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By Zachary Brumback

While searching for a study abroad program, there are so many universities to choose from. Since I had always dreamed of visiting Australia, I was able to narrow the long list of potential universities. After researching various universities in Australia, I decided to apply to the University of Sydney (USYD). USYD was the first university to establish the study of politics and international relations in Australia and continues to be a world-leading institution in political science. Since I am a political science major, I believed that the university had the best curriculum and overall environment to help me achieve my study abroad goals.

Courses like International Organisations, Emotions and Public Policy, Media Politics and Political Communication, along with Youth and Digital Culture were perfect fits for my interests and complemented my academic growth. By taking these classes, I was able to stay on track with my political science curriculum and had the opportunity to learn about politics from a different cultural perspective. Studying abroad at USYD was an excellent, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore career options, hone my academic and professional skill set, and embrace the vibrant culture of Sydney. During the semester, I was able learn more about politics in Australia and the rest of the world through classes, while simultaneously developing long-lasting relationships with a peer-network that shared my passion. In addition, I had the opportunity to travel and explore the East Coast of Australia.

If you are unsure where you should study abroad, I highly recommend that you choose a region and then begin researching the various universities that best suit your personal and academic interests. Once you have selected a university, it is time to decide where you are going to live. Will you live on campus or off campus? In a dorm or an apartment? If you decide to study in Australia, I strongly encourage you to reside in an academic residential college.

If you are interested in learning more about living in a “college,” make sure to read my final blog entry regarding my time and unique experiences at St. Paul’s College. Till next time.

By Zachary Brumback

With less than a month left in Australia, my friends and I decided to attend the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition. From October 18th-November 4th, the scenic beach walk between Bondi to Tamarama Beach serves as the largest free sculpture gallery in the world. With 100 sculptures on display, there is a piece for everyone to enjoy. If you end up studying abroad in Sydney, this event is a must “sea.” With that said, I recommend that you do not make the same mistake that I did and go on the last day.


On the following day, a friend and I travelled by bus, train, and ferry to reach the Hornby Lighthouse. Instead of getting off the bus at the nearest bus stop, a fellow passenger recommended that my friend and I walk along the scenic cliff walk. As a result, we exited the bus where she suggested. Little did we know that we were 2.5 miles away from our destination. As we neared our destination, we were completely caught off guard when there was an Australian Department of Defence base blocking our walking path. Since the base did not appear on Google Maps or SnapMap we had to ask a military officer at the gate for directions. Luckily, we just had to turn on another side road. Along the way, we ended up walking past a nude beach. As you can see our journey to an ordinary lighthouse was full of surprises.


Later that evening I attended a play performed by students residing at St. Paul’s College and the Women’s College at USYD. The play was titled The Bold, The Young, and The Murdered. In order to provide you with an overview of the performance, I have included the play’s summary. “The long-running soap opera The Bold and the Young is in its last days: its hunky hero has self-esteem issues, its villainous old man is more interested in soup, and its heroines are slightly psychopathic. The executive producer gives the squabbling cast an ultimatum: Complete one episode overnight or the show dies. But when the director ends up murdered, and other cast members start dropping like flies, it seems like his threat might actually come true. Can these misfits discover the murderer before the show is literally killed off?”


Since many of the performers are friends of mine, I was on the edge of my seat. Would one of my friends be murdered next or was one of them the killer? The production had the entire audience guessing who the culprit was until the final minute of the production. I never saw the ending coming; three actors conspired together and killed their cast members to advance their careers. Ironically, three of my friends were the murderers. If the three decide to pursue a career in acting, they will not have to “kill” anyone to succeed.

During STUVAC, a week-long break to “study” for exams, I decided to go with a friend of mine from Australia to the 360 Bar and Dining. The restaurant is located in the Sydney Tower Eye and is elevated a thousand feet above Sydney. While dining, the restaurant slowly revolves and provides customers with a 360-degree view of the city. On a clear day, individuals can see up to 60 miles away. Due to the spectacular view of the city, I highly recommend this to anyone studying abroad or just visiting Sydney.

By Zachary Brumback

With the semester coming to an end, I have successfully completed two of my four classes. Unlike my experience with classes at GW, USYD offers several classes consisting of only written assessments. As a result, I only have two exams this semester- International Organisations and Media Politics and Political Communication. Here at USYD, all students receive a week off from school to study for their upcoming finals. This break is known as STUVAC, which is an acronym for “Study Vacation.” My first final, International Organisations, is this coming Friday. My last final, Media Politics and Political Communication, is on Thursday, November 22nd.

As I prepare for my two finals, I thought it was most appropriate to blog about how Australia’s grading scale differs from the United States. Unlike the A-F scale, Australia uses HD-F. A High Distinction (HD) is a “mark” between an 85-100. A Distinction is a 75-84. A Credit is a 65-74, and a Pass is a 50-64. Although it seems that receiving a High Distinction would be fairly easy to obtain, I can confirm that it is not. For instance a HD converts to an A+ at GW. With that said a Distinction converts to an A, a Credit to a B, and a Pass to a C.

After turning in my first assignment, I was discouraged when I did not receive a HD. According to the Government Department at USYD, a student will only receive a 90 or higher if their assessment is deemed publishable in an academic journal. Therefore, a student is doing well if they receive Credits or Distinctions (a 65-84) on their assignments. Speaking from experience, it takes a while to get used to the “harsh” grading system.  So far I have only received three HDs on my assignments.

Also, when registering for classes in Australia it is important to remember that the number of credit hours differ from GW. Currently, I am taking 24 Australian Credits. When transfering my credits back to GW, this will count as 16 credit hours. In addition, it is important to remember that during your time abroad you are on a Pass/Fail grading scale. Therefore, students must receive a 50 or higher in all of their classes to receive credit. Also, prior to studying abroad and registering for classes, students should obtain course approvals from GW using the CATS system.

Since students are on a Pass/Fail scale, the grades received abroad do not factor into your GPA at GW. Due to this, I decided not to take electives while abroad. Instead, I registered for classes that are required for my degree that I deemed to be the hardest. As a result, I was under less pressure and could enjoy other elements of studying abroad. However, due to the academic rigor, I was unable to check-off everything on my Australian bucket list.  Although I was unable to check-off everything, I have had a wonderful time in Australia and have had a number of unforgettable adventures. Speaking of adventures, my next blog will consist of my most recent journeys around Sydney.

With an exam in less than four days I have to get back to studying. Till next time.

By Zachary Brumback

On Saturday, July 14th, I would embark on a journey of a lifetime to Sydney, Australia,...

or so I thought. Before arriving at the airport, my plane to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas (DFW), was

delayed by half an hour. At that time, I shrugged off the delayed notification and headed to the

airport. Upon arriving, I discovered that my flight had once again been delayed. After I learned

that, I began to question whether or not my four-hour layover at DFW would suffice. As I

patiently and nervously waited in the airport, my flight to Texas continued to be delayed due to

“mechanical problems.” However, American Airlines assured me that I would make my

connection at DFW. After the seventh delay, it was evident that I would not be able to make my

connection. Since I did not want to be stranded at DFW, American Airlines re-booked me for the

next day’s flight. As a result, I headed home and notified the university that my arrival would be

delayed by a day.

...continue reading "Expect the Unexpected"