In the US most girls walk around in t-shirts with the campus logo on it, paired with some leggings or sports shorts and a pair of flip-flops to make a super casual comfy outfit. Likewise, guys are often in sports gear with the baseball cap being a common feature.
Whereas, in the UK campus clothing is a lot less casual. Some people will still come in, particularly boys with sweatpants and t-shirts on but overall people make a lot more effort in their uni appearance. Heeled ankle boots, jeans, skirts, dresses, faux-leather jackets are much more common in the UK.
The colder and wetter climate in the UK also means that by the time students start university in the UK you cannot wear things like flip-flops and shorts daily without getting cold.
Moreover, in the UK (unless you go to Oxford or Cambridge) university logo clothing is not as common. The university may sell some hoodies in a variety of colours, but often it will be very basic with the same logo on them all and people will probably only wear these on lazy days in their accommodation, not outside regularly.
On the other hand, in the US there are t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, coats, sweatpants, shorts, blankets, bunting, and even Christmas decorations and dog toys adorned with the university logo and most students seem to have a large portion of their wardrobe made up of university-branded clothing.
In the UK you would never have to share a bedroom with another person, I think the US is unique in having shared dorms. Furthermore, in the UK it would be rare to live on campus after your first year. The accommodation itself differs also in the UK you could opt to live in accommodation where you have your own bathroom, whereas here it’s typical to share.
The UK accommodation would always have access to a kitchen with things like a microwave, ironing board, vacuum cleaner, and mop included, as well as a cleaner and trash collector would come once a week. But, in the US it seems like you must bring everything yourself, even a bin, to the accommodation.
A lot can be said about the differences between classes in the US compared to the UK. First off, the timetable in the US means classes can start as early as 8 am and finish as late as 9:30 pm, with some evening classes lasting three hours. In the UK the earliest class will be at 9 am and it will be rare for your class to run past 6 pm, let alone last for more than two hours.
Both US and UK classes require reading, but in the UK, you would not have a weekly multiple-choice test on the reading or any kind of weekly test for that matter. In the UK assessments are mostly coursework based with an average 2,000 to 3,500-word essays and perhaps another form of assessment such as a presentation or source analysis, depending on your subject with exams only in December or May and June and these exams are hall based. Personally, as a history student, I only had one exam last year in May.
For the classes themselves, in the UK your classes would be split into a lecture with everyone doing that module attending and then for humanities-based subjects you would have a seminar class of about 20 people and for the science subjects you would have labs, and then for things like law you would have tutorials. This split means your seminars/labs/tutorials have fewer people and are more open for discussions and reviews of the course material.
Attendance in the US is also vital towards the grade, while in the UK it does not, and you will only get called up about your attendance when it slips below 75%.
In the US books are so much more expensive than in the UK, along with the added cost of things like clickers, which in the UK would either be given to you for free or the professor would tell you to use an app on your phone. Furthermore, most UK libraries will stock books required for reading and you will often use multiple books throughout the term making it easy to borrow and return books, or even access free e-books, without spending so much money.
Rather than have house parties all the time, nights out in the club or bar are very popular, even amongst those under 21s! In the UK and Europe, the legal drinking age is 18… so most of us start drinking even before we start uni.
On our university campus, we usually have a bar, the Student’s Union bar. It is run by students, for students, and provides student’s job opportunities. At Essex, it’s also where we can grab some food or Starbucks or go to Milk It on a Monday night… Milk It is our cheesiest night on campus! It’s full of drinks deals and everyone’s favourite cheesy party music. Here’s a clip of a Milk It Monday.
In the UK we have a MASSIVE drinking culture. Freshers week (it’s really two weeks long) happens at every university without fail. During the day we may have introductory classes or social events for the first week. However, every night has a different event in the nightclub or bars on campus or around campus. Some events our university, the University of Essex, holds vary from UV paint parties, special guests, Ministry of Sounds takeovers, Pound Party (the cheapest night you’ll ever have), neon parties, Afrobeats x Coko Classics and so much more! To see more about typical events click here.
At the end of the academic year, we also have some huge events. The End: Squares Party is an all-day drinking event right on campus. Rather than have a quad, we have 5 squares that run through campus. This event brings around 3,000 students to campus. There are different DJ booths, food, and alcohol until 5 am the next morning. Take a peek at how a typical student spends their day at Squares Party!
The Summer Ball begins at 7-8pm and is nonstop until 5 am the next morning. It is formal attire, with boys wearing suits and girls wearing evening dresses. There a funfair rides, bouncy castles, fireworks, performers, artists, cocktails, food, and so much more. Click here to take a peek at what the Summer Ball was like this year.
Most universities in the UK do not provide meal plans. I repeat, NO MEAL PLANS. Instead, most of us when we first start stock up with cooked goods from home, before starting to make late night Tesco trips to fill up our fridges. Typical meals include beans on toast, omelette, jacket potatoes, egg and soldiers, fajitas, and spaghetti Bolognese.
Although we do not have meal plans, we do have food establishments and coffee shops on campus that we can grab food from in between lectures or seminars.
Domino’s is hugely popular amongst UK university students. Most deliver until 3 am and they frequently have great student deals or events during Freshers week.
Sports in UK universities are kind of big deal, but not as much as it is here. Training, for example, does not commence as early in the morning or as regularly as it does here, and sports scholarships are not as common, although some universities do have very good programmes. For example, Loughborough University, Durham University and the University of Nottingham. In the US around 150,000 student-athletes are currently provided with funding worth $2.9 billion from the NCAA Divisions. The numbers in the UK are so small I could not find published figures!
Sports facilities are heavily invested in, however. Our university just invested $13.1 million dollars not new sports facilities, including both indoor and outdoor centres, gyms and sports halls.
In the UK many people join sports as a way of integrating themselves into university culture. Unlike here, we do not have sororities or fraternities, so our sports teams become our families! We have both sober and social socials, engage in on campus and external volunteering and once a year can travel together to destinations in Europe on Tour. Some of these places include Rome, Croatia, Prague etc.
Relating back to alcohol (yes, I know, we drink a lot) every week most universities will have a night out aimed specifically at sports students. Wednesday’s at Essex is Sports Federation. It is an excuse to celebrate or drown our sorrows depending on that week’s game results.
Typically, students are mortified the next morning because you end up getting horrendously drunk and making a general tit of yourself. I can confirm, this is a very accurate statement… To read a more in-depth FED story click here.
Lastly, at the end of every sports season, we have Derby Day. We either attend our rival’s university or they will come to us. It is a day full of sports competitions, rivalry, and you guessed it… a shit tonne of drink. This day occurs at most major universities and allows us to compete to prove whose sports team is the best and have a good old drink.