Thu. Mar 21st, 2024

Leaving America for KU: What it’s like at Kingston for your local Yankees

By Jackson Hall Mar 8, 2024
Student in a ball cap looking to the skyCampus life is completely different in the UK Photo: Matese Fields/Unsplash

On-campus house parties with frat bros and sorority sisters; everyone you know sporting the school colours for the big (American) football game; mind-bogglingly being made to learn biology in your second year in order to qualify for your English lit degree.

For a typical American university student, these elements of university life are far from unusual. Many of these students would even be shocked to learn that students at Kingston University, for example, experience none of these. University in the USA is a different beast than uni in the UK or anywhere else in the world.

That, however, does not facilitate any shortage of students hailing from the land of the free coming to spend their uni years in the UK. According to the BBC, the UK has seen a nearly 50% increase in applications from US-based students post-Brexit, the largest proportional increase for any major nation. In 2021, the US rose to become the third-largest market for international students in the UK, behind only China and India.

“It is a unique experience,” said Viviane Meija, a third-year dance and drama student at Kingston University. “When I first moved here there was a lot of culture shock.”

Meija hails from Napa, California, and considered attending university in Texas and California before deciding to study abroad.

Meija said: “I came to Kingston because it’s easier to get your undergraduate degree in the UK than it is in the US – which is a long process, because you have to do so many different modules. I wanted to get straight into the degree, just straight into dance. In America they have the dance modules, but you also have to pass all these other things.”

Natasha Luchinina, who studied psychology at KU in 2021 but has since transferred to an American university, agreed: “I liked that it was only psychology, or at least related courses.”

Luchinina, who continues to pursue a psychology degree, lists biology, organic chemistry, and film studies as some modules she has taken in her time since leaving Kingston.

One other benefit that initially drew both Meija and Luchinina to studying in the UK was the opportunity to study far from home without breaking the bank. Although international students pay more than British nationals to study at Kingston, the tuition (which begins at £16,200 for students applying in 2024) can still be a fraction of what a similar university in the US would charge.

“I did almost end up going to an out-of-state university, to Texas. I remember looking at the tuition bill and it said like, 40 or 50 grand, which is more than twice what I’m paying here. Even adding in the other fees like travel, I’m paying less than I would have there. And I’m happy I did this because I’m getting the study abroad experience at the same time,” Meija said.

Luchinina, who is originally from North Carolina, said: “Studying in London is a cool experience, but to study in an equivalent place in America, like New York or LA, would obviously cost a lot for someone out-of-state.” The university Luchinina studies at now is in-state in North Carolina, which reduces the tuition she pays by a significant amount.

Financing an international education is still not cheap, however. “Before I came here, I worked and saved up about $15,000. That helped me pay for my first year. My second year is when I had to ask for more loans and have my parents help me pay, out of pocket,” Meija said.

“I wish the university would help us with more scholarships, they don’t announce them and a lot of them are only for UK, EU students. And they don’t accept a lot of US scholarships here. I also wish FAFSA would let us use our Pell Grant here, that would help.”

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the form through which US-born students apply for financial aid and student loans from the US government. Pell Grants are sums offered to students who are in exceptional financial need, which do not need to be paid back but are only accepted by some institutions.

“I don’t travel home much anymore to save up tuition money. I am a little behind on my phone bill and my Spotify account, and I’m paying late charges. It is hard, especially as I have no family here. It’s just me and no one else.

“I’m happy, though. I was like that one different person from my hometown. It is a hard process, but I’m happy I did it.”

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