Study Abroad Experiences
Students Study Cognitive Science Around the World
COLUMBIA SHAFER: University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand
When I left for my semester abroad I went from Oxy, a small school in a big city, to the University of Otago, a huge school in a small city. The University of Otago has ten times as many students as Occidental (21,000 to our 2,100) and yet the students make up a significant amount of the city's population. This change was almost as much of a culture shock as learning the new lingo and customs.
New Zealand is one of the few countries outside of the United States to offer cognitive science programs in any of its universities and the program at the University of Otago was one of the main attractions to a semester abroad in New Zealand (well that and the obvious similarities to Middle Earth). The university itself is the oldest in New Zealand, and the most respected with top-notch academic programs and resources. While abroad I took courses on Educational Psychology, Philosophy of Science–and to get a sense of the country where I was studying–Māori language and New Zealand Cinema. Due to the size of the university, many of my classes were much larger than what I was used to, but the breakout tutorials from the 100 person lecture halls gave me a similar seminar-style feel that I am used to at Oxy.
Outside of the classroom I explored New Zealand from the northern most point to the southernmost point (pictured below). I took part in the quintessential New Zealand experience of tramping, for those of you non-Kiwi's that means hiking. I adventured in Queensland, the self-proclaimed adventure capital of the world where I even tried my hand a bungee jumping and jet boating and after getting my heart rate up then relaxed on a weekend wine tasting tour of the region. And I even got to visit Middle Earth with a trek across Mount Doom and an afternoon in the Shire. New Zealand gave me a wonderful blend of cultural immersion, adventure and high quality academics.
ROUNAK MAITI: University of Sussex/Spring 2015
From January to June 2015, I studied abroad as an exchange student at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. Brighton is a charming seaside town on the south coast of England, an hour away from London by train. With a population of 150,000, Brighton, often referred to as "London by the Sea" is a laidback tourist destination with independent music stores, pubs, art/exhibition spaces, a vibrant student life and a generally progressive attitude. While Brighton is eventful and quite "urban", it's also charming, quiet and picturesque. Cognitive Science is an important and well-funded field at the University of Sussex. There are several research groups working on the Science of Consciousness, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Cognition etc., alongside the departments of Psychology, Philosophy and Informatics/Engineering; which is their version of Cognitive Science focusing more on the computational side of things. I studied Philosophy and Science of Consciousness and Current Topics in Cognitive Science, which is a third year (senior year) course involving a comprehensive dissertation on any topic regarding cognition of your choice. I discussed the implications of the philosophy of musical aesthetics, with a focus on Kantian Formalism and current cognitive models.If your interest in Cognitive Science involves Cognitive Psychology, Philosophy, and/or exciting and relevant computational topics like Generative Creativity, Machine Learning and Neural Networks: Sussex is the ideal place. The academic style at Sussex is distinctly different from any liberal arts course: aside from the relentless focus on what your degree is, there is an incredible amount of freedom students get in their work. There are no frequent tests or homework assignments, and classes are not more than twice a week usually. Instead, classes grade you generally on two large assignments throughout the semester, and sometimes an exam at the end. This, in my view, allows total focus on each piece of work and results in a cohesive assignment. It prevents you from rushing anything, and really allows you engage with the material beyond simply going to class. All in all, if you study cognitive science, and would like to live in an fun, easygoing seaside town for a few months or more, University of Sussex is your place to be during Study Abroad!
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