4 of the 12 months I?m spending here in Australia have now gone, but I have actually completed 50% of the year academically. So I figured I could explain a bit about the academic side of the exchange in-case others are thinking of taking up a similar opp
We have 2 semesters here, not three terms. It is only now in the closing weeks of the 1st one that I have felt the tiredness and mental fatigue associated with doing a much longer stint without a break than at home. Including exams and the mid semester break (1 week) it has been a 17 week term.
The university runs on a credit system, a full year requiring you to complete 48 credits. I can actually choose any subject within the Aeronautical, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering Department. Subjects vary between 3 and 6 credits though I have found the work loads do not differ as much as the credits given would suggest. 12 credits are already taken up with the main 4th year thesis.
One could have been forgiven for thinking I was doing ?presentation engineering? for the first half of the semester. There is a massive emphasis on group work and oral presentation. I was always told that Imperial had one of the highest work loads on students but Sydney has been just as heavy, if not heavier. Tutorial sheets may not feature high up on lecturers? agenda but I had written coursework coming out of my ears none stop the whole time. One of the courses was entirely taught by us, the students, by researching various aspects of materials and then presenting this research in the lectures every week.
A subject very close to my heart at Imperial and thus worth a mention here is the Library facilities. There are no departmental libraries but very adequate faculty libraries with plenty of staff and a wide rang of material. Quite a few books are in storage but an online application service will see the book, journal or paper in your hands within 24hours. There is an online sort of MSN-type conversation opportunity to talk to librarians whenever the libraries are open if you are struggling to find electronic information. The main campus library has excellent printing, scanning and photocopying facilities. There are several 10 minute stations where you can do quick printing and scanning. These computers have no access to the internet other than college email and will log you off after 10 minutes regardless if you?re finished or not. Fantastic idea in my opinion!
And so to the obvious?exams at Sydney. None of my exams have been over 2 hours which is nice. But inevitably with a huge volume of written work, there is then a huge volume of information to learn. Due to the deadlines on coursework I did not start revising for exams until 4 days before my first one. In the exams the papers were late, there was no air-conditioning (the outside temperature being 30oC) and building works going on outside. No-one told me they?d asked Sydney to make me feel quite so at home during exams!! There are two people to a desk with a trendy cardboard triangle in the middle stuck down with brown tape to stop you copying your neighbour?s work. At least we get comfortable chairs instead of the Mech Eng lab stools to sit on.
But the best bit on the academic side of things is the 4 month holiday over the summer months so I can go to New Zealand, Fiji, Kangeroo Island, Tasmania and the Formula One Grand Prix.
Finally, an update on the roach situation: I had just woken up and went downstairs to make a cup of tea, as us Poms invariably do in a morning. While waiting for the kettle to boil I spotted 2 ginger feelers poking out of the side of the toaster. One spray of Mortein, a 2 second wait and one dead cockroach feel to the work surface with a resounding ?click?. Boomerang 1, Roach 0! Haha!