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Study abroad : Destination Guides

Differences between UK and US university culture

What are the differences between studying in the UK and the US? We take a look at some of the ways your experience may change depending on which you choose.

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With a shared history and many cultural similarities, it's not surprising that the United Kingdom and the United States are often compared. For international students who haven’t had much experience with either country, it could be easy to assume that there is little difference between the two.  


While these two countries have a lot in common, they also differ significantly in some areas. One of these areas is the approach to higher education and the culture/lifestyle that students can expect there. We've explored some of the biggest differences between studying in the UK and the USA


Campus life 


Going to university is a complete lifestyle change and for many students, understanding what their day-to-day life will be like when they get it is important. Campus life can be very different between the USA and the UK. For example, many universities in the USA have sororities and fraternities, while this is not the case in the UK.  



In the UK, the university campus is used mainly for study purposes. Lectures and seminars are held there, and students can use it as their main hub for studying and research. While there may be the occasional recreational area, for example, a gym or restaurant, most campuses in Britain are certainly more study focused.  


In the USA, campus life can be a different story. In the United States, university campuses are structured differently and focus on giving students everything they may need in one area. Most US campuses have accommodation on site, places to study, restaurants, social areas and much more. Depending on where the campus is, it may be more integrated within that city or town. However, most campuses in the US have more to offer outside of studying than those in the UK. 


Joining a club or society on campus can make a big difference to your university experience.  




In the US most accommodation is located on campus, especially for those students in their first year. Some universities in big cities will have limited or no student accommodation on their campuses. This means living in the city and becoming part of a community outside of the university. However, most students studying in America will likely find that they can choose to live on campus. 


The UK differs quite a bit in this regard. In your first year at university, it’s common to live in halls of residence. These are living accommodations owned by the university but not on campus, they are mostly shared flats and are a great way for students to meet friends in their first year. 


Following this, students need to find alternative housing for their remaining years at university. Those studying in the UK will find that many housing areas close to the university are rented out to students specifically. These are often houses shared with other students, friends, and classmates. It's a great way to make lifelong friends and helps to save on costs.  


Get more information about student accommodation in the UK.  


Out and about 


No two students are the same, and what they enjoy doing in their downtime will differ from person to person. Having said that, what students have access to depends on where they choose to study.   


In the UK, you can find students enjoying their time together in all the ways you might think, going out to eat, seeing a film or exploring their new city or town. International students may enjoy travelling around the country where possible and visiting some of the many tourist areas it has to offer. 


Due to the geographical size of the US, travelling around provides the opportunity for many varied experiences. The climate also differs significantly across the country. From sunny California to the snowy Northeast, there's something for everyone in the USA. The UK does not have such variability in terms of landscapes and weather but makes up for that in terms of cultural attractions. Both countries have world-famous and dynamic cities,  such as London and New York.  


Students in the UK can visit bars and nightclubs outside of the university. Due to the legal drinking age being higher in the US, this isn’t always possible for new students in their first few years.  




Working while you study 


Many students work during their studies. Working can enrich the study abroad experience or help earn some money while completing a degree. While the types of work that students can find are very similar in each country including, restaurant and retail work, those in the US may experience some limitations that students in the UK may not. 


In the United States, anyone with a student visa can work up to 20 hours a week during a semester. This can only increase this to 40 hours between semesters and during the summer. While this may be enough for some students, it may not mean making that much money. Finding work off-campus can be difficult for international students in the USA as their student visa may not allow it. 


The UK has a similar student visa rule regarding working hours, 20 hours a week during term time and 40 hours a week outside of that. However, it's easier for international students in the UK to use these hours off-campus than it is in the USA.  


International students often think of the UK and USA as being almost identical. However, there are so many aspects of life that differ, with higher education one of them. For international students looking at studying in either country, there are so many options available, and each has its perks when it comes to university life and culture. 


Remember you can start your study abroad journey by finding the perfect course for you in the UK or US. You can also read more about the top universities in the UK and the best universities in the USA.

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