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:
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?
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.
And those labs, or as they’re sometimes called, “practicals.” I come from a school where I’m used to it being like this:
Here, all my labs are like this:
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:
And this was after I harassed the lab TA.
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:
All the students I’ve met here, on the other hand, have been like this:
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.
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.
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?
So maybe I’m not so screwed after all?
Ok, ok, I kid. I’m still super-worried about my classes. But, instead of this:
I’ve downgraded to this:
It’s an improvement.