10 Things to Know Before You Study Abroad in the UK
Live Like a Local in the UK, From Festivals to Fresher’s Week.
The British sense of humour is an odd one. It is definitely an acquired taste; however it runs through the veins of every British passport holder! Hard to describe, it is a mixture of sarcasm and put-downs, often offending the unsuspecting and somewhat bemused foreigner. Just go with it. Believe me it’s just better to laugh along at the bizarre comment your roommate just made about your halls chicken curry than just sit there in an awkward silence – you will get used to it, understand, and use it sooner rather than later.
In the UK the legal drinking age is 18. In America it is 21. Now this often leads to quite messy situations, particularly the next morning! Just relax, the British pride themselves on the quantities of alcohol they can drink – this doesn’t mean you have to keep up – believe me, huge amounts of mixers and fruit juice have often saved me from awkward predicaments the next morning. Just follow your parent’s advice and don’t go overboard. Another issue is pub runs. It’s a classic university experience; try it – piece of advice: stay on the paths (sidewalks) as best as you can!
We British pride ourselves on our unique and edgy style, whether it’s London or Leeds there is a definite style that defines different friendship groups. The ‘Edgy’ kids dress very differently (beanies, oversized jumpers, patterned leggings and combats – both male and females) from the more ‘Made in Chelsea’ styled kids (Zara blazers, etc. more put together look). Both are deemed cool in their relative groups – you don’t have to copy their style specifically but you can learn and incorporate different aspects into your own look. Experiment!
The North/South Divide – (the Midlands doesn’t factor into this divide, Birmingham and below is considered South). There is a strong divide against the stereotypical edgy/commoner North and the posh/stuck-up South. Of course these are stereotypes and many, many people don’t fall into either of these categories but it is worth mentioning as this aspect of British society is more often than not incorporated into banterous conversation. NB: The Northern accent is sometimes hard to understand if you are not a native – go with it and be polite, if in doubt, laugh.
The English Weather
English weather is very temperamental. Bring clothes for ALL weather situations. Our ‘summer’ has the temperatures of American spring so be weary – Britons will be banging on about heat-waves when it gets above 20 Degrees Celsius. Cardigans and light jackets are a must in your English wardrobe. However in the winter months it is bitter and often very grey. The weather forecast being ‘cold and rainy’ is very normal. Wrap up warm or you will catch something.
If you are around for Fresher’s Week be prepared for a fortnight of madness. This involves going out pretty much every night to various events around the city, spending lots of that fresh student loan that just popped into your bank account and drinking a fair amount of strange alcoholic mixtures. This is the time you get to know your fellow students in your halls and often on your course – take it as it goes – if you have to buy an outfit, buy one that A. You wouldn’t mind getting ruined, B. Is cheap, and C. has the potential to be worn again at a future costume event (Pub runs often involve a theme – be prepared for the ridiculous).
Student halls can be one of the most fun aspects of your first year. Getting on in the first week is fairly standard but after that you have to remember that you don’t have to be best friends with everyone in your flat. Don’t worry, it is almost positive that there is best-friend potential lurking on all different floors of your accommodation – network and make contacts that you may want to draw on for lunch or coffee in the first weeks of your semester.
An absolute must is taking advantage of the British summer. It may not be as hot as yours but it is jam-packed of stuff to do throughout the country. Festivals are a huge deal here! Make sure you go to at least one during your time in the UK; Glastonbury, Reading, Latitude are all good shouts. Seaside towns also come alive during the summer months and are just the cutest places ever – you can always find a cute little sweet shop there to curb your sugar cravings! Wimbledon is another huge event in the summer, enjoy it on the TV or if you’re lucky enough to get tickets, take advantage of the opportunity! Pimms is a must for British summer time fun – beautiful fruity drink to enjoy in the sunshine!
Always join at least one society. They are great for meeting people that share common interests or subjects as you. It is also a good opportunity to meet people in the years above you and get to know them. They will have a year’s experience on you in terms of your degree, modules to take and to avoid, and good places to go that the majority of fresher’s may not have. We don’t have sororities/fraternities in the UK so take advantage of the societies available to you.
There is no denying that the UK has a great selection of shops. Topshop started here after all. The shops here are amazing – clothes wise – and many hold special discounts for students which NEED to be taken advantage off!