Bethan Rowsby, University of Sydney, Australia.
After almost finishing my first semester here at the University of Sydney (it’s gone so quick!), now is as good a time as any to think about my experiences here in comparison to Manchester. Currently I have two exams to go until I get a 15 week long summer break which I am so keen for! And despite my looming exams, I’ve managed to get in a good amount of beach time, as the weather here is just too good not to! The two exams I have are each worth 40% of the class, which is not a lot for a final exam compared to Manchester, which may be why I am not feeling too stressed out about them. This semester I took two classes outside of Geography which have both been really interesting and I’ve learnt so much each week. The first one is an Indigenous Studies class which I would recommend to anyone going to an Australian uni to take a class in as it really opens your eyes to Australia’s history and how it’s still affecting people today. The other non-geography class I decided to take was one in Biblical Studies since I was really interested in studying the Bible from an academic perspective, and whilst the class and the assessments were nothing like I was used to, it was a great opportunity to learn and step outside of my comfort zone! Despite being a geography student, I have actually enjoyed these two classes more than my geography ones since they are so different and new to what I have studied back home. Although, I could never shake my love for geography, especially as next semester there may be an opportunity for me to go on a field trip to SE Asia!
The tutorials, referred to as tutes here are compulsory and most of the time there is 10% of your grade dedicated to your participation in them. I found this hard to get used to at first, especially since I’m not usually someone who offers my opinion all the time. In some cases the tutes worked well, however the model I think works the best is where the tutes are compulsory (if you miss more than two you fail the class) but there is no participation mark as then there is no pressure to ‘perform’ and there is still a good discussion – this was the case in my Indigenous Studies class and I found those tutes to be the best and most helpful.
One helpful thing at USyd is that all the lectures are recorded which means that if there is a timetable clash with lectures it is possible and easy to listen to the recording of one each week. Not all of my lectures were recorded in Manchester (though they might be now) so this was really helpful as I did end up having a clash on my timetable. If this happens to you, I think it depends on how you learn best, and whether or not you can make yourself listen to a recording each week; I found it hard but it worked out in the end! It’s also worth me saying that the online system at USyd is exactly the same as Manchester – both use Blackboard – so it’s really easy to navigate the system.
The actual USyd campus is pretty beautiful, as well as being huge. The main building is the Quadrangle and it gets a lot of tourists visiting! Apparently its architecture is based half on Oxford university and half on Cambridge. I have one class in there and there’s one big jacaranda tree in the quad, of which they say that if you haven’t started studying by the time the purple flowers bloom then you’re in trouble for your exams. I’ll hopefully be ok!