We have all seen the movies of American schools and Universities and wondered if there was any truth to it all. In my second year of Uni, I went to find out for myself, as I did a semester abroad in Georgia, USA. These are the top comparisons I found which make the University experiences so much different.
Halls of Residence
In the UK, our halls of residence do vary, but it is unheard of for people to share bedrooms! Many rooms will have ensuites, and if not, a bathroom is shared with your flat. Flats often consist of 5-8 students, where they also share a living space and kitchen.
In the US, halls, also known as ‘rez’ often consists of huge corridors of bedrooms, with large bathrooms and sometimes a shared living space and minimal kitchen on each floor. The majority of the bedrooms are shared, with two beds, desks and wardrobe spaces for each student. The kitchen and living space on each floor is minimal, as it is more common to have Campus Dining Halls and Cafeterias where students buy their food, rather than cooking for themselves.
In the UK, our modules will generally last one semester to a year, but there may only be 1-3 assessments that contribute to your grade. This means you have less of a chance of being able to pick up your grade if you do badly in one assignment. This leads people to believe that, as we don’t have graded assignments every week, our workload is lower, but really you are always working towards your final exams as they hold almost all the weight of your final grade. It is said that in UK Universities, there is more emphasis on lectures and seminars.
In the US, you may find each of your classes has a new assignment each week, meaning you can keep track of your grade and know if you’re on track or not. This also means it is easier to pick up your grade if you don’t do as well on an assignment. The workload appears to be more in the US, week by week, but this reduces pressure on your final exams. In the US, many classes require you to do weekly quizzes, which contribute to your final grade.
In the UK, it is your choice whether you want to do well in University or not. University often sees teenagers transform into adults, so if you want to make the adult decision not to come to your lectures and seminars, that’s ok. You may find some Professors chase it up, but it will only affect your grade, therefore it is your choice.
In the US, however, many Professors will put in place punishments for not attending class! Most teachers will allow you a few sick days, or ask for a Doctors Note, but they aren’t shy of deducting marks and sometimes dropping your grades if you fail to attend class! It feels very similar to a UK secondary school in terms of attendance, in that, it isn’t a choice.
In the UK, when you pick your degree, the classes you do are very closely related. Many courses will offer a few electives, for me, it was two electives per year. They all closely tie to my course which means when you graduate you should be in a good position to pursue your degree.
In the US, you often have a few compulsory modules throughout your degree that you have to do, but the majority of your classes you get to pick! They often relate to your course, but not as closely as the UK ones do. This does give students an opportunity to try new things before graduating that might be in a different field to your degree.
Addressing your teachers
In the UK, you address professors with their first name, for example, John. This links to the slightly more adult nature of university I believe.
However, in the US, I found my professors would clarify the way they want to be addressed at the start of the semester, many wanting to be addressed as ‘Dr’ then their surname. It made me so nervous! I felt like I was back in secondary school! But I guess if you work enough to become a Dr, you might as well show it off!
In the UK, we are encouraged to join societies and sports teams to make new friends. You often see huge groups in nightclubs dressed up as all kinds, as a society or a team for a bit of fun. It is a lot of fun, and good for first-years who want to meet new people.
In the US, fraternities and sororities are a huge part of Universities. They are huge organisations, often named after Greek terms. It helps people identify with their University. On-campus, you often see houses where they all meet and live! They often do charity work, but there is also some truth to the craziness of frat parties…
As mentioned before, in the UK, you are encouraged to join in with sports at University, but you’re ultimately there to get a degree. It is perfect for making friends, and continuing a hobby you had before whilst keeping your weekends occupied.
In the US, they often draft in students from across the world to play for their sports teams. You balance your degree with being an athlete and it is very highly commended. It is a huge part of who you are within the University.
Let us know what University you attend, or any comparisons you have found!