As of late I have been holed up in the ‘Reid Library of Doom’ writing essays upon essays and this is my first post in well over a month. I apologise for not having posted sooner as I’m aware many of you back home will currently be in the process of applying for exchange and could use some extra info on what can be a daunting process. Seeing as I’ve come to the end of my first semester I thought now would be a good time to reflect on how I have found the study aspect of my study abroad experience. This post will be largely dedicated to describing the ins and outs of studying at UWA and how their academic system differs from UofG’s.
I remember from doing my application that I found translating credits from UofG to UWA slightly confusing, so here’s a quick breakdown. A full time load is 24 credits at UWA and this is the equivalent to 60 credits at Glasgow. To make up 24 credits each semester you will be taking 4 units, worth 6 credits each. Over the whole year I’ll be doing 8 units worth 48 credits, which translates to 120 credits back home. Also, UWA have different unit levels, all my unit levels have been level 3 this year because I’m in the third year of my degree but I’ve met many home students who do a semester load at varied levels and I get the impression that degrees are quite flexible here. I’m not too sure if any unit level above or below level 3 is suitable for me but one of my subject coordinators back home told me only to take level 3 but I guess you would have to speak to your own subject coordinator about the possibility of doing units at different levels.
As far as I’m aware I would have been doing 3 courses/units at Glasgow each semester this year and part of me wishes that I was doing 3 here because at times I have found having an extra course to do reading, studying and assignments for quite difficult. I feel that maybe I could have put more work into each unit if I had only 3 to focus on rather than 4. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every unit I’ve taken so far and appreciated the opportunity to learn as much as possible while here.
UWA have a fairly wide range of courses but before applying here just make sure they have enough to cover 4 units per semester and you’d be clever to pick out some spare units you could take in the case that you have some unfixable clashes or a unit ends up not running. You have 2 weeks after semester starts to change your units too if you feel like you won’t enjoy a class or it isn’t what you thought it was. The process in place for changing units at UWA is fairly easy. As I’m doing a joint honours degree I was somewhat spoilt for choice because I pick 2 history and 2 anthropology units and there was plenty of interesting units to pick from.
I have found the teaching standard to be of excellent quality and I’ve gotten on well with my lecturers and classmates so far. I also feel that the student-lecturer relationship is a bit less formal here but this is definitely a good thing as I’ve found it easier to ask questions and seek help with assignments. Some of my lectures take place in classroom style settings but others take place in traditional lecture halls. On average I had around an hour and half of lectures per unit per week (2 lectures at 45 minutes each) with an hour long tutorial per unit per week also. My earliest lecture was at 9am and the latest at 3pm. Every lecture for every unit I took this semester was posted online (at one lecture a few months ago I was the only student there as most watch online) and UWA’s equivalent of Moodle is really user-friendly and efficient.
Tutorials are very similar to UofG’s here at UWA. Participation is usually marked at 15-20% of your final grade and each week you’re given 2-3 readings for each unit and you’re expected to do those readings and contribute to the discussion. In all honesty I found it hard to fit in 2-3 readings each week for every unit. Most weeks I had to do an average of 8-10 readings all in, while keeping up with other assignments etc. Sometimes the readings can be quite long but the content is almost always interesting. Another bit of advice I would offer is to find units you know you’ll enjoy studying if possible, as it should make the study aspect of your study abroad experience a bit more interesting.
All of my course work this year has been assignment based, meaning I had no end of year exams (!!!). I have found assessments at UWA to be both similar and different to back home but I would definitely say that they are more frequent here. They are different in the sense that for one unit I wrote a film review, which I’ve never done before and also another of my units required me to take part in fortnightly discussions on an online message board, where you and other students would discuss a topic/debate outlined by the lecturer. Participation in this made up for 15% of my final mark and I found it quite an interesting and innovative assessment method. Assessments are similar in the sense that I’m required to do major essays (five to be exact), usually around 2000-2500 words and these can make up anything from 30%-65% of your final mark. For two of my history essays this year I was allowed to set my own topic/question and then research it, which I’ve never had the freedom to do before. It’s slightly more difficult than having a question set for you but ultimately it means that you can pick a topic you’re really interested in and the end result is usually a bit more satisfying, knowing that you have done every aspect of an assignment.
Here’s a table I’ve been using to understand my UWA grades in UofG terms. Grades are percentage based, rather than A, B or C.
In terms of study space, the main library at UWA is the Reid Library aka The Reid Library of Doom, and even though there are only 3 floors, it’s quite spacious and normally easy to find a study desk. Library is open until 2AM and is 24 hour during exam period. I’ve spent so much time in this library recently that Google maps on my phone has registered it as my home address! Although I’m not keen to move in there, it definitely does the job as a study space. My favourite thing about this library is getting to watch the UWA ducks (who have their own Facebook page) as I eat my lunch. There’s a small café on the bottom floor that also has a row of microwaves available for students to heat their lunch, which I found quite handy and used a lot. I think there are some major refurbishments going on in the library in between semesters so next year it should be a bit more modern/up to date. There is also the Law Library and the Barry J Marshall Science Library, which I’ve only been in once or twice but is very modern, spacious and clean.