University of Sydney is kicking my booty.

I’m a study abroad student. I’m only going to be in Australia for one semester. And for most one-semester students, there’s a common theme:

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However, Northeastern does not allow me to take all my classes pass/fail. No, every single class I take here will count towards my GPA– and this is a worrying thought.

You see, when you’re not some study abroad student paying out the wazoo to go to school in Australia, the University of Sydney is actually very competitive. USyd falls within the top 50 unis in the world (as opposed to Northeastern, which is still trying to break the top 50 in the USA) and is number 3 in Australia.

So, the school is more competitive, and the students are resultantly smart. But I’m smart too! Right?

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Australian uni culture, as far as I’ve seen, is a little different from the USA. For one, it’s much more independent. Here, kids are expected to sort of figure things out on their own. Great emphasis is placed on the final exam. Professors do not have office hours. And the load is heavier. As a biology major, I’ve found that every single class in bio has a lab, meaning that science kids usually have 4 labs in a single semester. In the States, I’ve been warned not to take more than two.

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And those labs, or as they’re sometimes called, “practicals.” I come from a school where I’m used to it being like this: 

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Here, all my labs are like this: 

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Of course, I might learn more if the university doesn’t hold my hand. On the other hand, I’m totally lost. After I did my first evolutionary genetics lab sans guidance or explanation, I got my grade back:

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And this was after I harassed the lab TA.

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Oh, no.

So far, I’ve been saved by my lab partners, who are usually Australians who actually know what’s happening. Actually, it’s really shocked me at how much they know. You see, I’m used to this: 

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All the students I’ve met here, on the other hand, have been like this: 

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Perhaps I’ve been encountering an odd breed of students, but all the kids I’ve met really love their respective subjects. They often mention truly wanting to learn, and how they aim for the knowledge rather than the grade. As someone who’s hated every course I’ve taken, this concept is foreign to me. I’m impressed, to be honest.

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And I’m also dead. The grading system at the University of Sydney is a little different from the USA. While US unis will often hand out A’s, the University of Sydney grades everything on a bell curve.

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Since I’m surrounded by this incredible population of passionate students, there’s no way I’m reaching that top 3 percent of kids. I’ll be surprised if I get “credit.” Shoot. How am I supposed to keep the minimum 3.5 GPA I need to retain my scholarship?

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So maybe I’m not so screwed after all?

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Ok, ok, I kid. I’m still super-worried about my classes. But, instead of this: 

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I’ve downgraded to this: 

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It’s an improvement.

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12 thoughts on “University of Sydney is kicking my booty.

  1. ,,,Those last three images basically make up my life. Haha. Some days I feel like a headless chicken and I have noooooooooooooooooo idea what I’m doing at university then I remember that I don’t have to get 50% for anything and I’m passing! Haha. The grading systems aren’t too shabby over here :]

    • I’M SO LOST! Man, I wasn’t even this lost as a freshman. Darn you, weird Australian universities!
      Out of curiosity, how does the grading system work on your end? It’s always interesting to hear how different colleges work.

      • Haha I think I’m allowed to feel lost since I am a freshman! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Free pass!
        As for the grading, I’ve never reaaaaaaaaally given it too much thought. I think it’s something like: 85% = A+, 80% = A, 75% = A-, 70% = B- ..You get the point haha. 50% = C and that’s the last passing grade :] We also have RP = restricted pass and P = ungraded pass but I don’t have much experience with those :/

  2. Heya, I’ve just stumbled on your blog! It’s a pretty great read, from what I’ve read! I’m a domestic student at USyd, in my 1st year of a Bachelor of Medical Science. Haha, I hope you’re enjoying your time here, and I’m looking forward to more posts!

    • Hi, and thanks for reading– I’m really glad you’ve been enjoying my blog. 😀 I’m definitely enjoying my time in Sydney, even if my classes are a bit different from what I’m used to. I’ll definitely be posting more about Australia soon!

      Also: Hooray fellow science student!

  3. “You’re designing your own experiment. Ok, go.” Funniest part of the post. No. The beginning where you questioned your own intelligence and then laughed hysterically. NO! The part where you compared the degree to which the students of the two cultures enjoy their major. Where the ‘Murican said that his major was fine, but then had the Australians going DONKEYS about their majors. That was seriously the funniest thing I have seen for the past week. Enjoy the weather, the people, the accents, the view, the animals, the short clothes, the academic enthusiasm, the easier (in certain cases) grading system, the beach, the food, the….. wait a second. How IS the food there? Is it the same? Are you trying anything new that you can? Oh, and good luck on those classes; I just started mine.

    • Oh that’s right, all you kids back in the USA are just starting classes now! It’s weird; I’ve already been in classes for a month.
      You know, Australia doesn’t really have its own national cuisine. It’s a bit like the US in that the country is very diverse, therefore there’s a mish-mash of all different foods here! (Especially Asian food. Australia has a high proportion of Asians, so there are Asian restaurants EVERYWHERE in Sydney.) Though there are a couple foods that are distinctly “Australian,” like vegemite or Tim Tams. (I’ve tried both– vegemite is gross and Tim Tams are awesome.) Did you know that Australians eat kangaroo? Kangaroos are so common here that they’re actually a pest, like deer in the US! There’s a restaurant down the street that sells kangaroo burgers, and you can buy kangaroo meat in local supermarkets.

      • No I did not know that. Eating kangaroo sounds very strange; however, if it is like eating deer in the United States, then I can understand. Tim Tams look awesome! Ah. When you mention all of the Asians and the Asian cuisine it only makes me want to be there more!! I know that it can be uncertain now, but based on your classes now, how do you think you will do with your final GPA?

        • Not well. NOT WELL AT ALL. Ok, well, if I was in the US, I think I would be able to handle these classes quite ok. But here, since I’m trying to do EVERYTHING (getting involved in my residential college, seeing the city, travelling around, being social, etc. etc. etc.) having time for anything is becoming quite a challenge. Though… now that I think about it, that sounds like every other semester I’ve had so far in university. No! This is different! This is Australia! I HAVE to explore while I can! Ahhh but my grades TT____TT

          Ahaha, sorry. That’s the debate that roars in my head every day. Mostly, I’m hoping to pass– but since most of your grade hinges on the final exam here, it’s impossible to tell at the moment.

  4. So, my roommate passed this on to me this morning. I am also a northeastern student at USyd this semester! How have we not met yet? 😛 I have been going through the exact same struggles these past five weeks!

    • Oh man, I’m glad someone else can relate! Sometimes I really feel like the stupid American here.
      The weird thing is, I have yet to meet any of the other Northeastern students at USyd! I know a lot of them are living in Ultimo, but I’m over in Chippendale. Have you met any of the NU students yet?

  5. Hi there. I studied in an australian university and that was exactly how I felt. I am a Singaporean. Being too used to be given instructions and follow them, I felt the australian education were too much of a free thinking system. The worst of it, you can study ALOT and study SMART, but still fail the entire module and repeat it OR the highest you get is most probably a credit. It is like paying school fees and wasting your time in school with empty talks about passion alone while failing or barely make it with a pass for a module.

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