One Note About Academics While Abroad…

Allison Gordon University of Sydney, Australia


August 15, 2017

Finding balance in college is difficult.

On paper, I went to college to expand my educational opportunities, get a degree, and secure a job after graduation. But I also went to join clubs and societies, meet new people, and maybe sleep in every once in a while.

Over the last month, I’ve realized finding balance is even more difficult when you study abroad. In addition to the normal tug-of-war between studying and social life, living in Australia presents a unique set of challenges. Everything is so new. I want to gobble it all up, explore every inch of the city I’m making a home.

With all of this in mind, focusing on classes when you’re abroad is extra challenging. It’s hard to love your time in the classroom when there is so much beyond those walls.

I went in to the University of Sydney thinking it would be just like a school in the states. But there are some major differences between the college systems worth noting. For those who aren’t here yet, here’s a crash course:

  1. First, “college” is not the correct term. Everyone here calls it “Uni.” A college is equivalent to a residential dorm. Learned that one the hard way.
  2. In Australia, most the uni students commute from home, meaning there aren’t many dorms on campus like there are in the states. Because of this, you have to go out of your way to connect with Aussies. I recommend joining clubs, taking more public transportation, lingering behind in classes, and trying to hit up bars/clubs with more of a local presence.
  3. Classes tend to be big. Most the courses I’m enrolled in have more than 150 people and take place in large lecture theaters. Like in the U.K., there are also tutorials that meet during the week. In these sessions, students can hash out questions with their appointed tutors.
  4. Professors are more like lecturers than teachers. Coming from a smaller school, I had grown accustomed to getting to know my professors well outside of class. But at USyd, most of the professors come in quickly, lecture, then leave. The majority of questions are fielded at tutors during their weekly meetings. Although it’s not what I’m used to, I’m growing accustomed to this style of teaching.
  5. Finally, on a non-academic note, the cafes and bars on campus are awesome. I highly recommend joining the student union so you can nab discounts on coffee, snacks, and even beer and cocktails.