For many people going off to a university, it is the first time they will be leaving home for a sustained period of time. The prospect of being in a new environment, combined with being at a new stage in life, and a new level of education, can be scary and exhilarating. If going to college in a different city in the US isn’t exciting enough, where better to spend a semester (or even your entire course) than at a university in the UK. A recent report on Ranstad Education tells us that there are now 500,000 university places in the UK, which is 30,000 more than were available last year. In other words, if you want to have the bragging rights to studying in a UK university city like London, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh or St. Andrews, there has never been a better time to make the move.
This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Life at college in the UK is a big change. Adapting to life in London or Manchester, for example, is an order of magnitude above life on an American campus. Here are some tips on what you need to know about university life in the UK in order to succeed.
Debts and Student Loans
Most students going to university on both sides of the pond usually end up with lots of student debt. Unless you have parents with deep pockets, you’ll be one of them too. Tuition fees in the UK have risen dramatically in the past years, from £3,000 to £6,000 a year, and in some cases, to the full £9,000 – the maximum the state currently allows. This, combined with one’s living expenses, adds up to a lot of debt.
If you intend on ditching life in the US for a few years studying in the UK, then you can get assistance for this from the government. Do bear in mind that while there have been large scale and extremely vociferous protests at the rise in tuition fees in the UK (the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, nearly lost his job because of it), they can still be substantially lower than they would be in the US. Something worth considering…
It Is a Learning Curve
Going to a university is both exciting and frustrating. If this is your first prolonged stint away from home, it can be a challenge without having your parents around. It is also expected that as you meet other people, you could be self-conscious, doubting your skills and even questioning your academic and social abilities. It can be tough, but you will adjust.
Expect certain commonalities in student life. While fraternities do not exist to the same extent as they do stateside, UK universities are extremely social places. You should be warned, though, that there is a real drinking culture in the UK, more so than the US. It’s worth keeping this in mind. You will be invited out and you will be expected to drink… a lot. If you are by yourself, this can put you in difficult social situations, particularly if you do not want to participate.
It’s All about Balance
If there were one word, which would describe a solid and sustainable approach to student life, it would be balance. You will have to learn how to balance your academic activities with social interactions. Everyone has a slightly different perspective on how to strike the best balance, but most would agree that too much of anything can be destructive. See the above.
One piece of advice would be to seek out and participate in activities you enjoy. There is no shortage of things to get involved in whether you are into sports, travel, politics, etc. Most student unions will run an information office where you can find out more.
You Will Make New Friends
It’s perhaps one of the biggest draws of doing at least part of your courses overseas: making new friends. Most large UK cities are extremely cosmopolitan places. You will be exposed to a wide range of cultures, languages and interests. This is true even outside London, which has become more of a global city in the same ilk as New York.
You won’t be the only American there, which should be reassuring to those who may be more tentative in terms of integrating with foreign cultures. If you do want a slice of home, find a group of American students you can mingle with too.
Remember to Study
It is important to make the most of all aspects of university life; the independence of living away from home, the challenges of your academics, the intense social life, the emotional ups and downs. But remember to study well. Remember the primary reason why you are at university, and remember the sacrifices you have made to have the opportunity to go there.
As a reminder: If you are looking for semester or sort-term programs in the UK, we invite you to search the Abroad101 directory of Study Abroad programs in the UK.
Guest Posting from Victoria Moretti, a professional writer from the UK. Victoria loves to write about businesses and macro economic affairs that move the needle. Her other loves include travel, long walks and flat whites.