So you know you want to study abroad, but there are too many amazing countries to choose from? Here we compare two major countries, across two different continents to spotlight the many experiences you could have and where.
What is it really like studying in a different country? How much does the experience differ from country to country? If the studying experience differs, does the social side change too? I conducted a short interview about studying abroad with my two friends, Mads Melluish who’s taking her year abroad in Austin, USA and Esme Morter, who is based in Aix en Provence, France.
How well have you been integrated into the French/American University Life?
Esme: Yes, impressively so. At the university I attend, it’s mandatory for every student to do a year abroad in their third year, so, the students are really understanding and welcoming towards international students. There are 500 students and 100 of them are international students from all over the world. I think I’ve been really lucky in that respect.
Mads: The University offers standard things to go to, which are offered at Sussex as well, like Fresher’s Fair, something called ‘party on the plaza’ and you constantly get emailed about things you can go to. However, what I’ve been really impressed with is how welcoming and friendly the American students have been.
Have you just mixed with other international students?
Esme: It is easier to mix with international students because they are based in one location, whereas my French friends are dotted around the city. On top of this, the French students already have a life and friends of their own. Not to mention the language barrier making it a bit of a challenge at times. Saying this though, I was almost surprised at how welcoming all the French students have been.
Mads: In my accommodation, it’s pretty much half international, half American students. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at how much the American students are willingly to hang out with me and invite me to things. All of them are up for being social with you and just generally put a lot of effort into making you feel really welcome.
What’s the biggest difference in the studying experience?
Esme: Class preparation isn’t really a thing because it’s all lecture’s in the schooling system. You can ask questions but nothing is really expected of you because of the lecture educational style of teaching. There’s less of a demand for individual thought, more regurgitating what the lecturer is saying.
However, the French students had to sit an exam to get into the University, so they’re really devoted to their subjects. French students seem to be way more prepared and engaged than English students are, they have incredible historical world knowledge.
Mads: The American university schooling system feels much more like secondary school or sixth form. It’s all classes, no lectures so you have to be really prepared. But because of this way of teaching, you get a lot out of it, you’re not really allowed to miss any lessons and if you miss more than two or three, it can really negatively affect your grade.
You must be prepared for every class because 20% of your grade is class participation, as well as this, mid-term assessments throughout the year means you engage with your entire course. This means everybody participates, no one in the lessons are afraid to speak or ask questions, which makes the learning process and classes interesting.
On top of this, the biggest difference is that the school pride is through the roof! Our school colour is burnt orange and people go nuts for it. Basically, it’s like university on steroids.
Is the relationship with your lecturer similar?
Esme: As I only have lectures, not seminars, I don’t have as much as a personal relationship with my lecturer, but everyone’s really lovely and if I reached out, I’m sure I would be able to build a relationship.
Mads: I get more contact hours and it’s classes with only one teacher for an entire term. I see them a lot more often – so there’s massive potential for me to build a strong relationship with my lecturer if I wanted to.
What’s the accommodation like?
Esme: So, I’m doing things slightly differently to how normal international students would probably do it. I have my own apartment, this is the standard way French students live at University, but for an international student it’s quite unusual. There are halls you can go into, but they usually house about 40 people!
Also, I didn’t just want to make friends with internationals students, I wanted to make friends with French people as well.
Mads: The accommodation I’m in is just like East Slope. It’s a great little community where all the students live and hang out. Everyone’s about all the time, so it’s the best way to get to know people.
Are the Societies the same?
Esme: The university is for ‘political sciences’ so the societies are much more weighted towards ‘debating’, activities and ‘out-reach’ programmes. All of the societies are organised really well and all student run.
Mads: There are sororities, which is obviously very different because they’re not really a thing in England. I don’t really know that much about them because I’m not a part of it!
What’s the social side of it like?
Esme: There aren’t really clubs in the same way. Well there are, but they’re pretty rubbish. However, everyone goes out every night, it’s more to have a couple of drinks with friends. There are parties organised by the uni and ‘erasmus’ every week.
Mads: As I said before, the university system is much more like school so the American students don’t really tend to drink in the week, they usually save that for the weekend.
I tend to socialise within my coop (where I live), which has pretty live parties and events every weekend, some even open to the public. Most Saturdays they have a band night which is where they get local musicians to come and perform at the coop. On Wednesday there’s $1 beer nights at our local bar which is always live.