Postcard from Newcastle: Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner is a chemical engineering student who is currently studying at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Group of demonstrators carry banner that says "Defend WikileaksSupport Julian Assange."

This is the front of the rally in Hyde Park in Sydney for Julian Assange. The whole thing probably had upwards of 200 people, and had about 20 horse-riding police escorts.

May 5, 2011

The first leg of my trip was a brief six-day stay in Sydney. For the majority of the stay I spent my time exploring the city. I explored Hyde Park, the Sydney Aquarium and Zoo, and the Botanical Gardens. While in Hyde Park I witnessed a political demonstration to rally support for Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. While exploring the Botanical Gardens on a wonderful 40 oC (104 oF) day, I had the fortune of learning public water fountains aren’t common. The hostel I was staying in had a policy of no guests over 35, which proved beneficial as we were all of (somewhat) like minds and found it rather easy to click together. The majority of the guests were from the United Kingdom, and on a gap year. Unbeknownst to me, American Football has grown rather popular in the United Kingdom, so come time for the Super Bowl, the T.V. room was packed with nearly the entire hostel celebrating the occasion at 9 A.M.

Photo of beach scene, taken at skewed angle.

Newcastle Beach. It’s not my favourite, but it’s one of the most popular.

From [Sydney], I made my way to Newcastle. I regretfully squandered a whole week in Newcastle looking for housing. Though where I ended up is well worth the effort and the time, it would have been nicer to have come across it sooner and had more time to enjoy the city before the semester started. I’ve moved into a place on Darby Street, which is more or less like Dickson in that it has a very lively night crowd. I moved into a house with five others, including an Austrian working on her Master’s in architecture, a Mauritian starting his third year in medicine, an Australian beginning his degree in medicine, an American from the University of Ohio and studying in accounting, and the last being another Australian, in her third year of digital design.

Soon after finding housing, O-week (orientation week) started, and the semester was underway. Oddly enough, registration for classes starts a little over a week prior to the first day of class. I’ve been taking four courses that have all proven to be challenging, intriguing, and insightful.

The first class in my schedule is Thermodynamics. At the U of A, it is split into two separate courses. At Newcastle, it is combined into one course that is taught by two different instructors. The grading system is five assignments worth 4% each, two laboratories worth 10% each, and a final exam worth 60% of the final grade. The assignments have been very in depth, each covering several different concepts and taking well over ten hours each to finish.

After Thermodynamics, the next class in my queue is Fluid Mechanics. The final is 70% of the grade, but is fortunately open note. This class has been one of the more unique classes I’ve taken not just at Newcastle but in all courses in general. The first three weeks of lecture were over vectors, integrals, and mathematical proofs. The class is heavily math-based, and in the assignments, all equations used and their derivations are required for full credit.  The professor spends a good amount of the lecture covering the mathematical basis for all the equations and concepts.

Probably my favourite class has been Modern Optics. It’s the only class with a regular lab, and it has required the most work. There are large lab reports due weekly, plus two assignments over the entire semester. The class has been very interesting conceptually, and has required the most reading and studying to grasp.

My last, Mass transport, class only meets once a week, for four hours. Like Thermodynamics, it is also the equivalent of two courses joined into one. It has only six assignments, and the majority of the grade is based upon the final.

An interesting difference between all of my Newcastle courses and the U of A courses is the amount of instruction for assignments. In all four of my classes here, all of the assignments were given at the beginning of the semester in the syllabus with the attached due dates. Aside from my Fluids professor emailing reminders of the due dates, there is no further instruction or mention of assignments from the professors. The assignments are very independently done and seem to me to be a good reflection of real world engineering. The students are given a task, and given a date it needs to be done by, and it’s up to us to go about how and when it gets done.

Secondly, the grading scale is a bit skewed. Above an 85% is called a high Distinction, which we would call an A. Above 70% is a distinction, which we would equate to a B. Between 70 and 50 is passing, i.e. a C, and below 50% is failing. Also, what the Australian student would call their Grade Point Average does take into account the level of the course (such as 4th, 3rd, 2nd or 1st year) and the number of credits of the course. So a senior year four hour course would be weighted much more than a first year one hour course.

young man in yellow t-shirt in greenhouse, in front of tomato plants.

At my friend's farm.

My weekends are filled with homework, studying, visits to the beach, and catching up on sleep. Occasionally though I get ahead of work and take time off to do something worth mentioning.  In late March I took a day trip to Sydney to meet up with a friend of mine studying mechanical engineering at the University of Sydney. We took a stroll through the city, including an interesting walk through Chinatown. At Chinatown I had the luxury of visiting a flea market filled with imitation-brand items, a sushi shop selling unrecognizable parts for over $900 a kilo, and a colour coded store. More recently though I had the pleasure of taking a day trip with an electrical engineer I met through my Optics class. He took me on a tour of his grandparent’s avocado, tomato, chicken and cattle farm.

The rest of my semester includes the mid-semester break, five more weeks of classes, three weeks of finals, and hopefully a visit to Melbourne, Alice Springs, and Tasmania.

As far as the slang goes, this are mostly just common words they use in place of what we would use.

  • Dodgy- Sketchy, untrustworthy “I finished the home work, but my answers were real dodgy. I’m going to rework it and see if I get something that makes more sense”.
  • Brekky- Breakfast
  • Uni-University
  • Heaps- Plenty, a lot. “I have heaps of homework due this week” or “There were heaps of people at the party last night”. Interestingly enough though, it’s generally used “heaps of (noun)”. But for an adjective, it becomes “heaps (adjective)”, i.e. “I’m feeling heaps better”, “That sandwich was heaps good” or “That party was heaps fun”.
  • Bathers-Swim suit
  • Thongs-Sandals
  • Mozzie-Mosquito
  • No worries- equivalent of “no problem”
  • Rubbish-Trash, I’ve yet to see a single “trash can”. They’re all labelled “rubbish”
  • Sunnies-Sunglasses
  • Full-on –complete, filled, or packed. Such as “Your pretty full-on this semester”.


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One Response to Postcard from Newcastle: Edward Jenner

  1. csg says:

    I loved reading your postcard, Edward! Great to hear how the classes differ from here – interesting. It must be fun getting out and about enjoying the country. Also, thanks for the laughs (loved the “unrecognizable parts” and the glossary) 🙂

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