Australia is a great country. You’ll find so much adventure here as well as a lot of great people; I swear Australia has some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met! However, if you’ve decided to study abroad here, or you’re looking to, there are a couple of things that you should keep in mind…. nothing that will change you mind about coming here (seriously, you’ll love it!), but just some things, pertaining to academics, I wish someone would have prepared me for before arriving.
The biggest difference between college in the U.S. and university in Australia is the grading system. Of course grading will vary from each school, but typically in the U.S.a 94-100% is considered an A, 90-93% an A-, 86-89% a B+, 83-85% is a B, 80-83% is a B-, and so on. The ‘average’ grade in America is a C and around 75%. However things are completely different in Australia. The grading system is laid out with High Distinction (100-85), Distinction (84-75), Credit (74-65), and lastly Pass (64-50). Anything lower than a 50 you didn’t pass the course.
In America, I would strive for an A average in my classes. In Australia, it seems that people were just happy to pass or get a credit. It’s a little discouraging to get a 69 on a paper, but being told that I did a really good job, when back in America a 90 or higher would be a good paper. It definitely took a little bit of time to adjust to it and realize that even though my grade was lower than what I was use to, I was in fact still doing well.
Lecture and Tutorials
All my classes here in Australia are divided into two sections; lectures and tutorials. The equivalent to these two sections in America would be like a lecture and a lab. Once a week, I would have a lecture for my class, which could range from an hour to two hours and a tutorial, which is a more intimate setting of around 25 people once again, either an hour or two. The lecture and tutorial could be on the same day or on two different days. This means that I would have each subject twice a week. Lectures typically didn’t have attendance, but all my tutorials had attendance at the beginning of class, making them essential classes to go to.
Unlike textbooks in America where you have a lot of options on where to get them from, in Australia, there’s only one. In Australia, you can’t rent your textbooks. You either have to buy them or borrow them from the library. I ended up finding a student Facebook page for my university and was able to buy a used textbook. Other than that, I just found the reading online or borrowed it from the library.
I was told that in the heart of Sydney, there is more of a party scene in university. However, at the school I went to and what I heard from other universities in Australia, the party scene isn’t big and they almost idolize how American college is like. On my campus there were activities constantly going on, but in reference to parties specifically, there was about a party once every couple of weeks.
Referencing it important regardless of what country you’re from. You never want to plagiarize someone else’s work. I did however find that referencing in Australia was a lot stricter than I’ve found at my home university. Referencing was also done in the Harvard Style, so keep that in mind if it’s different from how you’re use to.
Personal Base Assignments
There are only a couple assignments throughout the semester. This is completely different than back home where I would have papers, projects, exams, and numerous homework assignments throughout the semester. In Australia, there are some classes that you might have online quizzes for each chapter, a paper, and a final exam, or just only have a final exam. This means that passing exams is essential to pass the course and there’s no way to make up a bad exam score. I personally did not like this aspect, I like the option to raise my grade by doing a lot of assignments throughout the semester and one assignment doesn’t impact my whole grade.
If you’re from the UK, you won’t have a problem with the spelling, since it’s the same as you’re used to. If you’re from America, the spelling will take some time to get used to. Some professors might be understanding and others may not be and deduct points for words spelled incorrectly. The main difference between the countries is a ‘u’ being added to words such as ‘colour,’ ‘favourite,’ and ‘flavour’.
The first day of class in one of my lectures my professor talked to the class about how in America, students participate more in class, challenge the professor and other students with different ideas and concepts, and do more group work then in Australia. I found this to be completely true. Even in courses, especially in tutorials where the professor encouraged discussion, most students stayed silent and didn’t interact. I found that in class discussions I was normally the person to initiate the discussion since that’s what I was used to back home.
Part of the experience of studying abroad is adapting yourself to your new environment and experiencing what life is like in another country. You should immerse yourself in the Australian culture and enjoy your experience studying abroad. Hopefully this post gives you a better idea of what to expect when studying in Australia. Enjoy it your semester or year abroad, you’ll love it!