Hello from the University of Sydney!

In preparation for the video conferences this week between University of Sydney students and Stanford students, Victoria Loy, one of the instructors at Sydney, sent along the following information to share:

The University of Sydney is one of Australia’s oldest universities, built in 1850. Reflective of a modern Australia, University of Sydney students come from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds from all over Australia and the world. The University has nearly 50,000 enrolled students; the Faculty of Arts has just over 8,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Around 500 students take the WRIT1001: Academic English unit each year. The students are mostly in their first year of study of a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science degree. Each week of semester (13 weeks) students attend two 1-hour lectures, one 1-hour workshop, read sections from the Envision textbook and complete a short written assignment. They also deliver an oral presentation and write a 1500-word essay on cross-cultural rhetoric. In WRIT1001 we learn how to identify rhetorical strategies in visual and written texts and how to use rhetorical strategies in our own academic work.

We asked three of the tutorial groups to tell you about themselves, their school, what they think of Stanford, and something about rhetoric and textbooks. Here is a collation of responses from many of the students (warning – no unified narrative here)…

WRIT1001 Tutorial Group 15

Architecture at the University of Sydney is elegant and timeless. It is known for the mixture of students from different backgrounds and ethnicities. It attracts some of the best students in Australia.

I don’t believe there is a typical university student. I guess the stereotype is upper class, white, and snobbish. One would hope all students share certain qualities, including a reasonable intellect. I don’t know what I am going to do with my life.

It looks like everyone has to be super clever to get into Stanford. My impressions would probably come from the movies, where students are portrayed as living in dorms, are members of frat houses and generally have a jolly good time.

Our North American textbook does make the course a cross-cultural experience to an extent, but as a result of Americanization we have an understanding of American politics, products, movies, TV, and other things mentioned in the textbook. In Norway we’re really influenced by America and the English-speaking world.  I don’t particularly view it as cross-cultural because exposure to mass and global media has already made me aware of the many issues and political cultures that occur within different national domains.  I am always open to learning textbooks from authors from different cultural backgrounds as they allow me to explore different rhetorical strategies.

WRIT1001 Tutorial Group 16: Scheduled to speak to Julia Bleakney’s class

The best part of the university is the student societies and clubs.  It’s the oldest university in Australia.  It’s near the centre of Sydney and for that reason has a very wide range of cultural groups.

I am a pretty typical student, as far as typical can go.  There’s all that talk about how we’re all unique, but we’re all just doing the same thing in a different way and with different shoes on.  When I’m not in uni I work at a local retail store to save up money to go travelling whenever I can.  I am typical because I have a coffee loyalty card.

I’m not pissing in your pocket mate so basically you’ve got a few roos loose in the top paddock OR you’ve worked flat out like a lizard drinking to gain a place at such a prestigious Ivy League school.  My impression of California is as the state that most resembles how Australians would think – it seems less focused on right-wing politics and religion, although I could be wrong. I think it’s great you have an ex-bodybuilder as your governor and had a look at Proposition 19 – hopefully it gets passed. Do you agree with it? Stanford is another Ivy League school – what that means I am not even sure. Feet staring trudgers and horizon bound striders. Same same but different.

I don’t think the use of an American textbook makes a cross-cultural context as we are still reading and viewing the text through our own non-North American eyes.  Perhaps we relate the theories to our own experiences. Most of the political cartoons we analysed in the tutorial were from the textbook, so we were analysing American political culture and rhetoric to a significant degree.  Other elements of the course were more universal.  As a western country, heavily influenced by globalization and US hegemony, our everyday experiences are indeed cross-cultural.  The textbook being North American reflects the multicultural nature of our society.

WRIT1001 Tutorial Group 17:Scheduled to speak to Sohui Lee’s class

Sydney Uni looks like Hogwarts. It’s a very big university, with many buildings and its own postcode. Many of the tutors are very young PhD students , some with outrageous styles, haircuts, and dress sense.  It’s a very multicultural and casual place.  However, it’s rolling with stereotypes.

There is no ‘typical’ Sydney University student.  A student in Arts is going to have different study habits to a student in Law.  Between studies and partiers there is a fairly equal divide. The idea of a typical student is almost possible to define due to the influence of various factors, especially the wide array of faculties students join.

Stanford is (at least superficially) very similar to Sydney, filled with students eager to learn from various socioeconomic and racial backgrounds.  The typical student would be like me: middle-upper class, not really sure where their future is heading but keen to engage in university life.

The textbook is very obviously North American in the way it’s structured via topics and examples.  We get to learn a little more about the issues that concern you.  But I wouldn’t say it’s prominent, because we work off examples that are tailored more to Australia.  References and examples regarding aspects of American culture and historical examples allow the reader/student to only gain snippets into American culture.  In order to gain a deeper contextual understanding of American culture, a lot more interaction is required.



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7 Responses to Hello from the University of Sydney!

  1. Luke Knepper says:

    Whoah! Those posts were not what I was expecting to hear. They were really fun to read.
    I think it’s interesting that you don’t view the class as a cross-cultural project, even though you’re using a North American textbook. As far as I know, I’ve never used anything but American textbooks, but I think it would be really interesting to read an Australian or Norwegian textbook. It’s crazy how much American culture has spread; I lived in Europe and traveled in Central America so I’ve seen part of it, but even as far as Norway and Australia — that just blows my mind.

    Your university sounds really similar to Stanford — about 150 years old, great architecture, a mix of tons of different types of students… Only Sydney is wayy bigger than Stanford: 50,000 undergrads vs. 7,000. I can’t even imagine going to a school with 50,000 students… Our campus is pretty big too, and we have our own zip code as well. I love our campus, it’s so beautiful, and the weather is so nice…

    I can’t wait to talk with you guys and see what you think about rhetoric. I wonder what you all will be researching this term. I think I’m going to do some research about in-game advertisements, but I’m not totally sure as of yet. Looking forward to tomorrow!

    And by the way, Stanford isn’t actually an Ivy League school… It’s as good as (if not better than) the Ivy League schools, but it’s not technically one of them. But it’s no big deal!

  2. Elena Stamatakos says:

    I was planning on leaving most of the same comments that Luke made. Our schools sound relatively similar and I think that California will have a similar culture to Australia. I’m from Massachusetts, and the east coast is completely different form the west coast, so that will give us another dimension to this discussion. The comment that caught my attention the most was definitely this one: “I’m not pissing in your pocket mate so basically you’ve got a few roos loose in the top paddock OR you’ve worked flat out like a lizard drinking to gain a place at such a prestigious Ivy League school.” Simply because I have absolutely no idea what that means…

  3. Tyler Brown says:

    It’s great to hear a different opinion on the book–most of the examples were North American centric–so it’s interesting so see what you all have to say about it. I’ve actually used some Australian textbooks before, which I found to have pictures and text much less focused on the country of publication, as opposed to ours. Though maybe it was just the certain ones I was using.

    The way you describe Sydney Uni is also quite similar to the way I would describe Stanford–it has heaps of buildings and is rather grand architecturally. My mother actually did postgrad work and graduated from Sydney Uni, so i’ve seen the campus too (fantastic, I think). The cultural mix of our universities also line up, gathering lots of different people from places all over the world.

    It will be great talking to you, and I’m interested in what you have to say about studying cross-cultural rhetoric!

    And Elena: What that means is the writer thinks that you are either completely mental or have been working to death in order to get into Stanford.

  4. [Ray_Ray] says:

    This was a great post to read. I was very surprised at how these students see themselves and how they see California and Stanford. As a student, now I know how Stanford University really is. I think before studying here I thought of it like you guys think about it now. I come from Puerto Rico, a US territory, so I was aware of how North American customs spread but I never expected what I’m enjoying so much now. The way you describe your University is, as someone before me mentioned, the same way I would describe Stanford: There are so many different people and a variety of things to do that it sometimes seems overwhelming.

    Because of this, I also think there’s no typical student; everyone has their own story, even if they are studying in the same prestigious school.

    I loved reading this and can’t wait for the connection this evening!

  5. Liz says:

    I did my chat with some kids Stanford today. It was pretty cool to see what we did or didn’t know about each other’s cultures e.g. someone didn’t see the portrayal of our (first female) Prime Minister in a comic. I also decided to risk sounding like a moron by saying how cool their accents were. I could hear the difference in dialects, but couldn’t remember where each person said they were from.
    Anyway, it was pretty good talking with Stanford smarties.

  6. Fran says:

    That was a fun chat. I found it quite amusing that people here in Australia think I have an American accent, and the Standford students we were talking to thought I had no American accent at all! Meanwhile my family thinks I have an Australian accent.. Multicultural indeed. This is what happens when you have 2 accents as you grew up.

  7. Pingback: Connecting with Sydney « The Rhetoric of Gaming

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