4 Differences Between Australia and America

I studied abroad at Griffith University in Gold Coast Australia. It was an amazing experience that I look back on fondly; thinking back on the time now, however, I realize that the time abroad impacted me through the differences in the university structure compared UMaine’s.

I pretty much assumed that, because I was attending a university in an English-speaking country, most things would be the same whether it was classes or attending clubs. There were definitely similarities like attending lectures and doing readings for my courses; however, unlike what I took at UMaine, the courses in Australia had a few big assignments that made up the entire grade. For example, I only had a midterm and a final that weighed on my final grade. In comparison, UMaine is very different with assignments that are usually due throughout the week. This is something to be prepared for if you’re planning on going abroad to Australia as you might not have an assignment due every week. It’s a much more independent and individualized learning approach where the students are expected to either spend their time studying for upcoming exams or working on papers. This allowed me to learn more about myself and my learning capabilities. I found my time management skills increasing alongside my ability to adapt to my curriculum setting. The impact on my academic and personal life wasn’t noticeable while in the country but it’s certainly something I notice, and am grateful for, now.

A second difference I noticed was that courses had regular weekly meetings with the main professor but, on top of these meetings, students were expected to attend additional tutorial sessions hosted by the professor’s TA. These lectures were based on the traditional lecture-style we’ve come to know in the US; meanwhile, the tutorial sessions were discussion-based and a place where the student could bring up any questions they may have had. This style of learning opened my eyes to the needed skill of engaging and debating with my fellow classmates in a way that I didn’t find myself part of while a student at UMaine. While my classes at my home university did occasionally offer debate sessions, especially within my major, these tutorial sessions hosted by the TA offered a space that had a better and more accepting atmosphere for such debates.

The third thing to keep in mind is that credits transfer over differently between countries and universities. One course at Griffith university in Australia equaled four credits at my home university. This means that I only would have had to take three courses in Australia to meet my minimum requirement of 12 credits. I had much more time free to be able to enjoy and explore my host country. That’s not to say that students looking to study abroad should take that to mean they can slack off. One should always keep in mind the difficulty level of the courses in the host country because, while you may only be required to take three or four classes, the content may be more dense and complicated. 

Finally, the grading is completely different in other areas of the world. America tends to grade pretty hard in comparison to some place. One of those places just so happens to be Australia, so keep this in mind as you apply for your program abroad. In Australia, grades are given on a scale from 1-7. For letter grades, this goes from failure to high distinction. To get a 4, or a pass you, need a 50-64%. Taking a look at the requirements from the University of Maine, this is a lower score than one would normally need just to get a C! However, from personally experience, I also found that my professors in Australia graded a lot more harshly than at my home university. Maybe it was simply luck of the draw, or maybe the differences actually do balance out!

— Alex McKay (Gold Coast, Australia), Peer Advisor