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American and Canadian students in the UK

Coming to the UK is seen as a great way of broadening horizons for many US and Canadian students. Most come on Study Abroad programs, some under their own steam, but all benefit from the UK’s vibrant international student community.

Fast facts

How many American and Canadian students study in the UK?

The number of students enrolled on UK higher education programs in 2009/10 was:

United States: 15,059
Canada: 5,576

Source: HESA Student Record 2009/10

Not only are there the four nations that make up the UK to explore, but also the UK itself is a handy springboard for expeditions to the rest of Europe. A whole world is on its (and your) doorstep. Not only that, but the UK shares a common history and culture with the US and Canada, and, to top it, they speak your language as well (but see the box!).

Each year, many Americans and Canadians aged 17 to 30 come to the UK for work and pleasure. A much more select bunch come to the UK to study – in 2008/09, just under 20,000 Americans and Canadians were enrolled on higher education courses at UK institutions.

With over 360,000 international students enrolled on UK higher education programs in 2008/09, students from North America account for just 5% of the overseas student population. However, the fact that you come from one of the regions that sends fewer students to the UK is not necessarily a bad thing. One of the great advantages of being something of a pioneer is that it forces you to get out and speak to different people, with new friendships and fantastic experiences being the result.

Clubs and societies
Want to carry on playing baseball when you’re in the UK? Got an interest in drama, photography or cinema perhaps? UK universities have an astonishing range of clubs and societies that cover a wide variety of interests. And if you want to set up your own club – a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Appreciation Society or a Toronto Maple Leafs Club, perhaps – you’ll be more than welcome to.

You will usually find there will be a student society dedicated to your country or region where you can meet fellow nationals and other students who are interested in where you come from.

Fast facts

At what level do American and Canadian students study in the UK?

A total of 20,635 students from the US and Canada were studying in the UK in 2009/10, broken down as follows:

  • undergraduate: 8,257
  • graduate: 12,378

Source: HESA Student Record 2009/10

The University of Nottingham, for example, has a student-run AmeriCan Society, which acts as a way for British students on American and Canadian Studies courses as well as students from the US and Canada proper to get together, making for an interesting mix and a unique way of learning more about your host country, as well as keeping up links with home. It is very much centered around social and cultural activities as away of making friends, including a popular Thanksgiving dinner, and guest speakers and trips.

You can easily find out about the clubs and societies on offer at an institution by checking its website or asking its International Office.

What help is available?
What can you expect in terms of official support from your UK college or university? Apart from a dedicated International Office for students from overseas, UK universities will offer a combination of support activities:

  • job shops, which are there to help you find part-time work to support your studies
  • careers services, which provide information and advice about employment after you complete your course
  • accommodation officers, who can help you to find somewhere suitable to live
  • buddy schemes, which pair you with a more experienced fellow national
  • student ambassadors, who lead activities for particular countries
  • dedicated facilities for international students, such as international student lounges and halls of residences
  • welcome orientations for international students, which are usually free of charge.

On top of this, there will be the student support offered by your institution’s students’ union and by volunteer societies.

The National Union of Students (NUS) is a confederation of student representative organizations in UK universities and colleges, which represents the interests of around five million students in further and higher education throughout the country. The NUS runs an International Students’ Campaign that aims to help international students with any issues they face, and represent them at a local, national or international level.

British student culture
British student culture can no longer be simply defined. The wide variety of students flocking to UK institutions from around the world has created a melting pot of different cultures – not just within the universities and colleges, but also in the towns and cities that host the institutions.

Just one piece of evidence is the huge range of European and international cuisines and beverages sold at the bars and cafes that adorn UK campuses, towns and cities. So, if you’re missing home, you’ll always be able to find an US or Canadian bar or restaurant. Indeed, a quite lively ex-pat community has sprung up in London, for instance.

A unique student scene
The student scene in the UK is lively, unique and interesting. Wherever you study, you’ll find an extensive and exciting social aspect to your study experience, and many activities to keep you occupied both on and off campus. The choices for students coming to the UK from Canada and the US are vast and growing. If ever there were a time to be a student in the UK, it is now.

A linguistic minefield
Although we speak the same language, the words used can differ or mean different things in important ways. Be prepared! Here is small sample (British first):

Petrol  Gas
Pissed*  Drunk
Angry  Pissed
Fag  Cigarette
Cinema  Movie theatre
Trousers  Pants
Pants  Underwear
Braces  Suspenders
Suspenders  Garter belt
Rubber  Eraser
Condom  Rubber
Chips  Potato fries
Crisps  Chips
Jam  Jelly
Jelly  Jello
Mad  Crazy
Football  Soccer
American football  Football
Bum  Backside
Tramp  Bum

* A swear word, so use with caution!

Useful links for Americans and Canadians living and studying in the UK

North America regional section

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