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September 2012

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It was nearly two years ago when I decided I wanted to go on exchange. Now, just a few days before I leave for my little trip, the excitement is beginning to reach levels of breaking point. Months of filling out forms and credit approvals are all falling into place, now all that remains is me boarding an airplane.

I’ll be studying at the University of Bristol, in the south west of the UK, just 2 hours drive from London. I’ll be studying there for one semester, or approximately 4 months. As I’m taking only electives on my trip, I have actually no idea what subjects I’m going to take yet - I pick them once I’m over there. I’ll try and do something I’ve never studied before, like ancient history or something.

So I will try and post here every few weeks to keep you updated on my travels. The next time you hear from me will be from a dorm room in the UK. It will be small with one window and you’ll be able to hear all of the noise from my neighbours through the thin walls.

Excited? Yeah I am a bit.

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Life is not always as predictable as you’d like it to be.

Sometimes you only realise that you want to drop one of your units of study half-way through semester. Or sometimes you get unexpectedly injured or ill. Or sometimes life just throws you a giant curveball. And you know your studies are going to suffer as a result.

The problem is, Census date has passed. It’s too late to drop a unit of study without getting a fail. And no one wants to fail.

So what do you do?

You can request a Discontinue Not Fail (DNF) grade. You’ll still have to pay the HECS or fees for that unit of study, but you can discontinue your studies and won’t be penalised academically. That means no fail.

Let’s be clear though. A DNF is not a sneaky way for you to wipe a fail from your academic record. If you’ve failed assessments in the unit of study, you can’t get a DNF grade. Rather, a DNF grade is the lifeline you need when life gets in the way.

Domestic students can apply for the DNF grade without supporting documentation up to the DNF deadline – this Friday, 14 September.

So if you’re worried that you won’t be able to cope with a certain unit of study and you don’t want to fail, make sure you get your DNF application in quickly. Once the deadline lapses, DNF grades will only be given under exceptional circumstances and documentation will be required.

Here's some info on what to do before 14 September.

If you're unsure about your decision, check out these student support services.

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The Verge Festival is a dream factory. And being a Verge Director it is like being a child in Wonka’s chocolate factory: anything is possible, often it’s amazing and sometimes it’s just dangerous.

We had an idea: a symphony orchestra would play all the greatest songs from the Disney collection in the iconic Quadrangle.

But Disney is one of the world’s most protected brands. No Australian agent could give me performance rights for the orchestral music. So I did some research and found a concert that had been performed overseas: The Magical Music of Disney. This gem sees a symphony orchestra play all the Disney favourites as their film footage plays on the big screen.

I approached Walt Disney Music Publishing in the USA and several months later, the Verge Festival had the rights to stage the Australian premiere of The Magical Music of Disney.

Verge Festival will also play host to the "Humans vs. Zombies" Nerf battle, the Quad will be transformed into Hogwarts for Harry Potter Trivia, and Axis of Awesome and Tom Loud will perform shows straight from sell-out runs at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

And that’s just the icing on the cake. So from 3 to 12 October, come and be a part of the action.

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As a research scientist who has worked in laboratories for some time, I felt it was an important step in my career to undertake doctoral training. Sydney Uni was ultimately my choice as it offered me a level of freedom that's difficult to match at other universities. So I'm enrolled in Sydney's Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, but also at the University of Aix Marseille in France, in the international cotutelle PhD program.

How did I end up here? I noticed a research gap in Australia and found a supervisor at Sydney and a group in the south of France who both agreed to support my application. Now I'm in Aix-en-Provence learning techniques to bring back to my group in Australia, with a view to eventually starting my own microalgae research group, and hopefully a spin-off company after that.

The specific knowledge gap relates to genetic manipulation of microalgae suitable for producing industrial/medical enzymes, and biofuels potentially usable as jet fuel, whilst not competing for arable land – perfect for improving fuel security whilst not challenging food security.

The CEA (the institute at which I am stationed) is cutting edge in both nuclear fusion research, and biological research.

For more information, visit the Uni's Agriculture and environment website or the University of Aix Marseille website.

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