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 Worth the drawbacks?
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2015 9:54 am   Post subject: Worth the drawbacks?


I'm an Australian citizen looking at attending the University of Waterloo in 2016 to complete a Computer Science (Co-op) degree should things work out and so forth. However, I have to choose between a subsidised and still congruous education here in Australia (e.g. at UNSW) versus an uneconomical but much more internationally recognised and, from my research, rigorous degree from UWaterloo. Ergo, my question, one that currently rules my thoughts, is should I risk the much greater debt and attend University of Waterloo or stick with what I regard as a somewhat comparable education here in Australia? I am currently leaning towards the University of Waterloo as I feel the environment is much more conducive to my studies and, accordingly, goals as well as feel the reputation would help a great deal if I choose to work in, say, the US. Either way, thank you for the help and I hope you are able to sway me in the right direction Smile.

A vacillating prospective international student.

PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2015 3:54 pm   Post subject: RE:Worth the drawbacks?

My impression is that there are several Australian universities that are worth getting a CS degree from. Even if you go outside Australia, UWaterloo may not be the best international option. This discussion thread looks promising:

That said, I'm not involved in hiring, and I have no visibility into hiring practices in Australia -- if that's where you're planning on living and working after university. I could be wrong, but I don't think UWaterloo is going to be a serious advantage there.

By the way, you might want to research the winter temperatures in Canada before committing to living here for 4 years. I've met several Australians and they invariably found our weather uncomfortably our summer. It's currently -25C with windchill in Waterloo, and there's over a foot of snow on the ground.

PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2015 10:54 pm   Post subject: Re: Worth the drawbacks?

Thanks for the help, I realise that the top CS Schools in Australia will provide a solid education but I fear it won't compare overall to a university such as that of Waterloo. I don't intend to work in Australia starting out after University but even still you may be right in saying that UWaterloo carries no substantial advantage. As for the temperatures, it will certainly require adjustment but due to medical conditions I actually function better in cold weather than Australia's often overly hot temperatures. I'm still not sure what to pick though as even if the quality of the education is equal the atmosphere is very different: Australia tends to be very laid back with most students not putting in effort outside of large assignments.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2015 10:49 pm   Post subject: RE:Worth the drawbacks?

I think the top few Australian universities would be similar to U-Waterloo, U-Toronto, or U-British Columbia, which are probably the top three CS programs in Canada. I looked at U-Syndey as an example (I have no idea where you are in Australia) and found that the course descriptions for their "Bachelor of Computer Science and Information Technology" degree look very very similar to what I studied at U-Waterloo's "Bachelor of Computer Science" degree.

The required courses follow almost exactly the same path. When I clicked through to the course schedule for their AI course ( I found that it looked very similar to the UWaterloo AI course ( at the bottom of the page, or PDF direct link:

I don't know anything about the quality of the professors at (for example) U-Sydney, but I do know about the instructors at U-Waterloo. Most of my instructors were acceptable, and a few were exceptional ... but at least three professors were entirely unacceptable and should never have been professors. If quality of instruction is important to you, consider looking up the professors at U-Waterloo on one of the many rate-my-prof websites.

If your goal is work, then any of these universities would basically guarantee you employment; I regularly work with programmers who don't have a university degree (although it is more common that programmers have a degree). If your goal is a graduate degree (Master's or PhD) then you should look deeper -- would you want to do your next degree at the same place, or at a new place? If a different place, then which one?

As for atmosphere: I think you'll find that it's very similar. Students often appear to be very laid-back, but that is a thin veneer over a lot of stress. It's common to brag about the amount of work that you are shirking, or the amount of studying you need to do (but aren't), while drinking with friends. Later that night, you work your ass off until it's 6am and you can't see straight and goddammit your code still won't compile, and you have a calculus lecture in two hours.

You may find that it helps to state your goals explicitly. What do you want to do after you are done with university?

Then, answer this: what is the most important part of your time at university?

PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2015 12:56 am   Post subject: Re: Worth the drawbacks?

As for the quality of professors here, more often then not they are, I guess you could say, average but, just as in UWaterloo, there are a few who are exceptional. My goals are as follows: gain employment at a solid company in the US for experience, return to Australia after a few years and peruse the many startup opportunities (I have many ideas myself that I would love to experiment with and so forth), after that I would probably seek a stable employment in Switzerland where I have family closer to the end of my career (ie I could be in Australia for a few decades after my experience in the US). Of course things change but my goal is to definitely undergo employment in one of the American tech hubs and, thereafter, explore the opportunities here in Australia. As for the most important part of your time at university, well it will be A. networking and B. getting the best education I can whilst also having an atmosphere which encourages me to be studious and go beyond the coursework.
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