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14 Hacks For Americans Studying Abroad In The UK

With the start of the new academic year, here is a survival guide to help US students coming to study in the UK for the first time.

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Studying abroad in the UK this year? You’re in good company! Around 50,000 Americans study in the UK each year, following in the footsteps of the likes of Bill Clinton, Cory Booker, George Stephanopoulos, Kris Kristofferson, Naomi Wolf, Justice Stephen Breyer, Tom Friedman, J.K. Galbraith, Rachel Maddow, Wesley Clark and Bobby Jindal. With 4 of the top 10 universities, no wonder so many Americans come to study every year!

Here at the embassy, we’re proud to be responsible for running the brilliant Marshall Scholarship, which select around 35 talented young Americans to study in the UK annually. We just had our big send-off for the 2013 class, which you can read about on the Ambassador’s Huffington Post column here.

Here are our top tips for enjoying your experience in Blighty. Good luck!

Get a British phone number


Discard that US phone! Mobile Phones (cellphones) are inexpensive in the UK! Way cheaper than the US for unlimited texts/data.

BONUS TIP: In the UK, all mobile numbers begin with 07… no such thing as an area code.

Everything closes (early!)


You will learn this in your first week as you pick up bits and bobs. Shops (stores) close at 5 or 6pm. However, Thursdays they are open LATE! (7pm).

Freshers week


Freshers Week is the UK version of ‘orientation’ but a lot more fun. Two things to remember: Have fun & be safe.

Tip: Save taxi numbers to your mobile. Everyone will be trying to get home at the same time so beat them to it. Also, it’ll likely be raining so save yourself from getting wet by carrying a brolly (umbrella).

Birthday? BYOC.


Bring your own cake. It’s common to bring your own cake to a birthday party. Don’t expect someone to do it for you.

Self Catering


Now that you are fantastic at baking cakes, be sure to cook other things for yourself. American college dining halls are not common in the UK. Learn to use the hob (stovetop) and get yourself a kettle. You’re going to want it for all the tea you'll be making for yourself and your mates (friends).

Bonus Tip: 2 (super cheap) acceptable meals

(1) Jacket potato - a full lunch once you add a topping

(2) Beans/cheese on toast – a delicious quick & easy meal

Chips vs Crisps


Don’t say the wrong thing! That would be a school boy error (rookie mistake). Chips = French fries. Crisps = potato chips.

BONUS TIP: Crisps come in a wide range of delicious flavours, including smoky bacon, cheese and onion, prawn cocktail, pickled onion, roast chicken & Worcestershire (prounounced ‘Wooster-sheer’) sauce.



You’ll be seeing quite a bit of rain, so do be prepared by getting yourself a pair of classic (and super stylin') Wellington boots .

Fancy dress


2 things to know:

1. Fancy dress = costume party.

2. If you’re invited to a fancy dress party, go! Brits take their fancy dress seriously!

Student unions


Every university has a student union on campus. Every student union has a pub! It’s a great way to get to know your classmates in the evening.

TIP: Brits buy drinks in rounds. Don’t just buy a drink for yourself, buy drinks for the whole table. Then, someone will treat you to the next round.

Revising = reviewing


You revise for an exam. Study/reviewing/relearning = revising. Do it OFTEN because....

Finals (typically) happen once a year!


Taking class in the fall? It’s okay, your final will most likely be in May or June (but you should of course check to make sure...). SAVE YOUR NOTES, you’ll need them.

Lastly, you’re American


You probably smile for no reason. Us Brits will be alarmed at first but rest assured we will get used to it!

Now go get ready!


School starts soon! Before you get your belongings together check out our 'Ten tips for US students planning to study abroad in the UK.' and 'How study in the UK can change your life’. Believe us, it will.

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