Back in the States, I pride myself on being a very focused and attentive student. That being said, there aren’t any beautiful beaches leading to the picturesque waters of the Indian Ocean in the Midwest.
Though I’m just going into my seventh week of uni (in Australia, the semesters begin in February and run until November) I feel as though I have a pretty solid idea of the most obvious differences between the American and Australian educational systems.
One of the first things I noticed about uni in comparison to my school in the States was how spread out it is. Though there are buildings that surround a large and lush expanse of greenery in the center of campus, the rest of the buildings are scattered off of a straight path. I haven’t walked all the way down to the edge of campus, but I can estimate that from the first building to my farthest class following a straight path, it’s about a 15 minute walk. This is in stark contrast to my university in the States, where I can see my entire campus from my residence hall window and the farthest building is a five minute walk. Luckily, I’ve only gotten lost here twice, and the scenery is worth the walk.
I’m taking an average course load of four units, which translates to 12 credits in the US. And I’m taking advantage of a wider array of classes like Indigenous Politics, Indigenous Studies, Media Relations and Perspectives on Security and Terrorism. There’s a lot of talk in all of my classes about the “Western view,” and I have to keep reminding myself that I am no longer within, arguably, the world’s last remaining superpower, and am instead looking at the US from the outside in, which is an exciting perspective.
Now for the part I was most nervous about when I started uni: the grades. The “A, B, C, D, F” and 4.0 GPA scale that exists in the states is not a thing here, and that’s something that was hard for me to wrap my head around. Here, the respective grading equivalents are “HD, D, C, P, N,” with an “SP” and “SN” thrown in to add more confusion to the mix. Translated, an “HD” is a high distinction, a “D” is a distinction (and is actually really good, which threw me at first), a “C” is credit, a “P” is pass, and an “N” is fail. “SP” and “SN” are respectively pass and fail after supplementary assessment, which really means a second chance by the instructor. I’ve just recently gotten used to it, but it still makes me take a second to think when I’ve received a mark.
Timetable = Schedule
Another difference I wasn’t quite prepared for was the structure of my timetable, which is just my weekly schedule of classes. Unlike in the States, classes at Murdoch only meet once a week for 50 minutes or an hour and are split into lectures and tutorials. Depending on the class, tutorials can be longer and can occur on different days (they’re also where you get your participation points). Though it’s advised, it’s not mandatory at all for you to go to a lecture since all the lectures and powerpoints are put online for you to listen to if you’re not feeling well or are trying to catch up on another assignment. However, I’ve heard this system is different with other areas of study and with other universities, but this is just what I’ve noticed with my classes.
One of my favorite things about being an international student is the unfiltered perceptions of America and its political system and values. It might not be all sugar and smiles, but it’s the genuine experience I was looking for when I decided to go abroad. Though I don’t believe one student can be an accurate representative of an entire country, it is nice when my lecturers give weight to what I have to say as someone who lives in the States. This shouldn’t give the impression that there aren’t a lot of international students at Murdoch, however: there are actually over a thousand! The university and the students are simply so welcoming, it feels as though I’ve gone to school here for longer than just two months.
If you have any comments or questions about Perth and Murdoch University I would love to hear about them below. Cheers!