You might be wondering how you need to prepare for studying abroad in the United Kingdom. Many aspects of life here are different than what you might be used to. I have now been studying abroad in England for over two months and have compiled a list of things that came as a shock to me a an American student. Different areas around the U.K. will vary in their characteristics and quirks, but here are some general items of information.
1. Class Structure
Classes are typically in the form of lectures, workshops and seminars. In lectures, the teacher will be talking the entire allotted class time to teach. In my experience, most teachers use PowerPoint slides for notes and make them available online for your use. However, all teachers are different and this can vary. During lectures back home, nearly everyone uses a laptop to take notes. This is not the case at my host university. Everyone writes their notes out on paper. It’s common for students to print out the PowerPoint presentation and write their notes on that, but printers might not be readily available to study abroad students. In this case, you can just write your notes in a notebook. Some teachers allow the use of laptops, but I have come across teachers who do not allow any technology in their classrooms. Be prepared to write!
Workshops and seminars are based on the content learned in lectures. They are designed to delve further into the material and to be able to discuss content with the teacher and classmates.
This area was a major change for me and my peers. Homework and assignments in the U.K. are very different from assignments in the United States. In the U.S., you typically might have homework due for each class every week. You also have frequent quizzes, tests, midterms, finals and more. For the amount of time that I have been here, I have yet to submit anything for a grade. For each of my classes, the only assignments I have are two essays due during the semester. I also have no finals. This will vary depending on the class. I have a friend in a fashion class who has to produce a magazine and hold a fashion show. Another girl I know is in a history class and has an essay and a test to do during the semester. But for the most part, the majority of your work will be done on your own time. There are reading lists for classes, and you are expected to be studying and keeping up with the material learned in class. Depending on how you allocate your time, you will most likely be spending more time studying or working on projects on your own than in class.
For most of my life I have heard that it rains all the time in England. That is somewhat true. It doesn’t rain all the time necessarily, but it is frequently wet. Being surrounded by seas and oceans causes the air to be misty most of the time. The ground is usually wet, too. This is at least true in the Northeast. There are times when the sun is out and it is unbearably bright, but most days are overcast and cloudy. During this time of the year (winter through spring) it also doesn’t get very warm. It stays mostly chilly, so make sure to pack warm clothes and rain boots.
You might be used to having a car and driving everywhere you go. But while you’re abroad, you have to get used to taking public transportation (which is very abundant) or traveling via planes and trains.
5. Food Expectations
The food brands are different, and many stores do not carry typical American brands. One thing that I have missed is macaroni and cheese; I had to make my own from scratch (until my mom sent me a care package. Thanks Mom). But you will get used to buying brands you aren’t familiar with and learn which foods work for you and which don’t.
A Little Something Extra
There are also multiple places that offer student discounts: clothing stores, restaurants, cafes and more. Just be sure to ask about them!
And don’t forget: they drive on the left side of the road. Don’t let this confuse you as a pedestrian when crossing the road.
This list isn’t exhaustible, but I hope it helps your preparations to study abroad.
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