10 Hands-On Subjects to Study in the UK as a High School Student

by Danielle DeSimone

Calling all Anglophiles: today’s the day you decide to not only study in the UK, but also to choose a subject that will allow you to dive headfirst into British culture. Study abroad in England in high school is all about immersing yourself in another country and culture. By studying any of these hands-on subjects, you’ll be able to not only immerse yourself in the UK, but in fields that have inspired millions. From Shakespeare to sharks, there’s something for everyone who decides to study in the UK! Here are just a few of the best subjects to study in the UK for all you hands-on learners out there:

Oxford drive in England
Walk the hallowed halls of Oxford to get your intellectual on.

1. English Literature & Creative Writing

The UK is home to some of the world’s most beloved books, writers, and wizards (#TeamDumbledore or #TeamGandalf), making it a prime location to study literature. While studying in the UK, you can explore the cliffs where King Arthur was supposedly born, slip through the alleyways of Sherlock Holmes’ mysteries, or take a twirl around the Pump Room like Jane Austen’s characters (and she herself) once did. If you want to get your hands on English literature, the UK is the place to literally do it. Having physical landmarks and a cultural context for your literary studies will make the stories you are reading come alive.

Do you want to go home a master of the written word? Like all the famous UK authors that have come before you, you can use the rolling glens and scraggly cliffs of these islands as inspiration for your own writing! The UK is well known for its incredible literature and creative writing teachers that will have you on the Pulitzer Prize list in no time. Just remember to “Do as the British Do” and add a few extra vowels and consonants to your vocabulary when describing the colours of your flat or your favourite part of your study abroad programme in the UK.

2. Geology

Do you think rocks rock? Are you wild for weathering and erosion? Do you prefer (old as dirt) stones to gemstones? The UK has some of the most unique rock formations in the world, and is a great place to study geology in high school. The White Cliffs of Dover are iconic, Scotland has rocks dating back to the Archaean Eon, and the English Channel is famous for its Jurassic Coast, studded with fossils and incredible geology, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.

If you’re really loving limestone these days, try studying geology in the UK and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. There are high school programs in the UK that include experiential learning components or internships that will give you real-life experience in the field of geology.

Bridge across the Thames River at night
Take a stroll along the Thames at night.

3. Theater 

Have you heard of a small-town playwright named Shakespeare? Rumor has it he got his start in London.

The UK continues to be one of the world’s hotspots for theater, embracing both the classics and innovative new drama. There is an incredible amount you can learn within the world of theatre if you study in the UK; from acting to directing to screenwriting to set design, each aspect plays a critical role in getting a play out to an audience.

Test your acting chops and passion for the bard with a high school program in cities such as London, Stratford-upon-Avon, or Manchester, where theater rules supreme (in case you haven’t heard: Harry Potter is making waves again, but this time on stage!). You can bring your newfound skills (and mock British accent?) back home and share what you learned while studying abroad in England with your high school’s theater group!

4. Marine Biology

When you think of marine biology, do you think of turquoise waters and tropical fish? Well, while we’re always fans of warm, sandy beaches, the United Kingdom actually has quite a bit of diverse marine biology. In fact, there are a number of ways to study in the UK in high school and focus on studying marine life.

You might have to trade your love of Dory for some slightly less flashy fish, but the UK is home to marine life such as Basking Sharks (the second largest fish in the world), Fin Whales (THE largest living mammal on earth), puffins (clumsy, but adorable), and Leatherback turtles (surf’s up duuuuude).

The UK has an endless amount of coastlines for you to choose from, but Cornwall, Scotland, and the Orkney Islands are by far some of the more popular locations for studying marine biology. Utilize research tools such as GoAbroad’s high school program directory to find a study abroad program in the UK that will not only fit your interests in marine biology, but can also give you practical, experiential experiences in the field.

Inside the Globe Theater in London, England
Thespians and Shakespeare fans should take in a show at the Globe.

5. History 

The United Kingdom has been center-stage for some of Europe’s most important historical events. From the first signing of the Magna Carta to the podiums of Winston Churchill’s speeches, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have all held essential roles in world politics.

Although you’ve probably read about all these things in your textbooks, studying history abroad in the UK means you can live among the history you’ve been learning about in the classroom. The castles, parliament halls, battlefields, and streets where history has taken place are yours for the taking. You’ll also have access to incredible primary sources to do research (a visit to Oxford University’s library of texts alone is drool-worthy!).

6. Photography 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what a summer or semester of study in the UK focused on photography is worth! Aside from an endless collection of stunning natural beauty, historic and modern buildings, and a beautiful,diverse population to photograph, the United Kingdom also is well-known for its strong photography and arts programs. 

Studying photography in the UK will allow you to come home with proof of your hard work; there’s nothing better than a full portfolio of international pieces to show future colleges how talented and dedicated you are to photography!

View in Leek, United Kingdom
Travel to the countryside for gorgeous photos while searching for lost lovers, Kathy and Heathcliff.

7. Theology 

King Henry VIII earned his bad reputation for beheadings, it’s true, but he also turned the world of Christianity on its head by splitting from the Catholic Church and founding the Church of England. Since the good ol’ days of the Renaissance, the UK’s population has grown increasingly diverse, bringing a variety of traditions, beliefs, and religions to its shores.

With this long history of religious revolution, as well as its current diversity of beliefs, the UK is the perfect place to study theology, and many of its universities (such as the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, or Exeter) specialize in it. Many universities offer opportunities to study in the UK for high school students, so be sure to do your research to find one that best matches your interests!

8. Art & Design

When it comes to art, the U.K. knows its stuff. Having housed some of the finest masterpieces (and masters) in the world, the United Kingdom has long been regarded as a world leader in art and design. In fact, according to QS World University Rankings, the U.K. has ranked five universities in the top 15 universities in the world for their art and design programs.

Check out universities or art academies that open their doors so high school students can study in the UK, especially in cities such as London, Edinburgh, Brighton, or Manchester. These places are known for their art scene; whether it be in local galleries or in globally renowned museums, they all offer high school students the opportunity to engage with art while studying in the U.K.

9. Journalism

Although “news” is nothing new, England has been producing newspapers since around the 16th century and is now home to some of the most well-respected news agencies and academic journalism programs in the world.

So pull out that yellow notepad, get your recording app out, and get some hands-on experience in the field of international journalism by studying in the UK.

Bustling road in Hastings, United Kingdom
Get a taste of life outside London with a homestay in a small English town.

10. Archaeology

We can’t promise you’ll have an Indiana Jones archaeology adventure, but we can promise that for a series of islands with centuries of history, the UK is studded with insane amount of archeological sites. In recent years, archaeologists have been digging under London’s sidewalks, finding layers of Roman ruins, Saxon settlements, and Victorian graveyards. To the south, along the cliffs of Cornwall, archaeologists have discovered what they believe was once the legendary castle of King Arthur’s birthplace.

While doing research on possible archaeology programs in the UK, look for those that offer you the opportunity to get your hands deep in the dirt. Nothing looks better on a college application than real-life experience in an academic field that you’re passionate about (plus, you know you’d look killer in an Indiana Jones fedora).

The best subjects to study in the UK are, of course, the ones that let you physically get your hands-on the subject matter and culture that you are studying. Studying abroad in the UK as a high school student will set you apart from other students when applying to college, not only because you lived abroad, but because you dug your heels deep into cultural and academic experiences that will prepare you for your future dreams and goals!

So what could you possibly be waiting for? Read up on programs, check out reviews and alumni interviews, compare programs, make a packing list, and get going!