, in this case the discussion of video games in specialist journalism. My entire course performance was also rewarded with an “A” as the final grade.
- Check topschoolsintheusa for more about The Graduate School of Management at University of California Davis.
The third course I attended led me back to the cultural studies approach to American topics that was also available in Münster, whereby the structure of the seminar in particular represented a great contrast to my previous academic experience. In “American Popular Culture” involved the systematic analysis of specific products of the US culture apparatus in its entanglement with discourses such as race, gender, neoliberalism and not ultimately “the American”, the return that these products on the particularity of the collective American Psyche.
Similar to the first seminar mentioned here, this course was characterized by an extensive workload consisting of performance queries, a long reading list, a course blog, essays and a final term paper. This course gave me the opportunity to choose a (current!) Object of investigation according to my own size and to approach it with the cultural studies tools from several specialist disciplines. In my project, I chose the album Nothing Was the Same by hip-hop artist Drake, which was released at the beginning of the semester. My analysis of the technological and economic conditions of his career as well as the close reading of specific lines of text resulted in my thesis entitled “Nothing Was the Same: The Construction of Black Identity in US Hip Hop Discourse”, in which I deepened my research process documented in the course blog. After the end of the semester, I submitted this work, which received a grade of 9.4 out of 10, for the Undergraduate Writing Prize of the Department of American Studies at UC Davis- a possibility that does not exist in my subjects at my home university. If my application is successful, this would be the first time that one of my course products gains in importance and accessibility beyond the grading by a lecturer and my drawer. My overall performance in this course was also rated with an “A” as the final grade.
In addition to the knowledge of the content and the expansion of my previous knowledge and my perspective on my research interests , the structural, didactic contrast is a central element of my gain in academic experience. As already indicated, a seminar grade consists of more individual components than just a single thesis or written exam, so that, in my opinion, the overall rating is more representative of the student’s commitment. While I would never underestimate the importance of the intrinsic motivation of a humanities and social sciences student, everyday student life at UC Davis attracted me showed that the consideration of oral grades – even if only to a share of 5% of the overall grade – both the individual learning effect and the climate within the course discussions can have groundbreaking effects from my comparative point of view. A side note is that the course reading I have read over ten weeks is just under 1,500 pages. The difference to everyday study life in Germany is not so much this sheer sum in the shorter time, but the perception of reading as a fundamental matter of course than as a burden. For me personally, I consequently expect a longer lasting learning effect from this much more productive experience.
In conclusion, I would still like to point out the cultural enrichment that I experienced through this stay abroad. In addition to extensive hiking and travel activities throughout California, all the activities that have accompanied me in addition to attending my seminars twice stand out. These were characterized by an overarching motto of globality. Be it participation in a jewelry workshop in the Craft Center, the regular basketball game in the Activities and Recreation Center, or participation in various activities at the International House Davis(e.g. leading German Conversation Classes with people of all ages and nations) or even attending Catholic services – everyday life as an international student in California was an American experience as well as an international exchange. Above all, maintaining contact with fellow students and friends from all parts of the world will prove to be a constant benefit of my stay abroad, be it on a friendly level by being able to offer each other a transnational home, or on a professional level when it comes to the continuation of never ending discussions on the Internet initiated in seminars.
In comparison with the various letters of motivation that I wrote in the planning phase of this stay abroad, the impression arises that my attempt at an academic change of perspective and the integration into my overall study plan was more than successful in terms of both content and method. In retrospect, I see my previous studies as completely incomplete without the experience I was able to gain at UC Davis.
At this point, I would like to thank the MicroEDU team once again for the extensive support they have provided for the application, planning and implementation of my (unfortunately far too short) stay abroad. I hereby make an unreserved recommendation for both UC Davis as a place of study and for MicroEDU as an extremely pleasant service provider.