Studying abroad in England sounds simple enough, but don’t be fooled–it’s still a completely different country!
Students often experience a greater degree of culture shock in countries where their expectations are inaccurate. Those who commit to a semester in the UK are often confronted with these expectations early on.
I was one of those study abroad students in the UK back in the day and my expectations and the realities of the local culture didn’t always match.
Here are a few suggestions to help set your expectations. When you return from your study abroad experience, you’ll have a few of your own.
Three Perfect Reasons to Study in England…
- The depth of academics. Undergraduates are often exposed to lectures and topics that they wouldn’t find at home.
- There is a rich sense of culture, history and friendly people who have unique sense of humor.
- An amazing diversity of cultures, languages and foods.
Three Bad Reasons for Selecting England as a Destination…
- “I chose England because I can’t speak any foreign languages!”
- “I chose England because it doesn’t seem as ‘foreign’ as some other destinations!”
- “I chose to study in England because the classes should be easier given the common language and culture!”
Three Surprises in England…
- The classes are more challenging, as you are expected to learn on your own and demonstrate a semester of knowledge in ONE paper/exam. This can be especially challenging for American students, who are used to being graded and turning in work throughout the academic year. By connecting with your UK peers and participating in group study sessions, you’ll be better adjusted to understanding how the academic system works.
- The culture is completely different than what I expected. You just might be surprised at how different and will think twice about making inaccurate assumptions.
- The food is like what my grandmother makes for Sunday dinner.
Three Things You Will Love After a Study Abroad in England Experience…
- Football (soccer) – As the most popular of worldwide sports, football is played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries. There are over 40,000 clubs in England alone, so you’ll never be at a loss in finding a team to support or a match to attend.
- Curry – The variety of curry dishes in England are immensely popular, and for good reason. Curry has been recognized as an integral part of British cuisine, and you’ll likely see dishes served in restaurants and homes all throughout England. Expand your own palette by trying out a new dish and new spices whenever you can.
- British Comedy – The Brits and their comedy are well-known for dry, biting and intelligent humor or ‘humour’.
Three Things You Still Won’t Understand After a Semester in England…
- The Royals – The British Monarchy traces it’s origins back hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise how ingrained into British culture it is. Although the political powers of the Monarch are much more reduced than years past, there are still ties between the British people and The Royals. Look at how many people tuned into the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton (who, by the way, each did a gap year and went abroad). You can’t say people weren’t interested.
- How Nice Brits are and How Mean Their Press Is – It’s hard to say why the British Press gets a reputation for being so ‘mean,’ but perhaps it could be attributed to the extremely dense market. With so many newspapers and tabloids competing for readers, there is a drive to outdo each other in any way they can. From hard news to celebrity gossip, the British press is notorious for operating in a vicious circle.
- Bangers and Mash with Mushy Peas – This quintessentially English dish can be found in pubs up and down England. The combination of mashed potatoes, sausages and onion gravy may be hard to understand but it hasn’t deflected from its popularity.
Three Things to Keep in Mind While in England…
- Control your drinking; It’s part of the culture for British students to drink, but there also those that drink and “chunder”. The reality is that most have only a pint or two and do not set out to drink a hundred shots of tequila.
- Be prepared to talk politics (you may find yourself responsible for Iraq and the World economy) and if you don’t have anything to say, just nod and smile.
- Your accent sounds like an exaggerated cartoon voice to a Brit. Embrace it!