June 2, 2015

Uni vs. College

27 days.

I can’t believe there are only 27 days left.

Finals season is upon us at The University of Auckland (UoA). Now that I’ve been here for almost an entire semester, I thought I’d do a comparison between college in the US and Uni in NZ for anyone reading interested in studying abroad in here.

UoA Crest
(via google images)
One thing I’ve found from talking to the kiwis here is that the Uni experience, itself, is viewed in a slightly different way than “the college experience” in the States. In the States, college is portrayed as this massive growing experience where you move away from home and learn to live on your own, whereas in NZ it’s seen as more of a ‘next step’ to further one’s education in the specialisation they will eventually secure a job.

School of Business courtyard, UoA.
(via google images)
The University of Auckland is a fairly large commuter school so students still tend live at home, though some do go flatting around the city.  Since students tend to live at home, they also bring with them to Uni the same friend group they had in high school unlike in the States where it is expected that you will make new, lifelong friendships in college. In addition, because many students commute, Uni operating hours are quite different from college hours in the States. Most buildings at The University of Auckland are open from ~8am to ~8 pm, give or take a couple of hours in the evening, depending on if the building is an office or a study space like the library. The general library on campus is only open until 10pm on weekdays, which was something to get used to coming from a college where late-night studying is a necessity. Due to the commuter nature of UoA, again, most students come to Uni, work done during the day, and go home, so there is really no need to have the library open for any longer. There’s also another commons study space that’s open until midnight, but to my knowledge there are no buildings open longer than that.

General library, UoA.
(via google images)
Kate Edgar Commons, additional study space.
(via google images)
University study is also formatted differently than study in the States. In the States there are generally far more assignments all worth a lower percentage of your grade, which is good because it keeps you constantly interacting with the material. It’s bad, however, because it can lead to more “filler” assignments from Profs and just an overall higher workload that discourages individual exploration of one’s topic because you’re always focused on the work the Prof has given you. Here at Uni there are far fewer assignments all worth considerably higher percentages of your grade, which is slightly scary, but in my opinion completely worth it. This way you are able to focus when you need to, but also able to relax not having to constantly be doing assignments. You then also have free time to explore topics on your own. In the States, college becomes life because at least in my case once the semester starts there’s little time for anything else. Here I was actually able to have a life outside of studying, and can confidently say that I learned quite a bit anyway. The only downside to this system is that students have to be completely self-motivated to not put assignments off until the last minute and stay in contact with the material in the time between assignment due dates.

In my first blog post I noted the considerable size difference between Franklin & Marshall College in the US and The University of Auckland (2, 324 vs. 30, 771 undergrads), and throughout this semester I’ve definitely noticed a difference in Uni based on the size.  F&M is a small liberal arts college where, because it’s so small, there are a variety opportunities to try out different subjects, activities, or pursue hobbies in addition to your formal education. Here at Uni, there are students in all subjects not just pursuing hobbies but specializing for a career, leaving no room for students less committed to casually explore something (like an additional major in Music…) on a whim. There’s also less room for lecturers to be as flexible as they could be if their class size was 10 students rather than 100, so I’ve felt generally less babied here than I sometimes feel at F&M.

School of Music courtyard, UoA.
(via google images)
One final considerable difference between Uni and college in the States is, well, the price. College in the States is outrageously expensive. Uni in NZ is considerably less expensive, and students in some income ranges even qualify for a weekly allowance to help with non-academic related costs, like food. It’s actually astounding how different the price is.

Overall, I can definitely see pros and cons to each system. At this point in the semester my leanings favor the Uni system here. Sure it takes a great deal of self-motivation to not procrastinate and stay in contact with the material, but it’s totally worth it to be able to have a life outside of academia. I’ve enjoyed being able to pursue my interests at F&M in greater depth because of the small size of the college, but thinking back on how stressed I’ve been at times due to the massive workload (which, granted, was somewhat self-imposed) I seriously question how I kept my sanity. I’ll have to remember this freedom when it comes time next semester to eat, sleep, and breathe schoolwork back at home in my last year (!) of college. 

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