Studying at the University of Auckland: what’s different?

Simon Hird  / /  Geography  / /  University of Auckland  / /  NZ

 

I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate one blog post specifically to academics and the differences I have experienced between Auckland and Manchester. New Zealand and the UK definitely have many parallels and it didn’t take much time to adjust to a relatively similar style of life and study that they have here. But there are some distinct differences in how university works here compared to Manchester and the UK in general.

One of the most resounding differences you will experience here is the way degrees are set up. Like many universities outside of the UK (US, Canada, Australia etc.), undergraduate students enrolled on a degree program at the University of Auckland will usually not be solely enrolled into courses on their discipline, but have the flexibility to take a variety of different courses. Take a Geography degree, for example: students will be enrolled on a Bachelor of Science programme in which they may choose Geography as a major and another subject as a minor, based on the courses they wish to take and allowing them to tailor their degree to their interests. Whilst this does not directly affect us as exchange students (we are enrolled on Certificate of Proficiency for Exchange) it does change the class dynamics noticeably. Continue reading “Studying at the University of Auckland: what’s different?”

First Few Weeks in Hong Kong – Initial Reflections

Anthony Bladen – The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour from Kowloon

I have been at CUHK for almost three weeks now and while everyone at Manchester has just finished exam season, here at CUHK we only have one more week of classes until the Chinese New Year break – meaning I have a lot to talk about!

Room View
Room View

Continue reading “First Few Weeks in Hong Kong – Initial Reflections”

Academic differences in the USA (because it’s not called “study” abroad for nothing)

By Elizabeth Pace (Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)

So now that I’m officially half-way through my exchange and no longer in the midst of the panic and stress of final exams I thought it would be a good time to take a step back and talk about the actual “study” part of studying abroad. Continue reading “Academic differences in the USA (because it’s not called “study” abroad for nothing)”

Academic differences, or the reason I’m going to fail tomorrow’s midterm

By Rhiannon Jones, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This blog starts negative but picks up at the end, because being away from home can be hard sometimes…

Before leaving the UK, I knew that jetting off to another country was never going to be a complete breeze, especially when;

  1. this year actually counts towards my final grade,
  2. you study chemistry; and
  3. you’re reminded before you go that the chemistry course at Illinois is ‘the hardest in the US’.

Continue reading “Academic differences, or the reason I’m going to fail tomorrow’s midterm”

Academic expectations

Harry at McGill in Montréal

 

Academic expectation at McGill. This is the blog that I’ve been putting off the longest and that has been for two reasons. The first is that it would probably be the least engaging to write whilst the second was because I had to find a way to write it so as not to put future prospective exchanges at McGill off.

Though I realise in confessing that it somewhat undoes my efforts.

There are distinct differences to the academic system they have over here relative to the one the UK has and invariably these differences will be viewed as good or bad differently for every person and degree. Outlining some of these differences will hopefully shed some light on what to expect for people considering McGill.

McGill operates a continual assessment system the result of which is that the only time you won’t have a deadline is in the first week of term when you’re still learning your professor’s names. Regularly I have been absent-mindedly chatting to someone in lectures and they have mentioned an exam or assignment due the next week which I have known nothing about (there is very little hand holding).

Talking to humanities students this works quite well however since the majority of learning done in the arts is in one’s owns time via assigned ‘readings’. The persistent roll of assignments provides a faithful motivator for these readings.

In the sciences there is less of an obvious benefit although in my opinion, due to limitations in any human’s capacity to take on new information, the breadth and depth of content covered here is less than that covered in Manchester. What struck me in the first few weeks was the asymmetry between what I knew compared to my peers. Though they were infinitely better at managing their time. This is the largest distinction in university styles. The rest are just novelties that add to the academic experience:

  • Teaching assistants (TAs) wield more power than PhDs probably should. Befriend them or suffer.
  • People actually use ‘rate my professor’ sites. Definitely worth checking out prior to signing onto courses.
  • You can actually view exam transcripts and get marks back if you put forward a convincing enough case!
  • Exams aren’t really standardised or decided upon by a committee, they are simply made up by a professor. So in this sense it worth going to their lectures where they’ll probably let slip what they’re going to put on tests. Or at least the lectures during the run up to the exam.
  • You get a lot more choice concerning the types of course you pick. Hence people pick a selection of ones they find interesting (often hard ones) and ‘birdies’ (easy courses that ensure you maintain a good grade point average). Identify the birdies you’re eligible to take.
  • Exams results are usually fitted to a curve against the best result. So if you ace it and no one else does… your selfish.
  • People take pride in the study places they’ve found on campus.

No hour at McGill is an inappropriate hour to hit the library. In fact on several occasions I’ve consolidated friendships with people I’ve just met by studying with them. It is not like only people who want top marks go to the library. Everyone does. All the time. McGill’s equivalent of nightline often serves coffee gone 8pm at the library.

I like to think of the lifestyle here like breathing. Often you might need to work during the weekends, but if you manage your time well this isn’t always the case. Resultantly weekends become the time you can ‘inhale’ and do all the things you enjoy doing that leave you in a positive and restful head space.

The following week sees you ‘exhale’, where all the positivity is converted into library hours and hard work to ensure you’re getting what regularly seems like an insurmountable amount of jobs done.

Don’t worry though. It is surmountable. Having written this it has become glaringly obvious why McGill’s informal motto is ‘work hard, play hard’.

8 THINGS YOU ONLY LEARN FROM STUDYING IN THE US

American flag flying in the wind

By Erdoo Yongo (North Carolina State University, USA)

1. You always seem to have some kind of test – whether it is a midterm or pop-up quiz, these are so frequent that after the first few tests you stop being surprised when your professor issues you with a test.

2. You have to submit papers via hard copy – for those of us who are used to staying up all night before an essay is due and submitting it online with only minutes to spare, this is quite a hassle.

3. Attendance contributes to your final grade – most professors take attendance every class to monitor students attendance and usually if students miss more than a certain number of classes, it is deducted off your attendance mark… How fun…

4. Students don’t have seminars – so this means that you will usually have a day (or if you are lucky enough a few days) off each week to sleep all day. But even though seminars don’t exist, professors ensure students don’t fall asleep in their classes by making sure participation in classes contribute to your final grade… Awesome!

5. Students get unimaginable amounts of free things – those of you who thought freshers’ week was the biggest freebie event, you were wrong! American ‘colleges’ give out tonnes of free goodies – pizza, cakes, water bottles, t-shirts – on a (nearly) weekly basis… #Winning

6. Sports is a huge thing – everyone in some way can relate to sports, whether it is watching it, such as football (not what real football is, but a sport similar to rugby), or going to the gym. The gym is amazing, with a swimming pool, basketball courts and places where you can rent out equipment… for free! I never thought I would hear myself say it but, I LOVE THE GYM!

7. Students don’t interact in classes – this is pretty odd because for most of us it is a usual thing to talk to people in lectures.

8. People tend to recognise your accent – this is especially true if you have a British accent. When you speak in class some students look at you as if you grew another head. People notice the accent so much that it becomes strange if someone doesn’t notice your accent.

Living Like a Local

By Jamie Chapman (University of Sydney, Australia)

So, while Sydney is experiencing what’s being called the ‘storm of the century’ (really, it’s just a little taster of Manchester weather), it’s as good a time as any for an update on how things are going out here. It’s week 7 of term, assignments are piling on, and we’re slowly approaching the bitterly cold Australian winter with temperatures plummeting to as low as 15 degrees Celsius. Maybe one day I’ll be able to use that beanie hat…

Here in Sydney we’ve just had the week-long mid-semester break. Whilst it’s not quite as long as the three weeks we get at Manchester, exams are still a way off so there’s not so much pressure to revise. Upon hearing this, my dad thought that this sounded like the perfect excuse for a little holiday down-under, so a mere 23-hour flight later, featuring a soundtrack of faulty headphones and screaming

The weather here is never dull, really...
The weather here is never dull, really…

babies, I met up with him in the middle of Sydney to show him a glimpse of my incredible experience abroad. Unfortunately, the overly dramatic Australian weather didn’t quite have the same idea, with a week of sunshine, storms, and me getting caught on a boat in the Harbour wearing nothing more than shorts and a t-shirt in the torrential rain! It definitely wasn’t a week to forget about though, with a day out sailing around the Sydney headlands, a trip up to the stunning Blue Mountains, and a week of living the student highlife and having my meals paid for. Not too bad!

I suppose that now, after six weeks or so of teaching, it’s a good idea to take a look at some of the main differences between university life at Sydney and Manchester. While for the most part, classes are structured pretty similarly, with a 2-hour lecture per module and weekly tutorials, it’s the small things that really make you realise that you’re studying in a new environment. Assessment tends to be more evenly spread out across the semester, as opposed to bundled together into exams at the end of term – for one of my modules, the bulk of the grade is based on small weekly assignments. The great thing about this is, I’m only going to be left with a single one-hour exam when it comes to exams in June. Another difference is the importance of in-class participation – for another of my modules, 20% of the grade is for tutorial participation. As long as I say one thing each week, that’s 20% in the bag – last week, my only participation was discussing the ‘Australian image’ in popular culture and explaining the Foster’s ads on British TV. Turns out the beer doesn’t even exist over here!

You wouldn't believe it if I told you there was a torrential storm half an hour before this photo!
You wouldn’t believe it if I told you there was a torrential storm half an hour before this photo!
AFL refs think they're in a Clint Eastwood film
AFL refs think they’re in a Clint Eastwood film

In addition to academic differences, there are also some things that Sydneysiders do or say that are just a little bit alien to the average Brit. I went to my first AFL game (Australian rules football) on Saturday, Australia’s most popular sport, to see the Sydney Swans – one of the top teams in the league. Despite being called football, the game is played on a cricket oval, the ball looks like an American football, is carried like a rugby ball, there are 4 goal posts at either end of the field, and the umpires look like they’re in a Wild West shootout whenever a goal is scored. It’s baffling to me. Aussies also have a weird habit of shortening nearly all of their words – afternoon is arvo, car registration is rego, and McDonald’s is Maccas. I even overheard a woman call Aldi, ‘Aldos’, which isn’t even any shorter.

Yesterday was the Sydney Abroad Fair, for all of the USYD students that are interested in taking a semester abroad next year. Despite the fact that an impromptu storm meant that the Fair had to be relocated at the last minute, causing a bunch of hassle and some pretty damp UoM handbooks, it was great to see the potential interest that a lot of Australian students have in studying in the UK, and at the University of Manchester in particular. It also let me really reflect on how different life is here compared to back home, and to chat with some Sydney students that have done exchanges in the UK in the past. I hope that some of those students end up taking the leap to  study in Manchester, and I’m sure they’ll absolutely love it (as long as we don’t tell them about the weather).

The Blue Mountains - Australia's own (and much greener) Grand Canyon
The Blue Mountains – Australia’s own (and much greener) Grand Canyon

Before I finish off this post, I’ll briefly mention some of the things I’ve got planned for the next few weeks. In May I’ll be involved in the Vivid Festival – an annual festival of light shows and live music gigs around the city, most well-known for the colourful installations on the outside of the Sydney Opera House. This year, the festival is coming to the main Quadrangle building of the University of Sydney, and I’ll be part of a group of students composing the music for a visual installation. Exciting times! Next month I’ll also be playing a gig with the University’s Big Band, and possibly taking a trip up the east coast to go sailing at the Whitsunday Islands. There had better not be any storms for that…

Academic Differences between Canada and Manchester

By Ros Harwood (Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada)

Having done a semester and a bit at Queen’s now, academic differences have become clear to me between the Canadian and UK university systems. However, by all means, it is nothing to worry about, especially once you are used to it and the basics are still in place that you would find at any university; readings, tests, assignments, tutorials etc.

1. The first difference that became pretty apparent early on was the differences in the assessments here. The assessment is cumalative throughout the semester and the final mark for a course will be based on the various components, such as online quizzes, small reading reflections and attendance and participation marks as well as presentations. Nothing that you won’t have done at Manchester, but it is nice in a way because it spreads out the assessment and it reduces the pressure of the final exam, if there is one (some courses are just all coursework based). Exams tend to count for about 30 to 40% of the mark instead of 60 to 70% that I have experienced in Manchester. A common component is a term paper as part of assessment that is normally around fifteen to twenty pages long and will be kind of a mini research project where you choose a topic within a course and it gives you more freedom in what you want to write about and discuss.

2. Mid-terms are common in Canada, not every course has them but you can expect for most classes that you will take it around week 5 to 7 of the term. From my experience, they are not daunting at all, just like a more formal class test with normally multiple choice or short answer questions. I had one business one that was open book and online so I could just do it at home with my textbook and notes right there to help me. Again, a mid-term takes off the pressure of the final exam for the course.

3. One nice difference is that the exam period is attached to the end of term as Canadian semesters start a couple of weeks earlier than Manchester at the beginning of September and therefore, even though there is a 2 to 3 week exam period at the end of the term so there are only a few days between the end of classes and exams beginning, you can have a Christmas break where you don’t have to be revising, which is more enjoyable I would say, and then come back in January for the next semester.

4. The multi-component nature of the courses and the assessment at Queen’s means that there is often independent study to be done, such as reading (which was really important for some mid-terms and exams in first semester as they asked specific questions on readings), but the campus has a variety of places to work, whether you want the really quiet library or more casual atmosphere in cafes. This is important because to keep up with the continuous assessment style you need to keep on top of your readings and homework set in the classes.

5. The teaching style in Canada is not so different that you will find yourself in a completely different environment, but I found that they are a lot stricter on caps for numbers of students in classes and often limit to smaller classes, such as one of my classes on GIS this semester which has around 20 students in it. This means that the professors will expect more class interaction and will set small group activities and discussion within the lectures that they will expect people to contribute to and give answers in class. Some courses will also have tutorials or lab sessions (for my science based courses) and these are mainly run by TAs (teaching assistants) who are generally PhD or postgrad students, sometimes final year undergrads, who will be responsible for marking most of the assessments as well, and this is where attendance and participation marks can be gained. All the professors and TAs are very keen for people to use their office hours for questions and are often interested to chat with international students as well.

6. Course choices can be a little daunting idea as I have found that pre-requisites for some second and third year courses (which exchange students are recommended to take for their third year abroad as Canada’s undergrad degrees are 4 years long) are pretty strict, which obviously you are not going to have because you are from another university. However, do not let it worry you! In the registration for your exchange university they will give you detailed instructions to find them; Queen’s for example sent me a form on which I could write the courses I wanted to take and they are listed on the website. Once you are at your exchange university, if you are struggling to find courses, do two things: visit the International Programmes Office; they are very helpful and friendly (at Queen’s for definite) and they will either help you find them or recommend you visit your subject department office. If you show your face and show your interest, you are much more likely to get onto a course that may be full or you are finding harder to take due to the wrong pre-requisite courses or requirements.

Best piece of advice:

If your course at Manchester allows you to, try some new modules out. I study Geography but have taken a Psychology course and a Business course this year and it has broadened the learning experience. Although it is a pass/fail year, it is a ‘study abroad’ and so you should take advantage of the academic experiences you could get at the exchange university as well as the travelling and meeting new people which you will do lots of.

10952261_10152796977448425_6138775290755661513_n

The latest appearance of the Manchester beanie, in Parc Mont-Royal in Montreal, Quebec, a hill that gives you a 180 degree view of the city and was very snowy! Second semester is flying by and after the reading week coming up next week (a trip to Chicago!), I will have six weeks left of classes at Queen’s, a very sad thought. The university alone has had made a big impact on the year abroad, and only a year ago I had just been accepted and knew very little about it! So for those of you who have just found out if you will study abroad: get excited, it will be a memorable semester/year.

Academic differences between Manchester and UBCO

By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia Okanagan, Canada)

To all those coming to UBCO, or interested in coming to UBCO, here are some differences that you might be interested in knowing beforehand:

  • Term dates and alternative assessment

The second term at UBCO starts about two weeks earlier than in Manchester and lasts about four months. Since the start of the term at UBCO falls into the January examination period in Manchester, you have to arrange alternative assessment for these exams. While it is in most cases possible to arrange alternative assessment in the form of an essay in more discursive subjects, such as Politics and Philosophy, other departments, such as Economics, require you to sit your missed exams during the August resit period for the first time. While it felt nice not to have to study for exams in January, the alternative assessment, the deadlines of which coincided with the start of the term at UBCO, as well as the academic system at UBCO both require good time management.

  • Course choice

Since it usually takes four years to complete your bachelor’s degree in Canada, exchange students from Manchester usually take third year courses. You are, however, allowed to take one or two second year courses. What I noticed is that some second year courses complement my first year studies in Manchester very well while in other cases third year courses were a more appropriate choice. For this reason it is useful to email the professor about the syllabus before you make your choices. At UBCO, as in Manchester, you are allowed to add or drop courses within the first two weeks. After that there is another deadline here in February, up until which you can still drop courses, but with a W (for withdrawal) standing on your transcript. Although withdrawing from a course is not recommended as you would need to do the required number of credits per semester in order to complete the equivalent of a full year at Manchester.

  • Teaching methods

Different from the typical combination of lectures and tutorials at Manchester, there are no tutorials for most courses here at UBCO. Instead, there are two 80-minute classes per week for every module that you take. The class size is much smaller with usually no more than 100 students in one class. In one of my classes, there are just 40 students which is a great contrast to the 200 to 300 people you sometimes find in a lecture theatre in Manchester. I enjoy the small class sizes, since it makes it easier to get to know your classmates and generally facilitates class contribution. Many students ask questions during class and it is not unusual to do exercises in class and to discuss the answers afterwards or for the professor to engage students in a discussion. You also get to know your professor better and, as in Manchester, all professors have regular office hours and are very willing to help with any problems you might have. Moreover, there are TA (teaching assistant) hours as well. Teaching assistants are usually students that have taken the class before.

  • Assessment methods

Whereas there is usually a great emphasis on the final exams in Manchester, the final exams often accounting for 60 to 100%, more weight is placed on continuous assessment here in Canada. There are a variety of assessment methods that are used, such as midterms, group work, take-home midterms and exams, graded assignments and homework. None of my finals accounts for more than 40%. If, however, you miss one of your midterms, the weight of the midterm is usually added to the final. If the midterm is worth 20%, for instance, then missing this midterm would mean that the final exam accounts for 60% of your grade. Although it takes pressure off you to do well in your finals and spreads the workload throughout the semester, this makes it even more important to stay on top of your work and keep up with the reading throughout the term.

  • Essays

Essays or term papers here often require you to choose your own topic or pose your own question within a certain framework, a little bit like a mini-dissertation. It gives you much more freedom in your focus and research and allows you to explore a certain aspect of the course that is of particular interest to you in greater depth. The preferred writing style and form can vary slightly from the way you are used to structure essays in Manchester so that I would recommend asking the professor about any formalities you might be uncertain of beforehand, such as referencing or the word limit.

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(Can’t finish a post without a picture of the beautiful scenery, I just love the view too much. I am sure you will too if you decide to come here 🙂 It looks even more beautiful in real life.)

Academic Life at SFU

By Katie Lewin (Simon Fraser University, Canada)

Finals have just finished, ending semester 1, and I head home for the holidays in a couple of days, which I’m so excited for. My first semester at SFU hasn’t been the easiest, however, once I finally settled in and found my feet, things have only gotten better. The academic side of life at SFU is what I’ve had the least issues with; it was what I expected and hasn’t yet caused me any major difficulties.

Lectures are fairly similar to Manchester in layout and teaching, although not all professors use slides or put them online. The size of lectures depends on the course, mine range from around 40 to 100. Other differences are that people participate in lectures more by asking questions or actually answering the professor’s questions, which wasn’t really done in Manchester. Lectures are usually based on the week’s reading, plus some extra detail. Therefore it is vital to do the week’s reading, especially as they are then discussed in that week’s tutorial. Tutorial participation and attendance is a percentage of the course’s overall grade, so people get involved a lot more and show interest in the topics, which makes the content easier to understand and remember.

In terms of workload, there are fewer essays: I only had to do two this semester. Instead, there are smaller exercises such as group presentations, weekly readings, midterms and final exams. The grade boundaries here are also a lot higher than Manchester with a B- equalling 73-77 and an A- 86-89! Exams for geography typically involve some short answer questions and definitions, and an essay. SFU has exams morning, afternoon and evening during the exam period and even on the weekends! I am definitely not a fan of 7-10pm exams!

Seattle
Seattle
Seattle
Seattle

However my first semester hasn’t been all work. I’ve been up to lots, including visiting Seattle, watching the Canucks play, visiting the Vancouver Aquarium and much more. Vancouver also gets very festive over the holiday season, with snow, the Vancouver Christmas Market (definitely not as good as Manchester’s), Roger’s Santa Claus Parade and Bright Nights at Stanley Park. I can’t believe how quickly this semester has gone and that I’m halfway through my exchange. Time is running out so I really need to get started on my dissertation, as well as doing all the other things I want to do and see. I’m looking forward to second semester and the adventures it brings!

Yaletown
Yaletown
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Downtown
Downtown
Bright Nights at Stanley Park
Bright Nights at Stanley Park

The US Exam System

By Joe Vis (Stony Brook University, The State University of New York, USA)

The Differences in the Exam Process

Studying is obviously a massive part of my time abroad and I haven’t really mentioned it in my blogs so far, so am going to cover it here.

The exam system works a little differently over here and this comes with some pros and cons. Obviously Stony Brook is the only place I have studied, but from what I can gather, these differences are widespread in the US. First of all, there is no January exam period. At Stony Brook, the assessment is continuous throughout the semester. This means that the exams I take towards the middle of December will be my last. There will be no revision over Christmas and January will be completely free which is obviously a massive bonus. However, given I have been in uni since the middle of August as opposed to the end of September, the total study time for the semester is very similar.

The cumulative assessment works differently for different courses. For one of mine, there are three exams throughout the semester, each covering of a third of the course and each worth the same amount. Another splits the grade between three midterm exams worth an increasingly higher proportion, and two essays. One is based just on two essays which I write and my lab module is based on a weekly lab report, weekly quiz and class participation. All of this means that, at times, the workload can be very intense. Due to the nature of the courses, it is very possible to have two essay deadlines in the same week as two midterm exams and a lab report. These weeks can be tough but the thought of a revision free Christmas period helps in getting through them.

Whilst some of the first year modules at Manchester did have online assessments throughout the semester in my first year, they only totalled around 20% of the grade for the module or even less, meaning an individual assessment could be worth less than 5%. The exams at the end of the semester contributed by far the most. This meant that having exams in October that contribute very significantly to my grade was a bit of a shock, but did ensure that I was learning the material from the start rather than cramming close to exam time. Obviously, this is never an advisable tactic, but I’m sure most Manchester students have done it at some point. With the system here, it’s just not possible. The lack of a large pre-exam revision period felt a bit strange at first, but I have found that learning the material in smaller sections as I go long is actually a better way of understanding it.

Another big difference I have noticed is that the major/minor system over here means virtually none of my classmates are studying four higher level biology classes like I am. They will choose maybe two third-year neurobiology classes but then have two “electives”. From what I can gather, pretty much anything goes. One of my lab partners does a first year political science class, whilst another does one about film studies. They seem genuinely surprised that, as a neuroscience student, I would only choose neuroscience or at least biological modules. Some of the other foreign exchange students have taken advantage of the chance to study something different but, all my classes had to be approved by the Department of Life Sciences back at Manchester before I left. They were, understandably, keen for these to match closely with what I would have been studying had I not been abroad. In addition to the extra workload I seem to have compared to my American classmates, I am having to get used to the different grading system. Over here, an A or A+, which is roughly equivalent to a first at home, requires around a 90% average over the course as opposed to 70% in Manchester. This is a little intimidating, and knowing that my grades will be scaled down upon my return means that I am finding myself disappointed with scores that are much higher than I would be achieving back home (percentage-wise).

I have been managing to enjoy myself on top of all the studying. I’ve already visited Washington DC, Philadelphia and Toronto and intend to see Boston before I come home. My family have been to visit, which was eventful but brilliant, and a friend from home is coming to visit soon too. I’ve been taking advantage of being so close to NYC by heading in as much as possible. It feels strange to have such little time left here already but I’ve loved it so far and am looking forward to the time I have left.

Academic Experiences in Melbourne

By Dinah Whitear (University of Melbourne, Australia).

So I’m about half way through my semester here at Melbourne University and I’d say it’s about time to talk about the academic side to my exchange here…

Tomorrow will mark the start of my 9th week here at Melbourne Uni, and with only about 3-4 weeks of teaching period left, I’d say this semester has flown by! It actually scared me when someone said to me the other day ‘so you’re almost done here then’, when I said I was only here for a semester, and I guess it’s true! Well, almost done my actual study period – I’ve made sure I’ve left myself a good month and a bit of travelling time here in Australia afterwards so I won’t be jetting back home anytime soon that’s for sure! So for those of you looking to study at Melbourne Uni, you may be interested to know what it’s like and how the academic aspect differs with Manchester. Well, obviously I can only speak for my subject – I study neuroscience back home at Manchester but am part of the ‘bachelor of science’ degree here at Melbourne (I will explain why later) – but there may be some general aspects that apply to your degree too.

So firstly, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m part of the ‘bachelor of science’ degree here at Melbourne. This is an important point to consider because Melbourne uni, like most other Australian and American unis I think, structure their degrees rather differently – instead of having to choose such a specialised degree from the start of your course, you usually only have to apply for a broad degree like ‘science’ and then you will only have to specialise at the later stage of your degree. So, if I were you I’d get in touch with Melbourne to find out what area exactly you should be looking to apply for because otherwise it can get rather confusing!

Another thing I’ve had to get my head around is the fact that their degrees are four years here, and that’s not including an honours. That means their first year here is much like our last year at college before we go to university, their second year much like our first year at university, and so on. This may mean you may find some overlap in the subject matter in the courses you study here in comparison to Manchester but, as I said, this may only apply to my course and I’m not sure what it would be like in other ones. For this reason, I chose to mix and match the level of my course – I’m a second year student and decided to do three second-year level courses here and then one third-year level course. I have so far found this quite challenging, but in a good way. I do feel that when I go back to Manchester I will be better prepared for the demand of work since the third-year courses here are assessed in a similar way to the third-year courses back home; as a science student I am not used to doing many essays, but my third-year course is in fact 80% essay-based. I guess I do feel pretty intimidated by this but am hoping it’ll all be okay with some hard work!

I have found the lectures here a little different to those at Manchester – I think the class size is slightly smaller, but the main difference being the intimacy of the lectures. I was used to having lecturers standing further away in our lecture halls at Manchester (in my classes anyway) – here, however, I find that they are practically on the first row! As a consequence of this closeness, I have to admit that I have found napping in lectures a lot harder! I don’t think I’ve seen a single person fall asleep here at Melbourne! I guess it’s a good thing and has taught me to switch on that’s for sure!

I’d say the assessment, and therefore the workload, is quite different here for my course as well- for starters, I’ve had mid-semester tests, and quite a lot of them to say the least! This has meant that I’ve had to work a bit more consistently throughout the semester, something I have to admit I wasn’t at first used to. I think it works out quite well though as it means there is less cramming at the end of the semester and means you’re probably better prepared. I’ve had a lot of weekly online tests too -something I am used to back in Manchester – but the style of some has taken some adapting to! Here they do things called ‘blogs’, where it’s almost an online forum with several other classmates where you are assessed for your discussion over a certain topic.

Something I have found dramatically different here, though, is practicals. In Manchester, the life sciences subjects are very lab-based. Here, I’ve had a total of 6 practicals in the whole semester, and that really is nothing in comparison to back home! They don’t seem to have a compulsory practical element like Manchester do, unless you specifically choose a practical-based module. It depends what you’re looking for, but for me, I’ve quite enjoyed the fact that I don’t have to do labs so frequently and the ones that I do do are pretty cool! I’m doing an anatomy module and so we’ve been designated four time slots throughout the semester where we spend some time in a dissection room – for me this was a real draw to Melbourne as I wouldn’t have had the chance to do this back in Manchester. I have found it really interesting and am so glad I’ve had the opportunity to do something I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

So yeah, overall, I would say there are some differences, but in general I wouldn’t say it’s too much of a shock in comparison to the academic lifestyle we’re used to back in Manchester – apparently it’s a lot harder for the American students to get used to because they’re used to a different way of learning. The campus here is great though, such a nice environment to be in – more of a campus feel than a city, little bit more green and so much going on all the time! Although the libraries don’t have as accessible opening hours as those back in Manchester, you learn to work around it and the facilities really are good – I’ve had to get used to working with macs, as that’s pretty much all they use here!!

As a last tip, I’d say make sure you have a good look into all the different course options on offer to you – it is pretty important to make sure you find something you think you will really enjoy! Good luck!