Academic Differences Between the US and UK

When you study abroad you get to travel, explore your new city, make new friends, and get to know a different university system, because yes, studying abroad really does involve some studying.  But experiencing a new school is part of the cultural immersion that makes studying abroad so great!  Here are just some of the differences you might find between your UK Host University and your UC:

Different Vocabulary

UntitledWhile at a British university you may hear your classmates saying something along the lines of “I have to revise for exams for my modules in my course at uni,” where American students would say “I have to study for the tests for my classes in my major at college.” Try your best to learn these words because it will make talking about school, or “uni,” much easier, and when everyone says they’re going to start revising for their exams, you’ll know it means it’s time for you to get to the library too.

Different Schedules

You will likely find that you are in the classroom less often at your Host University
than at your UC.  You could have lecture just once a week for each module, and your lectures might not be accompanied by any discussion section.  But since you’re in class for less time, you are expected to spend more time doing independent work; that means you will probably be assigned more weekly readings than you’re used to, so try to plan a study schedule early on so you aren’t overwhelmed by the readings and still have time to enjoy the other aspects of your university.

booksDropping Classes

The way you schedule classes in the UK might differ from the way you schedule them at your UC campus.  In California you are allowed to sign up for many classes and then drop a few of them once you’ve tried them out, but at British universities you cannot “shop” for classes in this way.  British students enter university already knowing what they are going to study and it is very difficult for them to change their course once they’ve started.  So do as the British do and prepare to stay in what ever classes you signed up for originally, instead of signing up for a bunch of extra units you plan to get rid of later on.

Different Format

The format of classes at British universities tends to be quite different from that of classes at the UC’s.  While in the UK you might find that you have only one assignment (probably an exam or a paper) for each module, but that that assignment is worth 100% of your grade.  You won’t be graded on participation (but still participate!!) and you might not have any midterms or shorter assignments due throughout the term. Of course, this won’t be the case for all modules at all universities, so you may find a slightly different structure depending on where you are and what you study.  But if your entire grade is based on one assignment, don’t let that scare you.  If you stay on top of your readings and go to every lecture you’ll know the content well, before it is time to turn in a paper or take an exam.  Additionally, you’ll often be given a few weeks break between the end of lectures and the beginning of exam time and deadlines, so be sure to use that time to work.