6 University Differences: U.S. vs. U.K.

So, you’ve made the big decision to go to America for college. Or maybe you just relate to the cultural differences between the U.S. and the U.K. all too well. Or perhaps you were just surfing the web and are curious. In any case, wave goodbye to fish, chips, and Big Ben as you imagine hopping on that uncomfortable international flight to your new home. While the languages are technically the same, this leap across the big pond has a few key differences that you need to be aware of.


  1. Sports matter to college students. A lot.
“University of Utah Vs. Utah State – Via MUSS” by Brenton Walker – originally posted to Flickr

Now that football is called soccer, and the word American football is not used, you are going to have a bit of catching up to do. This is an area of university life in the US that really does line up with the movies. Tailgating, school pride, and painted faces are truly typical for weekends. It’s kind of like the Olympics or the World Cup all the time… just on the collegiate level.


2. You are going to struggle with the concept of American change.


A nickel is larger than a dime, but it’s worth about five cents less. What? Also, students from the U.S. often don’t see loose change as having much value, and a lot of it will end up in some random drawer for the rest of eternity. It’s seen as more of a nuisance than anything.



3. The food portions in the cafeteria are insane.

wikimedia commons

The stereotype of American waste can’t be ignored in these gigantic, all-you-can-eat, dining halls. There will most likely be more food than you will ever be able to eat here. It’s incredibly overwhelming. Seriously, who needs free refills at every meal? Not that you’ll complain


  1. You can take an art class…even if you’re an engineering major.

It might not be an academically wise choice on your part, but the option is definitely there. There are a lot of differences in education. Schools in the United States focus much more on a range of knowledge instead of the depth which U.K. schools focus on. It might take longer to finish a degree, but you don’t need to know exactly what you want to do when you start classes. Also, be prepared to have more assignments, and the possibility to get a score of higher than 70 percent on them. It really is the land of the free.


5. You can’t drink if you’re under 21.


It’s going to be a little strange if you’re over 18 and have to revert back to your pre-uni days. Most students in the U.K. start college legal to drink, but in the U.S. it’s usually illegal for freshmen. Pub culture doesn’t really exist in the U.S., and a lot of the college drinking doesn’t start until around sophomore year. Say goodbye to relaxed conversations with your friends over your favorite ale.

6. Americans are generally friendly.


So don’t worry too much about trying to fit in. Honestly, you’ll probably be perceived as far more interesting and cool than the average university student because of your international background. If anything, prepare to be a topic of exciting conversation among your new friends.



Not moving to America from the U.K.? Completely OK; check out these links for a little more relevancy.

Are you a TCK moving to America? 

Are you an American leaving to study somewhere else? 


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