If you’re dreaming of studying abroad, you’re not alone: studying abroad is becoming increasingly popular. The most common destination for American students is the United Kingdom. If you’re planning to follow thousands of other American students and study in the UK, you’re probably looking forward to trying on a new city and making new friends during your time abroad. Maybe you’re even feeling relieved that you don’t need to learn a new language or brace yourself for a major culture shock—but don’t forget that the US and UK are actually very different. Here are our best five tips for American students studying abroad in the UK.
- Make Time for Studying
Classes in the UK are structured differently than their American counterparts. In the US, college students hand in assignments every week and take a handful of tests or quizzes throughout the semester. In the UK, students typically work on their own or in groups outside of class and turn in one big exam or paper for a grade. Professors have higher expectations in the UK—expect to spend more time studying the material outside of class than in it. Find a good study group and get into a routine. And prepare to take all your finals at the end of the year, not the end of each semester!
- Drink Responsibly
Drinking is much more normalized in the UK, where the drinking age is 18. Yes, college students drink in the US as well, but there’s a different culture around it. There’s much more binge drinking in the UK than there is in the States. Also keep in mind that in pubs, drinks are bought in rounds. So be polite and buy a round for the whole group, and others will do the same in their turn. Pub crawls are a big part of student life, especially “freshers week,” so pace yourself. Don’t drink all your money the first few weeks you’re abroad! Speaking of which…
- Don’t Overspend, Especially on Accommodation
Studying in London and other large cities will be more expensive than elsewhere. And there are lots of interesting (and budget-friendly!) options in smaller cities, like Oxford, Cardiff, and Leeds. Accomodation.co.uk specializes in student accommodations in these and more cities and includes handy neighborhood guides as well.
Also, get a British phone number to use while you’re in the UK. It’s relatively easy, and calling and texting service is much cheaper in the UK than it is in the US. There are usually lots of sales in major stores for freshers week, so watch yourself and don’t overspend. And finally, create a budget and stick to it!
Sure, Americans and Brits speak (close to) the same language, but communication is very different in the UK. For example, in the UK it’s considered very bad form to brag about yourself. Be self-deprecating instead. And learn some slang before you go—you don’t want to miss calling bagsy on the last slice of pizza. Try to avoid talking about Brexit or other political matters, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the issues or don’t know which side of the debate your companions are on. If you find yourself trapped in a political conversation and don’t know what to say, you can always defuse the situation by commenting on the weather.
- The Weather
The fact that the United Kingdom uses Celsius is just the beginning. If you’re from the Pacific Northwest, you may already have an idea of what the weather in the UK is like: cool, cloudy, and clammy. It doesn’t always get cold enough to snow during the winter, but the high humidity means that it still feels relatively cold. And in the spring especially, weather in the UK can be very unpredictable. Think blue skies and sunshine one moment, and the next you’re in a downpour. So don’t forget your mittens, and always carry a “brolly” during the rainy season!
Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. You’re sure to make new friends and have lots of new experiences. With our guide, you’ll also have a better idea of what to expect in your new home away from home!