Stanford/Sydney Linkup – Sydney Student Perceptions

The University of Sydney was established in 1850. Today, it is just minutes from the middle of the city and gorgeous Sydney Harbour and only a short drive to beaches and national parks. There is close to 50000 students from over 130 countries enrolled at Sydney. In Arts and Social Sciences there is nearly 10000 students – about 600 take WRIT1001: Academic Writing each year.

WRIT1001 is similar to introductory Rhetoric units in the US. We study for 13 weeks, attending two one-hour lectures and one one-hour workshop each week. We submit 10 short writing tasks, a final essay and just completed an oral presentation on a political cartoon from our cultural or linguistic background. Cartoons came from Australia, America, Sweden, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Korea, New Zealand, Palestine, and many more places that gives you some idea of the diversity within the student body.

We asked our students four questions when they signed up for the linkup:

1)    What do you think student life is like at Stanford?

2)    How would you describe American society and culture?

3)    What is it like to study at Sydney?

4)    How would you describe Australian society and culture?

Here’s a conglomeration of answers from the group you will be linking up with.

1)    What do you think student life is like at Stanford

Pretty groovy if you guys have classes on rhetoric too.

They study so hard, very academic.

I suppose student life at Stanford would be similar to Sydney in the way of reputation within its society – that of it being a reputable/prestigious place of study.

Due to the fact that Australia tends to get a lot of its social trends from America, I would assume that studying at Stanford and American culture would be somewhat similar to studying in Sydney.

Their culture, sub-cultures and discourses of student life (alien to us) are derived from the ideas of ‘Stanfordism’, an amalgamation of Classical, ‘Realist’ Stanford thinking practices, and modern ‘Stanforward’ ideologies shown in such pivotal works as ‘Mary Shelley’s Stanford’ and of course, ‘Stanford: A guide to Stanford’.

In The States everyone seems to be willing to move half-way across the country to study, but here i guess most people are from Sydney.

Judging from the American films that dominate the industry (as we all know films are a true and accurate depiction of reality), I would say that the environment at Stanford is full of energy and life, with many active societies (namely cheer leaders and jocks). In three words? Social, energetic, hard-working.

All the geniuses are like normal people there.

I imagine studying at Stanford to be very cutting-edge and fun.

Hectic, competitive and high pressure. But also great opportunities to learn and develop your own abilities together with intelligent and extremely driven people.

There’s no doubt the intellectual tone is higher at Stanford than in Australia, judging from the number of Nobel Prize winners.

 2)    How would you describe American society and culture?

I perceive American society and culture to be quite distinct, taking quite an influential stand on the world rather then being one that is influenced by others.

For the students who have Asian background, there’s no much difference between American culture and Australian culture.

I think that it may be easier for Australians to understand American culture rather than the other way around due to the exposure that the American way of life gets.

The American society is free, open and creative, especially for students on campus.

I assume it’s exactly the same as what I’ve seen on Scrubs and M*A*S*H*. If it’s not, I will be very disappointed, but that’s okay, you guys have Disney Land, so you’re still pretty cool.

American society and culture is only a concept to me. It is a society that has only been portrayed to me in the media and i have travelled there before but have only experienced a tourist culture. It appears to me to be a very modern culture that is based around a capitalist economy and a society that is patriotic.

One thing I definitely noticed about American (food) culture is that they like things BIG – big meals, big coffees, big pizzas – you can’t get a small meal deal at McDonalds they just don’t do it. Oh and the refill thing – as much soda as you can drink… and the liquid butter to pour over your popcorn at the movies – that was weird.

I have a very limited knowledge of American culture as my knowledge is based on the images presented in hollywood, namely cheerleaders and jocks, freshman initiations “rights”, the drinking culture, dorm parties and fraternity houses.

There are a significant number of short-sighted errors and flaws within American culture concerning war and government policy.

Divided on every major issue. Lacking health care, but excelling in personal wealth.

American society, I assume, might be quite diverse though Anglo-American culture is the mainstream. They seem relatively conservative and are influenced by Protestant ethics.

I would describe the American society as fairly hard, with limited social security e.g. healthcare and education.

A culture with great diversity.

American’s lack of restraints towards the concept of freedom sometimes negatively affects on children education, social interaction, media and national security.

In terms of language and argumentation, American interactions with each other are more emotionally exposed and confrontational.

3)    What is it like to study at Sydney?

Studying at Sydney is like living in a 2.5 star hotel: better than a motel.

Studying is laid back and social and enjoyable as well.

Studying as Sydney, for me, is a well deserved position which I appreciate each day even when having to complete major assessments and essays.

The campus is amazing, with a high-spirited atmosphere of youthful, friendly faces and a warm sense of belonging.

Before studying at Sydney, I’ve studied in France and in Canada and the first impression I had arriving at USYD was how similar it is to American universities (in term of configuration of the campus, the way all the societies work, the classes, etc.).

The buildings look like Hogwarts and there’s a Mister Darcy Society and a group of people who dress up as medieval knights and have sword fights.

Studying at Sydney is not as exciting as many people make it out to be and is highly overrated.

Awesome resources and fantastic courses and brilliant teachers.

Wow! I am 64 and the last time I studied academically was in 1967. Certainly challenging. I have learned a lot, but I suppose it’s like giving birth, pain first joy later.

Studying in Sydney is alright. For me personally, there are many fields that I would like to study that aren’t really kept in a high regard in Australia in general and there are limited opportunities to study beyond what we are already offered.

Personally, my experience at Sydney University has been one of the best experiences of my life. It has been a great opportunity to meet new people with very different backgrounds and different ways of work. It has also been enriching at the academic level as the university works in a different way related to my home university.

Sydney university develops individual beings who can be independent in the rough Australian society.

Studying in Sydney is a dream 10 years in the making. For me it’s all about taking chances, feeling free, and following a passion.

Sydney is definitely the best place to live in terms of culture and opportunity.

4)    How would you describe Australian society and culture?

Everyone goes to the pub. People ride kangaroos to school in the country.

Australian culture is quite relaxed and accepting. We tend to be quite multi cultural and accepting! There is also a wide range of cliches that you find present in Australia, from the outback tough guy like Steve Irwin to the bikini babes that frequent beaches. The people are generally quite polite and friendly and if you ask them for advice/directions they tend to give it 🙂

From red-necks and the Stolen Generation through to other pangs, we have formed a tolerant, modest (not me),open and immensely humorous society. We are not perfect, but we have created a unique way of life that words cannot fully describe unless you get your arse on a plane and just come here.

I would describe australian society and culture as “multinational” because people from different backgrounds live together in one nation. Advantages: experience different culture, food and people. Disadvatages: social problem and cultural discrimination.

I would describe Australian culture as being generally laid back, in comparison to other cultures. Australians are hard working, modest and like to have a good time. A common misconception is Australians’ academic potential – other cultures typically assume that we all live in the bush. We are just as intellectually advanced as any other culture in the world.

Good condition for local and bad condition for overseas.

Australian society and culture is a unique and complicated one. Younger generations tend to be open and exciting, working as one to push Australia in the best direction politically and economically. But older generations still tend to have a very narrow view of the world and the way Australia should be in regards to cultural acceptance and international policy especially of asia.

It’s generally a very multicultural society, accepting of many religions and cultures.

Australian society is boring and uncultured.

I would describe Australian society as multi-cultural, diverse and unified. We are

bounded by ideas of mateship, fairplay and larakinism. As for culture, I think it’s one of the best in the world: from the red earth in our centre (eg. Tennant Creek) and the Kimberly’s to the lush agricultural lands, the snowy mountains and busy metropolitan areas, all these geographical plains are filled with exuberant culture, history and life!

Australia has a multi cultural society, however there has been much work on its general cohesiveness between nationalities, which in my opinion has improved our standard of living.

Friendly. Likes the small talk, as Americans. Easygoing and laid back.

This entry was posted in CCR Exchange: Stanford-Sydney, Videoconferences. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Stanford/Sydney Linkup – Sydney Student Perceptions

  1. Tina Roh says:

    Hey guys!

    It’s actually pretty funny how perceptions of America/Stanford are so predominantly shaped by media. I think you guys will be surprised.

    Studying at Stanford is, without a doubt, one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. It’s not hectic or competitive at all — the work is hard, but most people are friendly and down-to-earth. People are from all around the country and all around the world, making up for an interesting and diverse student body. I also feel that we’re less plagued by cliques than in other universities, too. I mean, we have them, but the lines are frequently blurred.

    I also think it’s difficult to define a single “American culture”, since it varies from region to region, state to state, and even city to city. I guess that also explains why there’s so much political dissent.

    Australia seems sweet! I’d love to go there one day, especially the U of Sydney. You know what’s really awesome, though? You guys actually use “mate” in your comments!

    P.S. I hope you’re serious about riding kangaroos to school.

  2. Grace Kwan says:

    Haha! Your perceptions of American culture are very interesting… Tina spoke correctly when she said that Stanford doesn’t exactly fit the mold for the “typical American” experience, if one exists at all. I agree that it’s pretty creative, which is a good thing, though I think it’s also true that we “like everything big”–which isn’t necessarily quite so good. And no, I don’t understand the appeal of liquid butter either.

    I’ve never been to Sydney, or Australia for that matter, but I would love to. It seems like it would be a very interesting experience; I generally associate going abroad in my head to going to a place where the dominant language isn’t English (too many trips to China are to blame), and this would be quite different.

    I look forward to speaking with you all one on one!

  3. Henry Zhu says:

    G’day mates!

    It was really interesting and amusing reading through all of your comments. I think we (Americans and Australians, and Stanford and Sydney students) really do have a lot in common.

    I was actually born in Australia, and I visited Sydney last summer, which was awesome. My high school also did an annual exchange program with a school in Australia, so I became good friends with some Aussies.

    I definitely second Tina. Life here at Stanford is pretty laid-back, despite our busy schedules. Sydney sounds pretty great too, and from what I remember, the weather there is just as nice as it is here.

    A big difference between American and Australian cultures that I’ve noticed is the type of sports we like. It seems that Americans have little interest in rugby while Australians (correct me if I’m wrong) don’t care much for American football, even though the sports are rather similar.

    Although there must be reasons for stereotypes of Americans to exist in the first place, I think the media clearly exaggerates those characteristics of American culture. From my own experience, many people here tend to fit in with multiple kinds of “cliques,” so these cliques aren’t even well-defined. I think the East Coast (where I grew up) is generally viewed as “cliquier” than the West Coast, but I didn’t really see that as the case either.

    Hopefully, I go back to Australia again this summer. I definitely still have much to learn and discover.

  4. Katheryn Shi says:


    It’s extremely interesting reading through all of these comments. I wonder what you guys think about different parts of America, as opposed to America in general? For example, I’m from Texas, so stereotypically I used to ride horses (not as cool as kangaroos!) to school. (And well, most people in Texas don’t actually say “howdy,” perhaps with the exception of country people… and A&M.)

    I find it really cool that Australia is so diverse. Growing up in America, and actually coming to Stanford too, we have been hammered to death with the idea that America is culturally diverse. After arriving to Stanford, we quickly realized that Stanford loves to emphasize its own diversity too. It’s great to hear that we aren’t the only diverse place in the world; Australia sounds like it’d be an amazing place to live! I guess the media here doesn’t really portray you guys to be as diverse as you really are, something I find disappointing.

    Well, I am very excited to meet you all! Hopefully we’ll have some time to talk some more about stereotypes, and maybe we can dispel some of those after meeting each other. 🙂 (I have to agree with you on the big food portions though, yikes!)

  5. Allie, Kathleen, and Aracely says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Stanford. Just like you ride kangaroos to school we fly to class everyday on bald eagles 🙂

    We have all been studying different leaders in our rhetoric class and are looking forward to talking with you all about them.

    It sounds like Australia is a very multicultural place and we’re excited to hear your different opinions and perspectives.

    Looking forward to connecting this Thursday!

  6. Alexandra Dorda, Seth Villegas, Jacob Neighbors says:

    Many of the responses are very funny and based upon cultural stereotypes about America. Of course, the United States isn’t exactly like it is portrayed in Scrubs or M*A*S*H* but certain observations are definitely true – for example, American portions really are too big! The dichotomies that we saw in the responses from the Australian students (one person said that Australia is very uncultured, and the next said that Australia is very multi-cultural) would probably be visible if you asked Americans to describe our own culture. It seems to be very difficult to judge yourself.

    We look forward to meeting you all on Thursday (or Friday for you), you seem like a fun bunch!

    Alex, Seth, Jacob

  7. Ben/Arpan/Marcia says:

    Sup mates,

    We’re looking forward to meeting you guys on Thursday at 6pm our time. We have a couple questions for you guys:

    1. Do you guys go to Elementary, Middle, High School, College, and Graduate School?

    2. What are fun traditions you guys do at U of Sydney?

    3. What is it like to go to school in such a large city?

    4. Is our music popular in Australia?

    It is interesting to hear about what you guys have to say about American life and Stanford in general. A lot of it is actually true and we look forward to living up to the stereotypes 🙂

  8. Stanfriendly (Group D, as in Dynamite!) says:

    Hey guys,

    You seem like a rambunctious and diverse collection of people. We’re excited to talk to you in a few days. Some of our reactions to your blog will follow. First of all, we’re jealous of your easy access to the beach.

    Also, we’re wondering where you learned about Stanford. Some of the sources you mentioned puzzled us: “Stanforward” and “Stanford: a guide to Stanford.”

  9. Alan and Sam says:

    Greetings USYD!

    Your perceptions of American society are interesting and semi-accurate, although Stanford can be quite different from what you’d see elsewhere in the US. So we may or may not be representative of Americans in our natural habitat. (Yes, Stanford is basically a zoo).

    We’re really stoked to meet you guys and work with you later this week. Hopefully we’ll be able to get better ideas of each others’ cultures and university life through this conference.

    Alan Le and Sam Umlauf

  10. Jujhaar says:

    It’s great to hear from you all!

    Like Grace, I haven’t really thought about travel to an English speaking country as “going abroad”, but it seems that Australia’s culture is quite unique, and I imagine it would be a lot of fun to travel there.

    As a Stanford student, I must say that I find the work here quite challenging, moderately competitive, but very rewarding. The sheer number of opportunities here is almost overwhelming (in a good way), and I’ve had to make some tough decisions about what activities and classes I can sanely participate in.

    I feel that some perceptions about college life are quite exaggerated – I don’t find the cliques nearly as clear cut and well defined as in movies, and I haven’t seen too many people “go wild” (and I make sure not to look when they do!).

    In terms of the culture, America has such different groups of people that it is impossible to try and define one specific culture. I know I don’t fit into the “typical American stereotype”. I think the diversity here is America’s greatest strength.

    Having been in contact with little to no Australians/Aussie culture, I think it’s going to be a great experience talking with you guys!

  11. Aubrie says:

    I’m supposed to leave a comment. Here it is:

    It’s difficult to say whether your (pl.) perceptions of Stanford and the U.S. are accurate, because every one of them could probably be true of a specific situation. You probably won’t be able to tell what living in the U.S. would be like for you based on my descriptions any more than I would be able to tell from your descriptions what it would be like for me to live in Australia.

    I found this quote particularly relevant, though: “All the geniuses are like normal people there.” It’s pretty awe-inspiring to realize you’ve been talking with someone who won the Intel International Science Fair or someone who worked for a senator. The atmosphere is actually less competitive than one might think; I get the sense that many people are content with being good at at least one thing, even if everyone else is better at everything else.

  12. Will says:

    I always wanted to study abroad in Australia. Too bad the program here’s mostly for Biology/Human Biology majors…

    I don’t know if you can define “American” culture as such – I live here and I don’t think I could. If you watch a show like Jersey Shore (do they have that in Australia?), that’s not a representation of how the majority of the country acts – but, all the same, there are people who do act like that (outgoing, confrontational, and generally ridiculous).

    We do have trained bald eagles sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before every NASCAR race, though. So there’s that.

  13. Mitchell Stoehr says:


    I loved reading about your perceptions of Americans and how many of them do fall into the stereotypes that I would also recall if someone asked me what America was like. I also really liked learning what it is like to study in Sydney. I have always wanted to travel to Australia and hopefully some day I will be able to!

    Best wishes,

    Mitchell Stoehr

  14. Mauricio says:

    Hi, your responses really interested me in terms of how you perceive America. Studying in Stanford isn’t as competitive as you would think and helps us enjoy our social life a lot more. Reading your descriptions of your society and culture makes me realize how similar our societies may be, despite the differences that are highlighted. I hope that we can learn a lot from each other in the future.

  15. Loren Tengan says:

    Hey Guys!

    First off this was super interesting to read. One of my best friends in the dorm is actually from New South Wales and attended UNSW for a semester before packing up and heading over here. I have spent lots and lots of time talking to her about what life is like over there and how it differs from America. The one thing that really sticks out to me was somebody’s comment about how it seems like in America people are willing to move halfway across the country for college. That is definitely the case. In fact many students want to get as far away from home as possible. I know from talking to my friend that that is definitely not the case in Australia. Other than that reading the comments really showed me how big a role stereotypes play in shaping one’s perception of things that are unfamiliar. Anyway I hope that you guys are enjoying the start to your school year…I think? Talk to you soon!

    Loren (I am a boy)

  16. Andy says:


    Haha, the perception of college at Stanford is rather exaggerated. While Stanford is competitive, it isn’t nearly as hectic as one would expect. Actually it really depends on the person. It’s as hectic and stressful as the student makes it. The more competitive you are, the more stressful it gets. But all the while people are friendly and approachable. We’re all really laid back like Tina said.

    To be honest the mix of personalities here is diverse. People from all over the country (and even some from other countries) come and learn together. I think most of us are just grateful to be in such an intellectually stimulating and welcoming community.

    American people do like things big I suppose. Which in some aspects is definitely bad, but in other aspects it is good. You know how they say, “Go big or go home.” In other words, shoot for the moon; even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.


  17. Mariah Haberman says:

    Hey Guys!

    Thanks so much for your wonderful responses! I found your perception of both Stanford and the U.S. very interesting- and true in some cases. Something mentioned that really stood out to me, was the idea that Stanford and the US are really diverse- in pretty much all aspects. I would say it is this fact that makes Stanford so cool- we are able to interact with people from so many different backgrounds in order to create a network of collaboration. Also, the comment about the US having DisneyLand was awesome and I would agree – I love DisneyLand.

    I am seriously considering studying abroad in Australia and so I am interested in the cultural climate. I thought it was interesting how you mentioned, when describing the cultural in Sydney, that the younger generation is very progressive and culturally open/tolerant yet the older generation still tends to lag…I think this is a really astute observation. I hope to learn more about culture in Australia when we talk Thursday. Oh, and I also think riding Kangaroos to school would be the coolest thing ever. PS I’ve heard you guys have good waves there? For surfing?

  18. Tim Asdoorian says:


    It was very interesting to read over some of your comments about how America and Australia are both similar, yet different. I enjoyed a few good chuckles from some of your more humorous responses, so thank you very much for that!

    I would like to think that America and Australia are not that different. We’re both multicultural melting pots and past British colonies that have gained our independence, but stayed as allies through the tough times. I really wonder what you think of Americans as friends, as I’m somewhat interested about what you think of our foreign policy, and in essence, the foreign policy your country supports along with ours.

    We’re not all that different from you. While Hollywood tends to exaggerate almost everything, their depiction of us tends to be fairly accurate for the most part. And yes, Disneyland is awesome.

    Tim Asdoorian

    PS: What do you think about Hollywood depicting Australia as the land of Kangaroos, boomerangs, and the Outback? Have you ever eaten at Outback Steakhouse for that matter? They have this killer thing called the bloomin onion…

  19. James Tran says:


    Thanks for the replies! I know almost nothing about Australia, other than reading about some bunny invasion, so it’s interesting to hear what the culture over there is like. It seems similar to the U.S. in certain ways, like when you guys mentioned it was multinational with its share of tolerance as well as discrimination. Because of that diversity, I think it’s impossible to accurately sum up an entire culture in just a few lines; my life certainly isn’t like Scrubs, sorry to disappoint! That comment about food seems pretty accurate though. I think our size small soda drinks is something like size large in other countries?

    I’d like to visit there one day and see firsthand what it’s like. Maybe I’ll get to see some kangaroos!

  20. David A L says:

    Howdy ya’ll,

    I found it very interesting that you talked about how there is a wide range of cliches in Australian culture. I think that is very similar to your idea of what American society is like, where everybody is a stereotype. Sure there are people who fit perfectly into the cookie cutter image displayed in hollywoood movies, but that is not the majority. It is alot more like what you said about Australia being a multinational society. There are so many different backgrounds and types of people that walking to class I can hear at least four different languages being spoken on any given day. This is not just at Stanford in my hometown of Seattle, Washington we have a vibrant multicultural community.
    I also enjoyed the comment on our interaction being more emotional and confrontational. I do not have an idea of Australian interaction so cannot compare, but I do know there is a difference between the West and the East Coast of the US on this topic. The West Coast is more relaxed and non-confrontational.

  21. leonardo ran zhang says:

    Hey guys,

    Thank you for showing interest in life in Stanford. The majority of students here live on campus. Stanford community is laid-back in life-style and intense in academics, and definitely not everyone is a part of fraternity/ sorority, but yeah… we do have a lot of those crazy frat parties all the time:-P
    Last week there was a party called Exotic Chaotic, in which over 100 people were squeezing in a Greek house almost naked and… drunk.

  22. me says:

    Answers from America to you,

    Why a course on gaming rhetoric? It was a “lesser of many evils” type of thing.
    What do we study? How to write about games and stuff.
    Do we get to “sample” games? Occasionally… some are…less fun than others…
    Do we enjoy it? idk
    Do I enjoy it? meh…
    Do we do an intro rhetoric course year one? yep
    How helpful was it? i’ll let you know when i finish it
    Have we writing tutors? Tutors we have, grad students, ex-pwr instructors
    Thoughts on peer tutoring? not as good as “person-grading-you-tutoring”
    Is it effective? I can never tell.
    Questions on Aus –
    Have i been? nah
    Would i want to visit? yea
    I’ve heard vegemite is gross
    I don’t think we think that kangaroos can be ridden, in our culture we venerate kangaroos as having incredible boxing prowess and don’t believe they could ever be tamed. Saying someone could ride a kangaroo is like saying “when pigs fly” or “hell freezes over”….nah jk, we totally think you all ride kangaroos

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