A Tennessean in King Arthur's Court
A student’s comparison of education styles in the US and UK
by Baylie Bodiford
A few summers ago, I decided I needed to love something that is not tangible. I wanted to feel passion for a place, not a person, and experience cultures other than my own. Though I lacked experience, I knew I could enhance my perspective.
I left my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, (the only state I had lived in), to study abroad in England where I attended Richmond University, the American International University for a summer term. Not only did this experience enhance my global perspective, but it altered the course of my life. I fell in love with the city. I found real independence for the first time, and a desire to learn that burned inside me like a fire and I found it hard to contain.
After finishing my BS at Tennessee Tech, I began to look for graduate programs to attend, and Richmond was my initial thought. I knew they offered an MA in advertising and pr, and I knew the university was the only accredited university in the UK to award both UK and US degrees. I applied, I was accepted, and now I am finishing up the MA.
I grew up going to a kindergarten through high school type of environment, with the same 60 kids for over a decade. I was not forced to make new friends very often. Nashville has vastly changed in the last five years, but when I was younger, it was like most other southern cities. Conservative, small, and you likely were to know someone no matter where you went. London is not similar in that way. So, since I had previously studied abroad here, I knew this, which made my transition easier. I learned from those around me. I formed connections, which led to real friendships, and I absorbed as much as I could from those I encountered.
Though London is not small, my MA class size was. I knew everyone's name in my course. I aimed to prioritize my university work to where I knew I could still enjoy integrating myself into English culture. Most of the research I have done on UK and US university experience examines the same aspects of the two places. The US loves breadth: an array of knowledge about many topics, but does not provide expertise on anything in particular. The UK, however, emphasizes depth. When you are assigned an essay in the UK, it is common for the word count to be at least 3,000. However, in the US, it is unusual for assignments to be longer than a couple of pages and exams are generally comprehensive; rarely requesting written justification. But in the UK, this written understanding is standard.
I appreciate the learning methods of both countries. I studied journalism in undergrad in the states, and enrollment in multiple types of writing courses was necessary to graduate. This wide-variety of knowledge helped me in my current phase of education because I have an understanding of what both sides of the profession need to produce for a final result. My university in the US gave me insight into a whole field, where my UK university has given me practical skills that were emphasized in-depth. Due to experiencing both ways of learning, I now actively seek to utilize these skill sets while assessing and demonstrating the new information I collect.
Undergoing university in the UK and the US has made me appreciate both for how unique their differences are, and for how they compare. What I learned from my experience while studying in both countries is simple. You learn and gain out of university what you allow yourself to. Attitude is everything, no matter where you are. I believe exposure to cultures other than your own unveils the extent of how small we are. Our approach to new environments not only affects our happiness, but it is also significant to our impact on those we meet along the way.
Experiencing university in two counties known for the quality of their education has contributed to the enhancement of my global perspective and self-growth, surpassing my initial expectations.
The US gave me a broad sense of my chosen industry in undergrad, and the UK gave me an expansive vision of advertising and pr while doing my MA. I project I will continue to be grateful for my time in the UK as I evolve into a professional. I accepted a full-time position in New York, where I will be an international account coordinator for a pr and rebranding agency. I found love for a city, passion for my career, and appreciation for both UK and US educational systems during the duration of my university experiences.
- Business Insider - 6 ways college is different in the US and the UK
- International Student - UK vs. USA Education System
- Matador Network - 5 differences between going to college in the US vs the UK