RP Insights: Studying in the UK
We continue our RP Insights series with a topic that we touched on before – attending university in Europe. This time around, we want to provide those that are interested more details on why and how to study for your bachelor’s degree in Europe.
We are excited to introduce you to Daniel Pokras. He is an American who decided to attend The University of Edinburgh in Scotland instead of enrolling in the USA. Daniel is gracious enough to share his story and suggestions, in the hopes of helping others who may be considering enrolling in the UK. He has also joined our Studying in Europe Group to answer any questions related to UK universities.
Why did you consider enrolling in college outside of the USA?
Originally, I never thought about studying in Europe. I was looking at enrolling in US schools and my mother suggested the idea of enrolling abroad and it somehow stuck.
How did you learn that attending college outside of the USA was a feasible (and good) idea for you?
Due to language barriers, I limited my search to the United Kingdom and International schools/programs. While researching, I learned that the tuition fees are much cheaper abroad than the USA. Even while factoring in the cost of living, flights to/from the US, and additional fees for being an international student, the total cost of education in the UK is less than the US. I decided that going abroad for university would not only be easier on the wallet, but would give me an overall richer experience.
Why go abroad?
There are too many reasons, but I’ll touch on some of the big ones. In high school we were told of the romantic college experience when one grows and develops into a young adult. I believe US universities shelter their students and prohibit them from truly growing up while in college. For me, growth in university also includes paying rent and credit card bills on time, learning to live with people, cooking for yourself, and being able to manage your time in a new city as well as being able to be comfortable on your own. Since leaving the US, I found that I have grown-up in ways more broad than compared to some of my peers at US universities.
Another big aspect of going abroad is the people you can meet. You find people from all over the world as well as locals at University, all with so many different backgrounds. This diversity brings an incredible amount of colour into your life (plus, it doesn’t hurt to make friends and have free accommodations from Holland to Jakarta).
Since moving abroad, I’ve been able to travel around Europe, cheaply and reliably. I’ve managed to fly to France, Holland, and Portugal, and more. Some of these with flights were cheaper than going out to a nice dinner. So not only do you grow as an individual, but you grow as a global citizen too.
Why UK and what other options are there?
I choose to look at the UK because the language is the same and they also have a similar culture to the US. I wanted to study chemical engineering and I researched schools with strong chemical engineering programs. These schools included U of Edinburgh, U of Manchester, U of Nottingham, and Oxford. These are great schools and I chose Edinburgh because it is a beautiful city with rolling hills and vibrant people. I know people who also applied to international schools/programs in The Netherlands, France, and Czech Republic, just to name a few. As I didn’t take my time to research into them I can’t really say much more.
What’s the process?
The United Kingdom exclusively uses the UCAS system. It’s essentially a common app for the whole country. You make your profile, submit your scores, and write a personal statement. A personal statement is a bit different to the essays you write to US schools. It has no prompt or question and relies on you writing about your passions for the program you chose as well as why you want to go to University. Another difference in the UCAS system is that you are only allowed to choose five *courses*, not Universities. This means you can apply to the same school five times. The application costs $17, which is incredible considering how much I paid ($70) for one US application.
When you apply to the UK you must know that the Universities are looking to invest their time in students who will leave with a First Degree (4.0 G.P.A. – eqv.). which means they want students that are SO passionate about what they study. Your personal statement should reflect that why you want to enter the program and your passion for it. Remember you are applying to the course, not the school.
How to make the decision?
I chose Edinburgh because after balancing out all my other options, Edinburgh was the cheapest and most interesting. The University of Edinburgh at the time of enrollment was 19th in the world (QS Rankings), so for me it made the most sense to flying over. I’m glad I did.
Was it worth it?
Since arriving in Edinburgh, I have been thriving! I’ve made many international friends with whom I now live with. I’m involved heavily in student life, and am even on committee for most of my societies, including the International Student Centre. Being so close to mainland Europe, I get to fly on weekend trips to different countries all the time to decompress.
I’ve pushed myself to try new things. I now know how to flip on an Olympic-sized trampoline and shoot a recurve bow! I’ve pushed myself go to new places. With the student-led charity, Project Mongolia, I’ve had the chance to travel to Mongolia by bus to help train the countryside first aid during the summer. Since then, I’ve gathered the confidence to start my own story-telling project called Our SpeakEasy (ourspeakeasy.com). It works with the University of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Council to bring communities together through storytelling.
This has been an incredible time and I urge everyone to at least consider studying in another country.
RP Insights (from Daniel):
The world isn’t just the United States, there’s so much more. The only way to tap into the world is to open your arms and seek incredible experiences abroad. You meet new people, new cultures, and different ways of living that you might enjoy more than the US. It’s scary to leave home, but it doesn’t matter how far you leave. You can go to the Middle East or Singapore, both require a flight and a day to fly. You won’t see your family during your studies anyways so being across the ocean doesn’t change that. You’re better for it.