This past January I traveled to England to visit a friend from Atlanta, Olivia Cappelletti, who currently studies Film at King’s College in London. A third culture kid like myself, Olivia was born in the United Kingdom, and spent several years in Asia before completing themajority of her secondary schooling at Atlanta International School. Although the US offers a wide range of educational opportunities, study abroad options grow increasingly accessible to young adults worldwide. But be warned: if you’re travelling halfway around the globe, you should expect a world of difference, from the application process, to social climates and transportation.
Instead of the traditional four years, university the U.K. only lasts three due to England’s education system. Students attend primary and secondary school through 10th grade, continuing to enroll in two year ‘colleges’ to explore potential careers before committing to a ‘course’ (major) at the university. This ties into the cost of education. Not only will you be paying for three years instead of four, but tuition is a fraction of the staggering costs American students face. At King’s College London, U.K. citizens annually pay $11,000 while international students are subject to a higher rate of $20,000.
The discrepancies in British and American school systems result in markedly different application processes. U.K. applicants can only apply to five schools, and must apply to the same course at each school, requiring a versatile application essay. Instead of reflecting on past accomplishments, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) application focuses on how students intend to move their career forward; the personal statement highlights experiences students have in their field of interest.
London’s international culture cultivates a diversity rare for an American college. While some such institutions boast diversity, it is unparalleled to what you’ll find on the streets of London. They buzz with a symphony of voices, a sound bite of another language with each person you pass. The cultural mosaic encourages self expression, “you’ll see everything from daisy dukes to hijabs on the pedestrian avenues.”
Despite the diversity, Olivia finds London significantly less friendly compared to Atlanta, “it took [her] a while getting used to not having a conversation with everyone.” This characteristic extends to student housing, resulting in a wildly different living arrangement from the community-oriented dorm life most American freshmen experience. At King’s College, all students have single rooms with bathrooms attached, and better yet - no resident advisor!
Most students don’t own cars: similar to many European cities, London offers incredible infrastructure in the public transport department. Although sometimes busy, it provides significantly more comprehensive transportation options than most U.S. cosmopolitan cities.
Nightlife is one of the greatest differences for the university student. Since there aren’t RAs, students pregame in their dorm kitchens, and instead of heading to frat parties or sneaking into bars, students head to nightclubs to legally partake in authentic London nightlife enjoying a safe, legal experience to unwind.
Regardless of where students attend college, it’s a universally enjoyed experience. If you’re currently exploring options for after high school, consider studying overseas. And if that’s too daunting, why not test the waters with a semester abroad!