If you’re lucky enough to have a semester or year where you study abroad, hopefully you’ll give England a visit. I live here, went to university here and have met some lovely people from the USA who were studying abroad here. So I think I’m a qualified source to provide some sage advice and inside tips for students studying in the UK.
When it comes to studying in the UK you will be left to your own devices a lot, your timetable will suddenly seem shockingly empty. This does not necessarily mean you have less work to do, it just means you have more independent learning. Get organised or be prepared to not sleep for a few days before an essay deadline. Generally the curriculum will probably be less structured and you will have more free time (note: If you go to Oxford or Cambridge the workload will be a lot more intense). We don’t have Majors and Minors like the US, you study one subject or you do a flexible combined (or joint) honours degree. Depending on what you’re studying and what year you’re in, you may be able to dabble in multiple subjects but mostly you’ll be learning about one.
Unless you are staying in catered accommodation you will have to cook for yourself. There are no university food cards, you can buy food on campus but the prices aren’t necessarily any cheaper than other places- generally making it cheaper to just cook for yourself. On the plus side the kitchen is usually the common area of student housing and a good place to get to know your flatmates (for our US friends; that’s British English for the people you live with in your apartment).
In most English universities you’re in campus housing for the first year but after that you move in to your own house. When you’re studying abroad it makes sense to go into halls (accommodation specifically designed for students, with individual bedrooms and possibly bathrooms depending on how much you are willing to pay). Attempting to find student housing can be a bit of nightmare, especially if you’re in a big city like London. However, if you go into student halls everything’s a lot simpler and it’s most likely you’ll be joined by a lot of other international students. For instance, Touchstone (who specialise in student accommodation in London) say over 85% of the students in their halls are international. Having other international students around is great because you’re in all in the same situation and can explore the UK together.
A top tip from me would be to consider coming to the UK before you’re due to start University and staying in a cheap hotel whilst you check out your accommodation and make sure it’s got everything you want (or are able to pay for).
Socialising and Drinking
Drinking is a big part of UK student culture and UK culture in general– with the legal drinking age being 18. However, you don’t have to drink to have fun and go out with other people. There are various drinking games which I’m sure people will explain to you. But one simple example is “God save the Queen”. Firstly watch out, this could happen at any time – in fact half the fun is doing it when someone is completely unsuspecting – if you throw a 1 or 2 pence piece into someone’s drink, say “God save the queen” and they have to finish their drink (because the coins have an image of the queen on them).
House parties aren’t a normal night out in the UK; generally there will be pre-drinks (also known as pre-lash) round someone’s house and then out to a local club. The most popular nights to go out tend to be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, mostly because students have free reign of the clubs with most other people having a 9 to 5 job. There is also usually a popular night at the Student Union on a Saturday.
Sports teams and societies will have nights without with their specific in-group but generally they end up at the local club where most other people are anyway. There are a huge range of societies, some more serious and others. So join as many as you want and get to know lots of different people.
Football (or Soccer) – this is an essential part of British culture. Practically every little boy in England spent their break time playing football in elementary school (we call it primary school). Other sports that are a big part of English culture are rugby, cricket and Formula 1. There are sports societies at most Universities who will help you either begin or continue to pursue your sport of interest, and these are often coupled with some of the social perks mentioned above. Often sports teams will go abroad on tours where you’ll get to jump on cheap student flights and test your abilities against people from other European countries.
TV and Music
If you want a relatively accurate reflection (with a few comical exaggerations thrown in) of UK student life, I suggest watching the UK TV shows “Fresh Meat” or “The Inbetweeners”. We have also grown up with a huge amount of US TV and music – which is great because it gives us an idea about US culture and we can all bond over how sad we are about Breaking Bad ending.
So remember, although it may seem like a whole new world to some of you – England is a very welcoming city. Make sure to like, subscribe and share or comment below some of your tips for students studying in the UK. Cheers!