Academics Abroad in Sydney: Australian Film & Travel Writing 101

Nov 10, 2016 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Fall2016_Sara_Martin_Profile.jpgSara Martin is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A biological sciences major, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester through the custom program at the University of California, Davis.

In this week's post, Sara talks about her experience of academics abroad in Sydney and how CAPA's core values shape her classes. 


The academics on this program are so different from any other course I have taken before, and not only because I get to study in Australia (although that does have a lot to do with it). Taking courses in film and writing is so much better when you are able to relate them to your current experience and understanding of a new location. Although I love my biology courses, these writing classes have been a great break from the world of science. Sometimes you need a breather by doing something that you'd never think to do in order to appreciate what you already know and enjoy.

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Photo: Nothing goes better with hard work than snacks

Travel Writing

This is most definitely my favorite course (at least from the two that we are graded for). It is so much fun getting to write about your travels for a class, it’s almost too good to be true! Not only can you write about personal travel, but if you haven’t done enough that is worthy to write about, there are so many class excursions on the weekends that you can simply pick your favorite trip to write about.

Art and History “Excursion Course”

The great thing about a field trip class is that you’re able to experience the topics and enjoy the sights while you learn rather than just looking at pictures in a textbook. If we were to have studied the same topics while sitting in a classroom the entire time, I would have had difficulties staying awake (no offense, Lorraine!). However, being up and walking around while getting to experience the unique demonstrations in Sydney through the eyes of an artist and a writer makes for a much more memorable lesson in culture.

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Photo: Our fabulous instructors and Sculpture by the Sea

CAPA's Core Values

Cultural Engagement: Each class and excursion allows us to dive deeper into Australia’s culture and history. We are able to learn through many different sources in order to achieve the most fitting perspective on each topic. One of the most memorable experiences has been our walking tour, hosted by Andrew Roberts, around Barangaroo. Andrew gave us a lot of important information which helped us understand the colonization of Australia more from the perspective of an Aboriginal person.

Academic Rigor: I realize that the way I write about my courses makes them seem as if they are easy and low-maintenance. Trust me, this is only because I’m excited about building my writing skills and knowledge of Australian culture. While the course load isn’t unbearable, it often seems that way if you don’t put at least some effort into working on homework each day. Almost every week, we have somewhere around 5-7 pages of writing just in assignments. The readings and films that we view outside of class usually take up a good 2-6 hours per week. Last but not least, we have about 6 Travel Quickies which are 300-word responses that we write in class to build our writing speed. On top of our excursions and 18+ internship hours each week, it can seem intimidating at times. My reference to snacks pairing well with homework above wasn’t necessarily just an excuse to eat; at times, it is the only way I am able to make sure that both my health and study needs are met.

Personalized Learning: While the Australian Film assignments are somewhat narrow in what you can write about, the Travel Writing assignments are usually very open to interpretation. This is probably why I enjoy the class so much. It can be very difficult at times to stick closely to an extensive prompt whereas an open-ended one allows you to truly express your individual interpretation on each resource.  

Ambition: Although this is not officially a “CAPA core value”, I do feel that it plays a key role in what you are able to get out of each course and your internship. Going into this program with clear goals in mind, I have been able to strategically build on my weaker skills and clearly mark my achievements.

Midterms: A CAPA Celebration

While midterm week during most quarters is challenging and stressful as you prepare for exams, we just had a few assignments and then met with the Sydney CAPA team to celebrate making it through to the middle of the program. I admit to getting emotional, but for reasons other than the typical midterm hysteria. I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe that our program will be over in just a few short weeks. I have made so many friends and great memories through our class trips… I’m not ready for those experiences to end.

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Photo: Dinner at Buckley’s and Beethoven’s Finale at the Sydney Opera House

Thanks Sara!

Sara's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned. 

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Topics: Sydney, Australia, Official Bloggers and Vloggers, Academics Abroad