In the second article in CSESoc's Trimester series we take a deep dive into the alignment changes faced in the new academic calendar system, specifically with summer internships and exchange programs.


Written by Elton PJ Shih and Mehri Amin

With the introduction of a new academic calendar system, it's inevitable for alignments to change, especially when it comes to summer internships and exchange programs.

In the second article in CSESoc's Trimester series we will be comparing the new trimester model with two of the most prominent academic calendars in the Northern Hemisphere: the Quarter System and the Semester System. We hope by highlighting the new alignments, CSESoc members planning on abroad exchanges and summer internships, particularly in the US, are well informed on the global opportunities available to them.

With our new calendar, we have three terms per year where the durations of terms are respectively mid-February to mid-May, early-June to late-August, and mid-September to mid-December (inclusive of exam periods). On the other side of the globe, the Quarter system has four quarters and their durations are roughly late-September to mid-December, early-January to late-March, early-April to mid-June, and late-June to mid-September (note that the latter quarter is not compulsory and often referred to as their summer break).

A comparison of Trimester and Quarterly System

Comparing our calendar with the quarterly system we can see that the trimester model does offer a fair amount of alignment for exchange, term 2 however overlaps with a sizeable portion of the northern hemisphere's summer break (late-June to mid-September). As internship opportunities in the US are mostly planned over the summer break, there would be less opportunities to use our summer break in the southern hemisphere to do an internship program abroad.

It's important to note here that computer science students can complete a work-integrated learning (WIL) course to free up any term without it impacting their degree progress and full-time status. The CSE faculty have poorly communicated as we've found that many CSE students are unsure whether they can undertake a WIL course.

The Faculty's response to a student's enquiry on an internship course available to undertake an internship opportunity overseas for T1 and still maintain full time status:

At present the BSc in Computer Science does not provide for an internship based course. It is certainly something that we have considered in the past but at present do not offer. There are however several project based courses.

SCIF2199 is a WIL course that is offered in all academic terms and for eligibility you will need to have completed a minimum of 48 units of credit and hold a credit WAM (65 or above), and of course have space in your program for a free elective. Freeing up a term however is much easier said than done since many computer science courses are now only offered in certain terms, for example, COMP3121: Algorithms and Programming Techniques is only offered in Term 2 2020, and COMP4920: Management and Ethics is only offered in Term 3 2020, both are core courses in the BSc in Computer Science program.

The Semester system on the other hand has three semesters in an academic year and the durations of the semesters are roughly mid-August to mid-December, early-January to early-May and late-May to early-August. (Note the summer period, late-May to early-August is not compulsory and often referred to as their summer break.)

A comparison of Trimester and Semester System (USA)

The scale of mismatch of semesters have decreased with the introduction of trimesters and a positive side of the new calendar is that exchange opportunities are easier to obtain, allowing students to experience a full semester in other countries. However, with many courses only offered in a certain term, missing a course in a particular term could lead to postponing your graduation date to upwards of a year.

In conclusion, we have looked at the comparisons of trimesters at UNSW with the most widely used systems in the northern hemisphere and while the transition into the new calendar has brought concerns and confusion, the positive side of this is it does offer the benefit of flexibility for global exchange and experience. For any questions or concerns please email [email protected].