I consider myself lucky – I get to spend 4 years pursuing my undergraduate studies in the United States of America, and now I’m here in the United Kingdom, pursuing my 1-year postgraduate studies.
Coming from a small Southeast Asian country named Malaysia, being able to pursue my studies in two different countries has been an opportunity of a lifetime. It has helped shape my perspectives and showed me a whole new side of the world.
Today, I want to share just some of my experiences in these two different education systems.
1) Slight differences in the naming conventions.
I find it both interesting and confusing at how we name things differently in the UK and the US. Some of the notable differences are:
UK – Autumn
US – Fall
UK – Course (programme of study)
US – Degree / Major
UK – Module
US – Course
UK – “Attending university”
US – “Go to college”
2) Abundance of opportunities in the US education system.
The UK education system is more focused on the depth in specific programs / courses. On the other hand, the US education system is more varied and focused more on the breadth.
This is the reason why most US universities (and colleges) require their students to undertake a ‘liberal arts education’ as a part of their undergraduate degree. It is also the reason why most undergraduate degrees in the US take 4 years to complete (as opposed to 3 years in the UK).
For instance, I did my undergraduate degree in business. Aside from the core classes that I must take as a part of my business degree, I also must fulfill my liberal arts requirements. This include subjects such as literature, communications, social sciences, ethics, ethnic studies, and sciences.
This not only allowed me to meet other students outside of my program, but also expose me to new knowledge and information that has improved my understanding and appreciation of the world. It also gave me the opportunity to explore some of my other interests as I get to choose which classes to take to fulfill those requirements. For instance, I took up a class on video games to fulfill my communications requirement – how cool is that?
However, as I am now pursuing my postgraduate studies, I found that the UK system is more beneficial to me personally. This is due to the fact that I can gain a more in-depth understanding of my chosen subject, which would help me in my future career.
3) Differences in the academic calendar.
In the US, I went through the semester system, much like here in the University of Huddersfield. However, the three main differences that I see are:
- They start the academic year in mid- or late-August for the Fall/Autumn semester, instead of mid-September.
- They do not have any long Easter break. Instead, the Spring semester starts in mid-January and goes up until early or mid-May, before the students go off on their three-months summer break.
- In a semester, the students will sit for their final exams before they go on their breaks. So, in the Fall/Autumn semester, they will sit for the exams in early to mid-December; whereas in the Spring semester, they will sit for the exams in early to mid-May.
It certainly did take me quite some time to adjust to the differences in the education system, especially after being in the US education system for 4 years. However, each system does have its own strengths and weaknesses, and depending on your own personal preferences and study habits, you may prefer one or the other.
As for me – I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be able to experience both education systems. It has certainly been a wonderful experience and played an important part in shaping me to be the person that I am now.
Syaza Nazura graduated with a BBA in Actuarial Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May 2017. She is currently pursuing her MA Education (Youth & Community) at the University of Huddersfield.