Redeeming a Stolen Summer
Sydney’s winter may as well be Seattle’s summer.
I’m postulating that the city doesn’t even have seasons at this point. Perhaps summer, and then a slightly-less-than-summer every half year or so. Every day is flawless, making Seattle’s attempts at good weather little fledgling tries in comparison to Sydney’s effortlessly sunny glamour
Nonetheless, Seattle’s summer is Sydney’s winter, meaning I staggered out of the American realm of academia in June, only to end up in Aussie lecture halls by late July. As I’m operating on only a half recharged battery [if that], the Sydney city siren that lured me over here is having the last laugh as I grudgingly bury my nose in a textbook and pretend like the sun outside is a myth.
In fact, I was so resentful of having been robbed of my summer that I didn’t go to class my first day.
[The class was then cancelled, somewhat lessening the effect.]
However, when I cautiously made my way over to the campus on day dos, the combined effect of the sun and the campus and the variegated hum of Australian accents was blinding to the senses. That first day is a rather defining moment really. You’re set apart [officially] from the common tourist specimen, and set back to your first day of school ever where you don’t know anyone or anything [and because really, you are more lost than you like to believe you appear].
The University of Sydney is stunning. Having been fond of the UW’s gothic architecture set against endless evergreen walls, I was taken aback by the instant liking I took to the magnificent sandstone structures on U Syd’s sprawling main campus. This constitutes Australia’s first university, founded in 1850, which sets it at an almost-decade older than the University of Washington (1861). True to the time they were founded in, many of the facets that make me fall ever more in love with the UW are to be found here– the gardens tucked in unassuming corners, the statues hidden in said gardens, the gargoyles [with Sydney Uni housing some of the oddest variations on the stone species I’ve ever encountered..], the hints of stained glass coloring your path from one lecture to the next. The sheer amount of detail in the weathered buildings is easy to glance over at a distance, but always worth setting aside a moment for.
Opposite aesthetics on the spectrum lie academics, to which I give a potential nod of approval [which quite depends on the grades I end up with at the program’s end]. The system is similar enough to the American one, but nuanced enough that the difference is palpable. Rather than constant evaluation (whether in the form of presentations, tests, or quizzes), there are a fewer amount of larger, more heavily weighted assignments spread throughout the semester. This means rather than juggling midterms every other week on top of lectures and lab and weekly assignments, there is on average a mid-semester assessment and a large end-of-term essay that constitutes the majority of your grade, give or take a project or presentation or two depending on the class.
I’ll leave my comparison there though to be fair, as this could also be attributed to the UW running on the quarter system. With each period spanning roughly three and a half months, that intensely rapid pace is an almost guaranteed trap that the semester system doesn’t fall into.
Classes here fall into the same category of having that effect of a mildly raised eyebrow. The Australian or British lilt to professors’ words make just about any topic interesting, even without the fact that many of these lecturers are absolutely brilliant in their own right. From pulling faces in emotional psychology with de Rosnay, to a banana muffin affinity from the Outdoor Education instructor, to lectures on Indigenous Australia by a wickedly intelligent woman in a fur coat and green turban; it’s a phrenic buffet both in terms of content and setting—
— and this is all to say absolutely nothing of life outside the Uni. So as far as other options go, considering my stolen American summer, I believe this Australian alternative will [more than] suffice.