I just got back from my Georgetown University Exchange program. It has been a thrilling adventure for me and I want to share a few thoughts on how Georgetown University differs from The University of Melbourne in terms of its academia, career service and student life. I would also give some tips on exchange application towards the end of this article.
Unlike Unimelb students who take 4 courses per semester, Georgetown students usually take 5 courses per semester. Although the exchange office at Unimelb claims that the total workload should be roughly the same, I think it is more accurate to say that the workload is the same for each course, hence Georgetown students generally have a higher workload than Unimelb students. It is hard to compare individual courses since I took primarily science classes at Unimelb and humanity classes at Georgetown. But for each course, the depth and breadth covered is approximately the same across the two institutions. Roughly the same amount of information is covered in one lecture, but it would feel more intense at Unimelb since it has a shorter lecture duration (50 minutes compared to 75 minutes at Georgetown) and a shorter semester (12 weeks compared to 15 weeks).
There is a big difference, however, when it comes to teaching quality. Georgetown students enjoy a higher level of teaching as they have smaller class sizes (60 compared to 300 for introductory courses) and more engagement with the professor. For the courses I took at Georgetown, ranging from International Relations to Philosophy to Art History, all of them had outstanding professors: professors who are Harvard graduates, professors who work for the White House, professors who are authors of the textbooks I used in class. What is more, these professors are extremely approachable, meaning that they will reply your email (containing minute questions) within minutes and kindly invite you to their office hours for one-on-one in depth discussions regarding lecture content. It is hard to envision these happening at The University of Melbourne.
It is hard to give a just verdict as Unimelb has to cater for its 40,000 students where as Georgetown only has less than half of Unimelb’s student size. Generally speaking, Georgetown students enjoy more job opportunities and more comprehensive career service from the university’s career center. There are a bigger variety of jobs listed on its website for students to choose from. What impressed me was the effort Georgetown put into preparing the students for a job. There are constant mock interview sessions, information sessions, networking events to help the students successfully land a job. Unimelb, on the other hand, has far less such opportunities.
What is worth noting is that Georgetown is a highly pre-professional school as well as a target school for investment banking and consulting firms. This entails frequent corporation visits on campus to attract talent as well as to create opportunities for networking. Students at Georgetown usually have clear career goals in mind and strive to achieve that goal, usually by joining numerous industry-related clubs and societies. For example, there are 3 consulting societies that I know of, various activist groups and political clubs and others that I yet have the chance to get to know. The University of Melbourne is relatively laid back in this aspect with most of its students more interested in café hunting than job hunting.
Georgetown students have a very different life than students at Unimelb. Most of them live on campus until their junior or senior year. The two or three years they spend on campus create tight bond among the student body. Friendship and a sense of belonging is easily cultivated when you are with your classmates 24/7. It is more difficult for Unimelb students to make friends as people leave the campus after class, giving little room for spontaneous interactions with people which could lead to budding friendship.
Club wise, like I have mentioned before, Georgetown has a lot of club and societies. The claim holds true for The University of Melbourne. Unimelb has a wider range of clubs, from Quidditch to Chocolate lovers, you name it. Georgetown’s clubs are more professional, gearing towards building professional skills. To me, Unimelb clubs are more interesting whereas Georgetown societies are more practical.
Now comes the time for me to provide you a few tips on your exchange application. Exchange programs in English-speaking countries are highly competitive, especially when it comes to famous universities such as University of Pennsylvania and NYU Stern in United States and University College London and Imperial College in UK. You would want to maintain a high WAM to ensure that you can get into your ideal university.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the application process is very tedious and time-consuming. Do not be intimidated by the long process, everything is worth it in the end, just follow the instructions, hand in your application materials on time and you will be fine.
If you have any questions regarding the whole process and the exchange experience, contact Global Mobility at Unimelb, email is the best way to find them since their office closes at dubious times and making appointment via email ensures you will meet your exchange advisor at the office.
There are much much more that can be said about my exchange experience, above are the aspects that I found to be the most important. I want to encourage everyone to go on an exchange. As cliché as it sounds, it is truly a life-changing experience, broadening my horizon in everyway possible.