UK versus USA education and culture, the difference across the Atlantic!

In the UK and Ireland, we all have a distinct perception of what college in the U.S. is like, Right?

The parties, the frat houses and the socks and sandals combo – yes it is real!

In general, we aren’t far wrong. But having been there, done that (and bought hundreds of T-shirts) my views have changed and, to be perfectly honest, I prefer it over there!

…and here’s why:

SCHOOL SPIRIT –  

Americans have SO much school spirit! Whether it be a big basketball game or a coffee morning charity event you can’t help but notice everyone wearing the college colours and excessive face paints to show their passion.

People you don’t know or have never met all of a sudden become your best mate just through random events. I LOVED IT!

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WORKLOAD –

I was very surprised by the amount of work! It’s undeniable that the workload in the U.S. is considerably bigger that over here, but the work is definitely worth less of a percentage towards your overall grade.

In other words, if you do badly on an assignment it’s not the end of the world because it’s only worth 10%, unlike our 50% exams at home.

I also had a love/hate relationship with pop quizzes (well more of a hate!).

These are tests at the beginning of class, adding up to a ‘daily grade’, but as long as you’ve done the reading, you’re sorted. These tests also became a godsend because it definitely took the pressure off during midterms and finals – if you did it right, which I certainly learned in second semester.

You do also have to buy the textbook, and I mean ACTUALLY buy it! There’s $100 you’ll never seen again…

GRADING –

Coming from home where it’s considered a miracle to break 70% on your assignments, I arrived in America and suddenly began getting 95% on things. WHAT?!

No matter how many times I got 90%+ on a piece of work, I still always felt like I’d become a genius, destined for Mastermind.

Having said that, one of the nicest adjustments was that Professors in America want a personal relationship with you and to get to know you both inside and outside the classroom. They know your name and not just your ID number and for me that really helped while settling in.

And sometimes, they’ll let you re-do their work if you’re not happy or will offer extra credit so you can boost your grade. Extra credit is literally free marks, just let that sink in for a minute. Free marks?! Completely unheard of at home.

DRINKING – 

Drinking culture is also a huge part of American college life, but because most college students are below the drinking age, a lot of it exists underground — whether that be at house parties, frats, fields, or through the use of fake IDs.

A massive culture shock for me was not being allowed to legally drink or go into pubs and clubs. But to be honest, it was actually nice to not revolve your days around it – like we do at home.

Also, just a heads up – NO ONE in the United States thinks red Solo cups are interesting.

They are seen as the dirty, plastic cups which you spend half of the morning after a party cleaning up and are the ideal beer pong receptacle. But because they are ever-present at American parties, they have made it onto TV and because American college movies are watched everywhere, red Solo cups are now “a thing” abroad. Weird.

 

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HUMOUR AND GENERAL LINGO-

Or should I say ‘humor’…

Sometimes in British humour the jokes on you – Americans cannot grasp that. Plus, we use irony, A LOT.

But when Americans use irony, they will often immediately admit it by adding an unnecessary “just kidding”, even if the statement is outrageous and obviously ironic.       For example, “If you don’t come out tonight, I’m going to shoot you… just kidding.”

Don’t get me wrong, Americans can fully appreciate irony, I just think they don’t feel as comfortable using it on each other in case it causes hurt or anger. Whereas over here, we use sarcasm as both a shield and a weapon. We mercilessly take the hand out of people we like or dislike. And also ourselves, in fact, even more so ourselves!

It’s not so much about having a different sense of humour, but more an all-round different approach to life. Americans are not embarrassed by their emotions and they applaud ambition and openly reward success. It’s an openness that always made me feel slightly guilty and apologetic when their achievements were met with silent appreciation, rather than claps and shouts – we just don’t do that. We avoid sincerity until it’s absolutely necessary.

A major thing I noticed is how Americans say, “have a nice day” whether they mean it or not. Here we wouldn’t dream of it! I don’t know whether it’s because we don’t want to sound insincere or because we don’t want to celebrate anything too soon.  As bad as it sounds we are so much more pessimistic and expect the worst. Americans are brought up to believe they can be the next president of the United States. Over here we’re told, “Have a plan B, in case things don’t happen for you.”

FOOD

Ah, ONE of America’s greatest assets.

A friend of mine once said “American food means taking everything you learned about moderation and healthiness growing up, and completely ignoring it.” I mean, what’s not to love?

US students can NEVER go hungry, especially if they have an unlimited meal plan, just one swipe away from an all-you-can-eat buffet. Even without a meal plan, you can sometimes use the dining hall for as little as $5, then eat all the food you possibly can and get a box to go for later.

This is very unlike the UK and Ireland where, by week 12 you’re living off beans on toast because you’ve almost completely run out of your loan (and by almost I mean ‘ran out two months ago’).

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I could talk ALL DAY about the differences between here and the U.S.

I think it’s so important that each of us get the chance to experience different cultures and interact with different people at some stage in our lives. It’ll definitely change how we see things and if you’re in anyway like me, how you say things…

and so on that note,

Have a nice day y’all!

 

Lauren Kearns is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ lauren-kearns-90819710b

Great things never come from comfort zones – Study USA!

Imagine this – you wake up one morning, you’re lying in a strange bed, in a strange room, in a strange country, all alone. Scary right?

Wrong, it’s the exact opposite!

…And I’m here to tell you why.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate ordinary. I hate getting up every day, doing the same thing, going to the same places and having the same experiences. So that’s why last year I swapped my standard, routine and completely average student life in Belfast for an unforgettable year studying abroad in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Where do I even begin? *gulps to hold back tears*

The BEST thing about my year away was the people that I met. If any of you are reading this you’ll know exactly who you are!

Before I left I never imagined myself being in the situations I was in and getting the opportunity to meet the most amazing people. Arriving in the U.S. I was the ‘foreigner’, a strange thought but true. I thought I would be the weird one, the one who stood out – but I was wrong.

There are people from all over the world at college in America. Some of my best friends came from completely different continents, and learning about them and their culture made daily life so much more interesting.

My year away was a whirlwind to say the least. I got to experience some AMAZING American events, I felt like a fully-fledged citizen after a while!

I was there for the most controversial U.S Presidential Election (that was something else – to say the least!) American Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, Christmas in NYC and Spring Break in Canada. I mean come on, who wouldn’t cut off their left arm for that?

 

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Having said that, we definitely celebrated some things the Irish way. A blurry pub crawl hitting every Irish bar in Philly was a 21st birthday not to be forgotten and running through the streets in Boston on St. Patricks day with face paint and flags makes me cringe, smile and cry all at the same time!

It was only then I realised, adventure is the best way to learn. Why not do everything while we’re young?

Don’t get me wrong, there are days where reality hits, and it hits HARD.

When the rain and snow is beating off the library window and you’re up to your eyes in deadlines and textbooks. You suddenly realise you’re 3000 miles away and you can’t just pop home for a cup of tea, wheaten bread or an infamous Sunday roast.

But that’s O.K.

Having had a couple of those days myself I can safely say for every bad day there are 30 great ones. Do not let yourself be put down, have a break, take a walk and go again.

As I write this, my heart is broken. My year is over and I have had to leave my ‘home’ and best friends to come back to my home and best friends. Not many people can say that.

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I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones, the chance to live and study in America doesn’t come around very often.

It was only when I returned home that I realised how life-changing the year was. I had seen America’s true colours, my eyes had been opened and I had changed indefinitely.

Before I finish, I’d like to leave a few tips for anyone considering studying or doing placement/ post-grad work abroad.

My ‘wish I knew before going away’ Tips

  1. You don’t need that extra suitcase
  2. You won’t drink a good cup of tea all year
  3. Hope for the best but plan for the worst
  4. Study/Work abroad is an emotional cocktail (not a rollercoaster)
  5. Learn how to read a map and navigate without your iPhone.
  6. Forget yourself in a new country and make memories, leave the FOMO at home.
  7. Join a club, whether it’s a sports team or cheerleading or chess. You’ll meet so many people and it’s a great way to get involved!
  8. Sleep is for the weak, say yes to EVERY adventure (even if it is going for Dunkin at 4am).
  9. Reverse culture shock is worse than initial culture shock, prepare yourself.

 

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What have you got to lose?

‘It’s better to look back on life and say “I can’t believe I did that…” than to look back and say “I wish I did that…”’

 

Lauren Kearns is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/ lauren-kearns-90819710b

Marie Curie – sharing memories this Christmas!

So, that time of the year again – its Christmas season!

And what’s more typical for Christmas than a huge tree covered in lights?

I agree, nothing! Who doesn’t love a huge, green, tinsel-covered monster in the corner of the room?

…but, what Marie Curie have done blows all of us average-Joes out of the park.

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As the hustle and bustle of Christmas begins, it’s easy to forget about what’s important. It’s not about the presents, or the fancy clothes or the big turkey dinner (although they are all additional positives!).

It’s about spending time and making memories with family and friends while we get the chance!

Every day we see more and more negative posts on social media whether it be politics and the latest news story, a not-so-uncommon celebrity scandal or Phil from down the road ranting about the local pub prices.  *YAWN*

However, this Christmas, the terminal illness charity Marie Curie, have created the world’s first ‘memory-powered’ Christmas tree.

Placed in front of the iconic London Eye on the Southbank, this visual spectacle started on the 4th of the month and runs right up until December 17th.

Each of the individual fairy lights on the tree will be powered by people sharing their memories on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #LightUpXmas.

In other words, the more people that post using the hashtag, the brighter the lights will shine.

Simple but GENIUS!

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The tree brings the charity to life as it serves as an important reminder of the work Marie Curie do providing care and support to people living with a terminal illness, some of whom will be trying to enjoy what might be their last Christmas with their family.

This piece of art symbolises the light that Marie Curie brings to every individual they help. It highlights how they allow families to spend Christmas together, making special memories with their loved ones.

A Marie Curie representative stated,

‘We’ve launched the memory-powered Christmas tree, to show the importance of creating positive memories, and show support for people living with terminal illnesses.’

You can share your special memories on Twitter or Instagram using #LightUpXmas – it could be any happy memory – your first memory, a Christmas memory or a memory of a loved one you’ve lost.

Marie Curie work tirelessly throughout the year helping thousands of families across the UK dealing with terminal illness.

It’s one of those things that you don’t really think about until you’re in the situation, right? Hopefully, this wonderfully thought out idea will bring the charity the recognition and awareness which they deserve.

Below is examples of posts which thousands have already shared – just AMAZING.

 

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Come on, if this doesn’t melt your heart and get you in the Christmas spirit I don’t know what will and if you haven’t already, get sharing – Let’s light up London this Christmas!

A heart-warming, eye-watering and just downright beautiful PR stunt by the charity. 10 out of 10 for inventiveness and execution in my opinion.

BRAVO, Marie Curie!

 

Lauren Kearns is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-kearns-90819710b