One thing that I have found to be different at Linköping University versus studying at an American university is the difference in the way the semester is setup. Each semester is divided into two periods, that act almost as half courses for the semester. In regards to the autumn semester, the first period ends right around the middle of October with an exam week, and the second period ends in January with an exam week right after we have “Self-Study”.
This Self-Study period lasts from about mid-December to mid-January as a break from the academic year. I used this time to go back to the US and celebrate Christmas and New Years with my family, but I really should have brought my textbooks with me to prepare for the exam I had this week. In the US, I was used to ending my studies prior to the start of the Holidays, and adjusting to this studying/exam period now in January has been quite the experience.
I returned back from the holidays 6 days before my Optimization exam, and spent the whole week cramming in preparation. I found myself tripping over some of the most basic concepts of the course, because it had been so long since I had last looked at the material. After having the exam today, I can assure you that the next holiday break, I will be taking my textbooks with me.
Don’t underestimate the second exam week of the autumn semester! From talking to others, I can assure you that I’m not the only one caught off guard.