Comparing the academic culture of your home country to your study abroad destination
If you are planning on studying abroad, one of the things to consider is the change in the academic culture you would experience. Are you ready for something totally new? Here are some of the surprises that await you if you choose to hit the books in the USA, Canada and the UK.
No matter where you come from, studying overseas changes your life. The academic culture of each country is usually quite unique due to every place having its own history and habits. This change in your student life will be even more obvious if your study destination is an English-speaking country and you originally come from a completely different part of the world, such as North Africa, South East Asia or one of the GCC countries. Here are some academic differences you may encounter while studying abroad in the US, Canada and the UK.
If you were to stay in your native land, you would most likely continue living at home during your university studies. That will not be the case if you choose to go studying in another country, like the US, Canada or the UK. Even if students in these nations could live at home, they usually choose not to. Going away for college is a typical rite-of-passage for young students. In the US, most freshman (first-year) students live in their university’s dormitory and share a room with one of their schoolmates. In the UK, students often stay in university residences, though generally in rooms of their own. In Canada, it is a mix of the two. Either way, in these countries you are likely to develop deep relationships with your peers due to living in close quarters together rather than individually commuting to school from home.
Relaxed study pace
In many non-Western countries, studying at university means that you will lead a fairly strict and structured academic life. Classes and lectures fill your days, and writing essays takes up your nights. You probably won’t have time for extracurricular hobbies, as your focus will be on getting good grades. Of course academic success also matters in the US, Canada and the UK, but in these countries there is much more to student life than actual hardcore studying. Many students belong to various sports teams, theater clubs or language groups, for example. An active social life and fun student parties are highly valued – even if it means having to pull an all-nighter studying for the next test. California is a particularly great place to study if this laid back attitude appeals to you. Check out the Pacific Oaks College in the Los Angeles area or San Jose University in the Bay Area.
Internationally recognized top schools
It’s no secret that the world’s best-known universities tend to be in English-speaking countries. Everyone has heard of Harvard, Yale and Oxford and thus a degree from one of these top institutions will open many doors for you all over the globe. If you end up attending one of these big-name schools, you will also benefit from networking with the top professionals of your field. This is a big bonus when you are looking for a job after graduation. While there is nothing wrong with attending the University of Delhi in India or the University of Malaya in Malaysia, having graduated from the famous Cambridge University in the UK is much more likely to impress your dream employer.
A more stable political climate
Last year about a half a dozen universities in the United Arab Emirates had to shut down for failing to meet their educational standards or for receiving a poor response from students. In 2016, several South African universities closed down for a while after student protests against tuition hikes turned violent. Sure, these types of study disruptions can happen anywhere but they are less likely to take place in established old democracies like the US and the UK. Living in a stable society means that you will be able to focus on your studies and personal progress 100% of the time. If you are looking for a particularly peaceful study country, Canada is a solid choice. One school there to look into is the Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, which has been ranked one of Canada’s top comprehensive universities.
Studying in a big world language
When you complete your studies in English, you have an undeniable advantage when compared to getting your degree in a lesser-known language. English is said to be the world’s “most influential language,” as it is used in global academia, research and business. There are more than a billion people in the world that speak English as their first or second language. This means that the more fluent you are in it, the more employment options you will have in the future. Of course, English is not the only world language: Chinese is another major one. If you would like to learn both, you could apply to the Suzhou Centennial College in Beijing – it is the first Canadian college approved to operate in China. This way, you could practice Chinese in your everyday life while still improving your academic English while studying.
About the Writer: Mirva Lempiäinen is a US-educated freelance journalist from Finland. After calling New York City home for about a decade, she now resides on the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.