As a half English international student, I thought I knew everything about British culture. Little did I know that studying in the UK was going to be full of surprises. Whilst I thought I had drawn a detailed picture of British stereotypes in my head, it turns out I knew nothing about UK’s youth culture. And no, the internet can not teach you everything (some things just need to be experienced).
What surprised me most when I first came to uni was how good people were at embracing diversity. Fashion wise, no style is classified as too eccentric – to dress differently was perceived as ‘cool’ or ‘retro’. Despite constantly moaning about the weather, on a night out the cold just doesn’t exist – summer cocktail dresses are a must in December! Pretty does hurt (be prepared to stock up on tissues for many a sniffly nose). A reputable UK university is also described as a multicultural hub, as students from all over the world live and gather on campus. For most students, there are only 2 semesters a year and they benefit from a 4-month long summer break!
A British stereotypical trait which you will unfortunately not escape from is the art of sarcasm and irony. As a foreigner myself, I can only sympathise – you will get used to it… or not.)
There is no set curriculum amongst British universities – rather, students get lots of freedom to choose their own path, be it the different styles of teaching or being able to choose modules based on your interests. Strangely, first year grades do not count in most undergraduate bachelor’s degrees, (as long as you pass) – so make the most of it, silly fresher, just don’t get the police involved.
Another cultural aspect Brits live up to very well indeed is their drinking culture. Nothing can really prepare you for ‘Pres’ – pre-drinking the English way, certainly during freshers’ week and later before Going Out Out. On a Thursday night (aka thirsty Thursdays) you will find a large percentage of students either chilling at the University Student Union or at the local pub playing pool and taking part in pub quizzes whilst drinking cider/beer.
If you are one to go clubbing and partying, you might want to listen to a few disco tunes, cheesy music and old school RnB to get accustomed to the sorts of things they’ll play in clubs. Student-friendly clubs mean great deals on drinks, but students in the UK never leave it until they’re in the clubs to start their drinking; expect to be drunk on arrival.
Another great way of getting good deals on campus/nightlife is if you are part of a society. Many university complexes have a lot of extracurricular fun to offer. Each university has a multitude of societies for movie fanatics, gamers, any kind of sports, basically anything! Anyone will find their cup of tea.
Studying at a UK university not only involves campus life, but also the city life, night life, traveling to other parts of the island and making the most of student life for the next couple of years. I hope Brexit and COVID (BROVID or COXIT – my money’s on the latter) won’t cut your student experience short as the country itself has plenty to offer already.