Class is now in session

August 30, 2017

in Academic Year 2017-2018, Australia, Fall 2017, Kelly Petersen, Oceania

Unfortunately, my days of no work and all play have come to an end. *Sigh* For a while there I think I forgot that I came here to study, but now that class has been in session for two weeks I’m starting to get back into the swing of school.

So let’s talk classes! I’m taking international business strategy, intro marketing, and astronomy to finish up my science credits. Side note: the final exam for my astronomy class is worth 80% (yes, EIGHTY. PERCENT.) of my grade. I swear I have the worst luck when it comes to science classes, so let’s just pray that I pass. My only other complaint is that my discussion (or “tutorial” as they call it) for international business strategy meets on Fridays from 4-5… yeah, hard pass. Marketing has been my favorite class so far, which is great news because that’s what I’m majoring in! My professors are all super knowledgeable and entertaining, so class is never too boring.

For my last class I decided to take an international internship credit, and was placed with a startup business development/accelerator company as a marketing intern. It’s located in the central business district, so on Wednesdays and Fridays I put on my big girl pants and take the train into the city for work. Interning at a startup can be stressful, especially knowing that every task you’re given carries a lot of weight, but it’s awesome getting to work alongside the CEO. Because it’s technically a class, I’m not getting paid (booooo), but hopefully it’ll end up being a valuable learning experience and something to add to my resumé at the very least.

I was expecting school in Australia to be pretty similar to that in the U.S., but there were actually quite a few differences that I noticed early on:

  • THEY DON’T USE THE OXFORD COMMA!! I’m such a grammar freak and it drives me absolutely crazy.
  • They put an “s” where we put a “z.” For example: organisation, analyse, recognise, etc. Looks sort of off, doesn’t it?
  • USyd (and most other Australian unis) is a commuter campus, so not many students live on campus or in campus housing. From talking to my classmates, it seems like a lot of Aussies cram all of their classes into 2-3 days a week so that they don’t have to commute every day. One girl told me that she travels two hours each way to get to uni, I couldn’t believe it!
  • Because most students commute, very few classes start before 10 AM. A handful start at 9, but they’re far and few between.
  • Students here take their library time very seriously, like every area of every library is (pretty much) completely silent all the time. I’ve definitely been called out a few times for being “too loud” even when I was whispering.
  • Their grading system is extremely different from ours. Rather than A/B/C/D/F, they have High Distinction (HD)/Distinction (DI)/Credit (CR)/Pass (P)/Fail (F). Even though you only have to get an 85% in the class to get an HD, it’s extremely difficult to achieve because only around 5% of the students in each class are allowed to receive an HD. While a lot of my friends’ universities are giving them pass/fail grades for their abroad classes, all of mine are transferring over as letter grades, so I definitely feel the pressure to do well.
  • Rather than meeting twice a week for 50 minutes, most of the lectures at USyd meet just once a week for two hours. Power lectures at Madison are only an hour and fifteen minutes, so trying to stay focused for two has been a little difficult.
  • All of the lectures are recorded and posted on Blackboard, so you never have to stress if you miss one! It’s honestly surprising that students here are so diligent about going to lecture. (Don’t worry mom and dad, I go to lecture.)
  • The concept of school spirit doesn’t really exist here. I feel like the college sports culture in the U.S. gives students a sense of school pride unlike any other, but the students here are only really concerned with their studies.
  • The tutorials (discussions) are taught by other professors rather than grad students, which I personally really like.

Okay, I know you all want to see pictures of my b-e-a-UTIFUL campus, but it’s actually huge so I’ll share some photos of my favorite building: The Quadrangle. The construction of USyd’s Quadrangle took over 100 years, starting in 1854 and going through several developmental stages until it was finally completed in the 1960s. Its design was modeled after the quadrangles at the University of Oxford and Cambridge University, which makes sense because Australians really seem to embrace their British heritage. The Quadrangle also has the most pristine lawns, and they’re the perfect spot to study or catch some z’s between classes.

More generally, the University of Sydney is regarded as one of the top universities in the country, with their graduates being ranked as the most employable in Australia. I sort of feel like I’m going to the Harvard of Oz. I’ve definitely noticed that the workload is a lot greater here, and I’ve heard the exams are crazy difficult, but hopefully I’ll be able to finish the semester with some decent grades. *Knocks on wood*

As for fun stuff, one Sunday my friends Dirk, Nadav, and I got up extra early and took the bus to Coogee Beach where we watched the sunrise and then completed the coastal walk to Bondi Beach. It was pretty cloudy so we weren’t sure how great the sunrise would be, but it ended up being amazing– the pictures really don’t do it justice! We listened to Circle of Life as the sun started to peek out and it really brought the whole experience together. You know the sunrise scene at the beginning of Lion King? Of course you do.

I also happened to run into a guy on the street wearing a Badger sweatshirt one day, and I immediately freaked out and ran up to him to tell him that I was also a Badger. I’m so embarrassing LOL, the encounter lasted maybe two minutes, but it made my entire day seeing someone else rep my favorite place in the whole world.

I may be drowning in homework, but so far, so good. We’ll see what the next few weeks bring. Until next time!

Thanks for reading!

– KP

Previous post:

Next post: