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By claudiadev

One of the big differences I've noticed since being in America is the language barrier. Not the same barrier the other exchange students’ experience - I'm hopeless with languages and so impressed with their bilingual abilities! The language barrier I'm experiencing is the different words and terminology. To illustrate, here's a list of Australian words (and abbreviations) I say, and the American words I'm learning to say. I’ve also put the words in a conversation, just to hopefully illustrate the confusion.

Corridor/Hallway or Hall – “My friend Rhiannon lives down the Corridor.” “You mean down the hallway?”

Lift/Elevator – “Why are you catching the elevator, you live on the second floor.” “I’m not catching the elevator, I’m catching the lift…”

Ground Floor/First Floor – “The mailboxes are on the Ground Floor right?” “Uhh, they’re on the first floor?”

Bin/Trash – “Throw the leftovers in the Bin” “The bin? I was thinking of just putting them in the trash?”

Runners/Sneakers – “Let me just pull my runners on and then I’m ready for the gym.” “Okay…oh, you mean your sneakers!”

Jumper/Sweater – “I need to buy a new jumper, it’s freezing here.” “Why would a dress help” “I mean a sweater!”

Keen/Interested or excited – “I’m keen to go for Sweet Green for lunch, are you?” “Keen? Oh, you mean excited! Sure, that sounds good”

Sunnies/Sunglasses – “My sunnies have broken!”

Arvo/Afternoon – “Want to go to Bourbon for a coffee in the Arvo?” “The arvo? When’s that?”

Kilometers/Miles – “The airport is about 20 miles away.” “…how many kilometers is that?”

Grams/Ounces – “The recipe says I need 125 grams of butter…but this is in ounces…I’m going to need to Google this!”

Centimeters and Meters/Inches and Feet – “The mail box is around 15 meters away” “…and in feet that is?”

Celsius/Fahrenheit – “It’s 2 degrees outside!” “Oh my gosh that’s freezing…wait, you’re speaking in Celsius right?” ”It’s still freezing in Celsius!”

Arvo isn’t the only word I shorten. It’s become highly amusing to my roommates when they hear a new word in my laziness I’ve decided to shorten. My roommate Jesse is now Jess, and the Library is the Libs. Luckily DC and GW are full of acronyms, so my abbreviations aren’t too out of place amongst the FoBoGro and HelWel nicknames thrown around.

The other language nuance that I find amusing is the spelling. Aluminium is spelt Aluminum here, whereas I would write standardise, here it’s standardize. Not to mention the colour/color spelling discrepancy thanks to Noah Webster (of the dictionary fame). He was a proponent spelling reform, and some of his advocated changes caught on, like removing the u from –our spellings, and the aforementioned Aluminium/Aluminum difference.

Luckily, so far the different terminology and nuances of language have caused amusement rather than confusion, but it’s only a matter of time before there’s a real cultural clash!

By claudiadev

In many ways the differences between academics at Australian and American universities are few and far between. But there are also some stark differences that have taken some adjusting to.

For one thing, during lectures at home we’d rarely be asked questions and never would the class just be given free reign to discuss the topic at hand. Partly this is due to the size of the lectures, but even in a lecture of 16 students last semester at home we didn’t often have discussions in the lectures. I gather in some underclassmen classes here they have a similar set up to home, with large lectures and smaller discussion classes (what we call tutorials at home). But here, in upperclassmen classes, I’ve sat in a philosophy class where for a good 20 minutes we went off on a tangent discussing if aliens feel pain (there was no clear answer, as it turns out!). My Health Law class is 2 and a half hours of analyzing cases, raising issues and brainstorming as a class when the answer isn’t immediately clear. My Modern Architecture professor is a fan of randomly selecting a name off the class list, and quickly asking a question you have no hope of knowing unless you’ve properly read the readings. The benefit of class discussions, and being asked questions (and asking some of our own) is that there’s far less chance of getting bored, and it makes the longer classes take far less time.

Another big difference I’m finding a little challenging is the assessments here in the US. Generally, in classes at home we’ll have two big assessments a semester – one long mid-semester essay and one final essay or exam. Here, one of my subjects has 5 short essays as well as the final exam! The advantage of the approach at home is that you have fewer assignments to worry about overall, but you also have no way of knowing your progress until quite late in the semester. As much as I’m dreading all the assignments I have due over the next two weeks I can see the benefit in knowing my progress at this point in the semester, and being able to evaluate what my strengths and weaknesses are in each subject, and how I should best address these in future assignments.

One thing that hasn't changed, despite the hundreds of miles and 16 hour time difference, is the mountain of readings I need to get through each week. Mostly this is because I picked two reading intensive majors but I'm finding it a struggle to fit in readings in between the actual assignments, exploring DC and having fun! Hopefully I'm doing enough...

The truth will tell once this batch of assignments are marked and I get my results!

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