Why UK students have it better, as told by an American exchange student

Image: Unsplash – Rochelle Nicole 

[Emily Alvarenga | Contributing Writer]

As I prepared to go abroad, I heard all the talk about UK universities. Whether it was that the grading scale was ten times harder than the US or that the classes were way more advanced, I admit that I was pretty nervous. But when I got here it didn’t take me long to realise that going to university in the UK is so much better. And although I’m sure all the movies make it seem like college life in America is so glamourous, here are the three most important reasons UK unis can top them any day.

Orientation Week vs. Freshers’ Week

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Image: Tobi Olasupo

Back in the US, we get Orientation Week, where older students show you around and get you settled in your dorms. First and foremost, the drinking age in America is 21, not 18, so most college kids can’t legally drink for the majority of their time at university. So you get drunk with the people on your floor, usually at some lame house party, after being lectured on how much trouble you can get into for drinking. And while the week’s full of activities, from school sponsored freshman dances to club fairs, it definitely falls short of the UK’s Freshers’ Week. A week made up almost entirely of events focused on drinking, drinking and more drinking, and lectures that don’t start until the following week! It sounds like a dream come true. And the fun doesn’t stop there, most of your unis have bars on campus. While we’re lucky if we turn 21 and get to visit the bars nearby before our senior year. Both weeks are about making friends and having fun at your new university, it just seems like the UK goes about it so much better. Granted you have the drinking age on your side, of course.

General Education Classes vs. Specialised Degrees

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Image: Pixabay

UK students are required to know exactly what they want to study before they even apply to uni. There’s no such thing as an ‘undecided’ major like there is in the US for those who have absolutely no clue what they want to do with their lives. In the States, we do four years of college, not three, and we spend a good portion of the first two years completing what we call ‘general education’ classes, which are basically a repetition of the very same classes you are taught in secondary school on the core subjects, like math, science and history. Unlike the UK’s specialised degrees, where you only take classes related to your major, we’re required to spend a ridiculous amount of time being retaught the core subjects – like we didn’t get it the first time. It must be terrifying having to decide your future at 18, but on the bright side, you don’t have to pass subjects you will have absolutely no use for after graduation and you get to finish a year earlier.

Tests and Quizzes vs. Exams

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Image: Pixabay

Here in the UK you’re probably used to having exams for all of your classes in one week at the end of each semester. You’ll live in the library for weeks and it’ll be hell, but it’ll all be over after that one week. And the best part is you usually get a second chance to resit the ones you fail. Over in the US we have tests and quizzes throughout the year, sometimes even three in a day, and they all add up to form your final grade. And did I mention homework? That’s a weekly course load in addition to a workload that seems as if it’ll never end. If we do badly on a test, it’s not the end of the world because it may only be worth 10 per cent of our grade, unlike your exams which are usually worth 50 per cent or more. But we spend the entire year doing work, constantly stressed. Oh, and we still have final exams, some even cumulative. So it’s not like we’re missing out on your exams anyway.

Whether you believe me or not, going to university in America isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You’re better off staying in the UK and being thankful you don’t have an exam every other week and can legally grab a pint to de-stress right on campus. We may have better food, but you certainly take the cake on universities.

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Why UK students have it better, as told by an American exchange student