Putting the ‘study’ in study abroad

by Lauren Tennant, University of New South Wales, Australia

Most my posts have been about settling-in and the travelling experiences on offer in Sydney, however I thought it was important to touch on the studying itself!

My first mini term which was ‘winter term’ at UNSW was solely exchange students as the full-time students were on exams and break during this period. This meant we had 4 weeks to meet other students in the same boat and develop core friendships. Having said this, it meant when I was starting my first main term over a month into my stay, it was important for me to meet as many domestic students as possible. All of my modules incorporated an element of teamwork assessment, which meant this was encouraged. However, while walking into a room of strangers can be daunting, I recommend putting yourself out there as much as you can and you’ll make a much wider range of friendships. This could be simply sitting at someone’s table and introducing yourself. Also this is a great way to learn more about the local experiences and get some great recommendations!

A core part of exchange was experiencing a different style of teaching. The main difference between UoM and UNSW I noticed was a much larger proportion of discussion time. For example, where I would leave a lecture with multiple pages of notes in Manchester, here I was leaving with barely a page. This was because discussions would take up 75% of seminars in some cases, which was a great way to chat to course mates and learn new perspectives. I recommend speaking up in these instances – this was something I was bad at in Manchester, but it became a big factor in the level of enjoyment here and subsequently better grades. I also found that these discussions became cemented in my brain and evermore useful during assessment periods.

Another key pointer would be to speak to your teachers outside of teaching hours. Through learning about one of my lecturer’s professional background and discussing opportunities in Australia, I was able to secure a volunteering position at an environmental organisation – which I continued throughout my 10 months in Sydney.

Also, if your course allows for this, I recommend choosing modules you are genuinely interested in and willing to spend time learning. A work-life balance was so important for me this year to ensure I was getting the most out of both the travel and study aspects of Australia. I ended up being really interested in most of my modules, which meant writing assessments felt like less of a ‘chore’ and subsequently took up less time.

Overall, I recommend using your exchange year to try new topics, styles of participation, and put yourself out there to make both personal and professional connections!

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