One of the things that drew me to UK education was the opportunity to focus only on my chosen course. In the US, there are a lot of general courses required in various subjects, but I was interested in a more focused university structure. In addition, I was drawn in by the variety of courses and modules available. I ended up being able to study Philosophy and Politics in equal weight rather than having to choose just one. The deciding factor, however, ended up being the price and time. University in the US is not only a year longer than university here in the UK, but it can also be much more expensive. I was able to get an international student scholarship here at Sheffield which made university much more affordable than anywhere I could've gone (besides my local state school) in the US.
I applied to thirteen universities in the US and I can say that the UK application process was SO MUCH easier than it is in the US. I ended up using UCAS to apply to five universities here and there were a few noteworthy (positive) differences:
I would say the biggest difference, besides it being a much simpler process, is that there's a bigger focus on academics and drive in the application process here. The universities don't care too much about your life story and/or activities; they'd rather hear about why you're choosing your course and what you want to do with it, which for me was a relief, but is something to keep in mind when writing your UCAS essay.
Most definitely my family and friends (but I think that's something everyone experiences when going to college, it's just amplified here because you're further away). The biggest challenge was meeting people and adjusting to cultural differences. Luckily, most universities have activities and clubs to join, which can help with making friends and feeling at home in a new country, and a lot of the cultural differences include fun things like going to chip shops + dancing at the clubs. It gets easier as you go on, and it's most definitely rewarding.
I would tell myself not to go in with crazy expectations, not because they can't/won't be fulfilled, but because it's just better to allow things to happen however they are going to happen. I've found I'm a lot happier when I just live without worrying about or comparing my experience to the experiences of others. I'd also tell myself to join more societies and go participate in group activities because I ended up doing more of that second semester and while it did still help me make friends, if I'd done it sooner I may have met more people at the beginning. Last but not least, enjoy every moment and don't be scared to put yourself out there. It will be a little hard at first but you'll be glad you did, it's a lot better than sitting around and wondering what you're missing out on back at home.
I've learned that I'm a lot stronger and more capable than I thought I was. I feel more self-assured and confident in my independence because if I can go to university 5,000 miles away from everything I know, I can do anything. I've also learned a lot about my academic interests. The wide variety of courses has allowed me to explore what I enjoy doing and may want to pursue in the future.
I've actually recently started thinking about going to law school after uni, which is definitely not what I had planned when I first got here, partially because I didn't really have a plan. Lots of people told me studying Humanities wasn't worth it or that it wouldn't lead directly to a job. However, my classes have really helped me explore all my interests and build on what I already knew I enjoyed, and the curriculum really focuses on how different areas of study and work intersect which is why I feel capable of going on to do law with my degree. What's most important, is that I chose to study something I was passionate about despite the uncertainty of what it could lead to, and I wouldn't have done it any other way.
Last year (before the pandemic started), I went to an Arctic Monkeys night at a local club with one of my flatmates who was also an international student. This was incredible because it was an entire night dedicated to dancing to Arctic Monkeys music. We stayed out all night and had an amazing time, and it was completely different from anything I'd ever experienced in the US. Afterward, we went and got chips at a chip shop nearby (we really immersed ourselves in the culture), and then we went home and crashed. It was definitely a stereotypical British night out, but I really felt like part of the community. It was a great way to make friends and unwind after a long week of uni.