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UK Vs USA - Comparing University and Student Life

Nygilia McClain Student Life

Being outside your comfort zone is the best way to tackle many challenges in life. For example, if you plan on studying in England, be prepared for some educational differences. Especially for Americans. We are not the same as the English. Even though we both speak the same language, universities are taught differently from one another.

Let’s break down both America and England.

In America, our universities are setup to focus on the overall spectrum of knowledge. From personal experience, when you attend university in America, you get to choose the main course you want to take. However, along with your main course, you have to achieve certain “credits” in order to graduate by your fourth year. The way credits work is, for example, if you’re studying fashion, you would have to achieve/pass certain credits in other subjects. There are credits in Math, Science, English, and Philosophy. We have various teachers and only a few main ones for the course we decide to take. We choose the classes we need credits from. You could be studying fashion in your first semester, as well as studying science and Math because you need these credits from those subjects to pass by fourth year.

For me, I was taking an undergraduate four-year course in Graphic Design. Throughout these four years, I had to take other classes in credits, as well classes for my main study on Graphic Design. This made university very challenging, considering I had to pass and achieve credits for other subjects, including the main course I was studying for. It’s not easy.


Also, in America, our grading system is different as well. We focus on a 0-100 system for grading. The highest grade you can get is 100, which stands for an A+ grade. In the 90’s, it is an A or an A-. The 80’s stand for B+, B, and B-. Lastly, the last passing grade is in the 70’s, which stands for C+, C, or C-. Below a 70 is considered a D or F(standing for Fail). At the university I did my undergraduate at, a 65 or higher is considered passing. If you average below a 65, you fail the year and have to retake the class or redo the year.

From a social aspect, we have the typical things most universities have. Our housing is mainly on campus, which would have mainly rooms and shared bathrooms. No private bathrooms. No bars on campus or drinking allowed, due to government laws.

Driving is a must if you plan to get anywhere, unless you live in a major city. There are limited hours that buildings stay open and we have a school cafeteria, where we can buy meal plans for the year.

In England, the universities are set up for students to focus on only the course they get accepted into.

There are various lecture halls, where many undergraduate and postgraduate classes are held. They have two types of classes. They are called lectures and tutorials. A lecture is a class to teach more on the topic of a specific module so that the students gain insight for their coursework. They are not always required to attend, depending on the tutor (which is another name for teacher). A tutorial is a lesson taught by the main tutor. These sessions are a requirement to attend by students.

Currently, I am studying Animation at Northumbria University in Newcastle. It’s a nice setup where I am able to just focus on being an artist, learn new techniques, and gain insight on the industry. The tutors are pretty laid back and it’s nice after a long day of classes, classmates and tutors/workers could get together for a drink, if they so desired to. This would never be allowed back in the USA, unless we were graduated and over age 21.

The grading system was weird for me to adjust to, considering I’m used to numbers as the main factor.

Whereas in the UK, they are more focused on an overall grade. It goes Fail, Pass, Third, Lower Second, Upper Second, and First. In order to achieve a first, you must attain a 70 or higher. That is equivalent to an A in the USA.

Socially, I love that there is a student centre on campus in the UK. Everyone comes here to socialise, eat food, watch sports, drink, etc. You must be 18 or older to drink, since that is the law of the British government. For housing, also known as accommodation, they mainly have similar styles to the USA. However, what I found fascinating is that you can have your own bathroom, which is called an en-suite room. You don’t need a car to get places. There are many sources of transportation, including trains, metros, trams, and buses. Majority of places are walk-able, when you move to certain cities. Sadly, they don’t have cafeterias on campus but there are small shops that sell food nearby.

Overall, I am enjoying my time in England and to anyone that wants to escape and explore a new world, this is one of the places I would recommend.

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