Many students around the world after their high school decide to move for studies abroad. There is no secret that the most popular international study destinations are U.S. or Europe, but which place is more favourable to gain a Bachelor's degree?
Undergraduate programmes in the U.S. are typically one year longer (4 years) than many European programmes and students applying to European schools usually need to know what they want to study, while in U.S students pursue a broad academic experience with the aim to specialize in a certain area at the end of their studies.
These are only a few examples of many differences between U.S and European higher education. To uncover more we collected some experiences from students who have studied abroad after moving for Bachelor’s studies in a different continent.
Bastian Lehmann decided to study in English, so the German national could choose between the UK and the U.S. In the end, Lehmann enrolled at the University of Rochester in New York.
As Bastian stated, he liked the American education since the beginning. The biggest advantage for him was the ability to select classes that he likes and explore his diverse interests – economics, languages and music.
As Lehmann described, the undergraduate programmes and experience in the U.S. often differ from the European one. First of all, students entering college in the U.S. are choosing the place while in Europe they should think about other things – the type of classes they want to take and how long they want to be in school.
General education courses are often not directly related to a student's major, but are required to graduate. They tend to emphasize skills such as writing and critical thinking and expose students to a variety of subject areas.
19-year-old Alena Nicholson from the U.S chose to study at Bath Spa University in England. Although she had never considered studying in Europe, she quickly fell in love with the country and town she studied.
According to Alena, having a study abroad experience can have many personal benefits, including giving young people the chance to explore the world. Nicholson was able to visit Iceland, for example – an experience she says would not have been possible if she had been in America.
Earning a Bachelor's degree in Europe can also have more practical advantages, like saving students’ money and time. Many programmes in the U.K. and other European countries award Bachelor's degrees after three years, and charge tuition fees that are lower than in U.S. For example, you can study for free in Germany or in France you need to pay only €255 (~US$280) per year.
While education in Europe is often a less expensive but that does not mean quality is compromised. Many European universities are among Top ones in World Higher Education Rankings.
Katja Simons, executive director at the German University Alliance, says that the opportunity to choose your subject from the start let you focus on those areas in-depth and prepare yourself for the labour market or for continuing on to a master's degree.
One criticism is that three-year programs are too structured, says Simons, which does not give students a lot of freedom to explore. In the U.S., undergraduate students often do not have to declare their major until they are a year or two into their studies.
Another contrast that students might notice is a difference in the number of liberal arts programmes offered. In the U.S liberal arts programmes provide undergraduates with a more general education in the humanities and sciences, as opposed to having a professional or technical one.
But there is another big difference between European and the U.S. Undergraduate Programmes – campus life. Many U.S. Unies offer one big place where students can live, study and spend their free time. However, just a few European Universities can offer that. Lehmann, the University of Rochester student, says university-based student clubs are more prominent in the U.S. than in Europe.
Although students can find a growing number of English-taught programs in Europe, it is still not that common in some countries (for example Germany and France) to teach in English. Therefore, international students might have to spend some time for learning the native language, which can expand study period in overall.
All in all, earlier specialization and fewer liberal arts programmes might make earning an undergraduate degree in Europe a better fit for international students who know what they want to study, but for those who do not know and do not mind spending longer time on their studies, U.S system is the perfect one.