5 Reasons Why Classes in New Zealand are Better Than in the U.S.

By Nikki Fabrizio, ISA Senior Alumni Relations Coordinator who studied abroad at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Deciding to study abroad can raise a lot of questions:

What will the culture be like?
What will my roommates be like?
What kind of new foods will I eat?

However, one thing that people often overlook is the academics. Even if you’re going abroad to take classes, unfortunately thinking about those classes can end up near the bottom of your list. The way classes are taught varies from country to country, and New Zealand is no exception. Hopefully this post will help to give you an idea of what to expect!

I studied at the University of Otago and took classes in management, tourism and art history, so this is where my experience is coming from.

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1.  You won’t take as many classes! 

One of the first things that differentiates New Zealand academics from the U.S. is how many classes you can take. At my home university, I generally took a full course load of around 5-6 classes per semester. At my abroad university though, I was only allowed to take 4 papers (get used to calling your classes “papers!”). This is an important detail to bear in mind if you need to fulfill a certain number of credits while overseas.

2. Don’t’ be surprised if you have multiple professors for each class.

Another difference you’ll find is the number of professors teaching your class. At Otago, I had two papers that had just one professor. I also had one paper with a professor and a student who ran tutorials, and one paper with a revolving schedule of 4 professors, plus a tutorial student! Having multiple professors can keep classes interesting, but the constant change between professors can get tiring.

3. Say goodbye to homework!

A big thing at Otago was that there was little to NO homework! While this sounds like a dream come true (how nice it was to be finished with classes for the day and actually be done!), remember that this means that unless you’re studying on your own, you won’t be reviewing the material like you do back home. This also means there is no percentage of your grade devoted to homework.

4. Your tests will be different.

Most of my tests at my home university included at least a section of multiple choice questions. Most teachers at Otago, at least in my departments, did not believe in multiple choice, so expect exams consisted of short responses and essays. Get ready to write!

5. Finals mean EVERYTHING!

A final exam for a class back home might normally equate to 30-40% of my overall grade. However, at Otago, my final exams accounted for AT LEAST 50%, with most of them being about 70% of my final grade – and I know friends whose finals accounted for 90% of their final grade! You’ll realize when finals season has hit when campus is eerily quiet and you have to fight for a seat in the library. Finals are taken extremely seriously, because they can make or break your grade. So don’t wait until the last minute to think about them! And this is where reviewing throughout the semester helps- if you don’t pay attention in your classes throughout the semester, you’re going to end up very miserable during finals week.

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Overall, the academics in New Zealand are not too different from what you’d experience back home, and the things that were different I tended to appreciate. The lack of homework and smaller amount of classes allow you a lot more time to explore the country. But make sure you take the time to really comprehend your lessons or you’ll find yourself heading home with failing grades. Most of all- remember that this is the main reason you came to this country! While it’s great to take in the activities and sites of a country, attending classes is really one of the best ways to truly get to know a culture- so soak up all the differences!

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