Studying Abroad

Ana Nixdorff, DMSB

Hi! I am Ana Nixdorff and I am a sophomore studying finance at Northeastern University. This summer, I am studying abroad at the University of Sydney, taking marketing and macroeconomics. I am so excited to take advantage of everything Australia has to offer and explore Sydney and the surrounding areas. Scuba diving has been one of my passions for a long time and I cannot wait to see the Great Barrier Reef! Hopefully my blogs will give you a fuller picture of the ins and outs of studying abroad and will inspire you to take the leap as well!


A vague title… I know. But that is really what I want to talk about, studying in another country, because believe it or not schools in other countries can be vastly different than Northeastern. Before I left, I learned how our grades would transfer. Grading is very different here; they use: high distinctiondistinction, credit, pass, and fail in place of our grading system. In order to get a high distinction, you only need an 85%, however Northeastern takes distinction (75%) as an A. Hearing this, I was ecstatic – only 75% to get an A! I figured the classes would a breeze. However, our University of Sydney liaison told us that only about 8% of students get high distinction, in other words, it would be very difficult to get 75%.

This, to put in a word, was scary. Especially considering that a credit became a B, no A minus, no B plus. I thought I could simply float through these classes and bring back a little GPA-boost to help me before applying for co-op in the fall and I could spend all my time exploring and enjoying the country.

The first shock was the class times. In order to make up for the shortened semester, the lectures were about four hours long. This was incredibly difficult to get used to. Luckily, we got many 30-minute breaks in the middle of class, simply because no one can pay attention for that long. The structure of the class was also slightly different and getting used to Australian terminology was difficult at first.

My first midterm was three weeks into the macroeconomics class. A simple 15-question multiple-choice exam, I was not very worried. Sure, I studied, but I mainly relied on my knowledge from lectures.

My midterm in marketing was the second week of class. Thankfully our professor gave a practice exam the day before, because the test was incredibly complicated. Every question seemed to be the opposite of what I thought it should be, and suddenly I felt completely unprepared. While I was not planning on studying, I spend that whole night and the next morning studying the lectures and taking new notes. While this did help, the exam itself was very difficult for what I thought should be a rather simple subject.

The final thing that shocked me was that the macroeconomics final is worth 60% of my grade. This was the first time when one test was worth over half my grade, so even though I felt confident based on my last tests, they were worth practically nothing in comparison.

The nice thing, however, is that I did not feel the same pressure that I did at Northeastern. I did not feel the pressure to make every little thing perfect, because I did not need to get a 94% to get an A. 94% gives practically no room for a particularly bad test or essay, even when it is only a small portion of your grade.

My main advice is to take the classes seriously. Most of the schools that Northeastern partners with are known for their academics, so do not expect them to be a breeze. While you should spend time exploring and having fun, in the end you are there to study and you should take the classes seriously.