Increasing academic migration opens up new opportunities for British youth

GYV contributor from the U.K., Sean Harris (far left), is currently studying at Queens University of Charlotte in the U.S. The picture above is of his tennis team. Credit: Sean Harris

GYV contributor from the U.K., Sean Harris (far left), is currently studying at Queens University of Charlotte in the U.S. The picture above is of his tennis team.
Credit: Sean Harris

An increasing number of British citizens are choosing to live abroad, so much so that we are currently in third place for exporting people, behind only China and India.

It therefore makes a lot of sense that a growing number of British students is turning to foreign soils to pursue higher education. The most popular destination for British students is the United States, and I’m not talking about taking a term abroad (or a semester), many students are completing their entire undergraduate degree away from home.

The Fulbright commission stated that last year alone 11,600 students from the U.K. studied abroad in the U.S., and out of these, 5,685 stayed in the U.S. for their full undergraduate degree.

But why is the U.S. becoming a more popular destination? One answer is diversity of education. Because of the A-level system, students in the U.K. often have to make choices on specialization early in their academic careers, and this may often present a problem because not all young students know what profession they would like to pursue, and many may not even know which subjects in which they are really interested.

After all, 16 is a young age to be making such important decisions. The American system allows for exploration — final decisions on what to major in may not have to be submitted until well into the second year. This added leeway really enables students to test their preferences and abilities in a wide range of topics.

Using myself as an example, I entered university with thoughts of being biology major, but now that my senior year has come, I have found myself in a Literature major with a psychology minor. Students really get a chance develop by allowing them to try out a wide range of subjects, and the end result is that when they really settle on a subject, they are sure that it’s what they want to study.

Diversity is key in education, especially in a world where diversity is present in every walk of life. British students have recognized this trend toward diversity and see the U.S. as the perfect vehicle to ensure they are not left behind.

One such student, Jordan Owens, told Global Young Voices: “I was always going to go to uni, but being able to study in America has given that little bit extra experience over someone who studied back in England. Just staying in England for your whole school life may get you labelled as a ‘little-Englander’ and could hurt once you try and get a job with an international company.”

Owens added that he “wanted a new experience that would look great on [his] CV and open [him] up to new cultures and opportunities.”

British youth perceive the U.S. as a way to gain an advantage over other job-seeking students. Breaking away from the norm is one way to ensure that you stand out on a CV, and studying abroad is one way of gaining that extra edge.

On the face of things, the U.S. tuition numbers can be daunting, with the price range for some private institutions being anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000. That being said, the opportunity for scholarship is huge. A solution many people seek is sports. Using sports they have played for many years, students are able to cut the price of a university degree. The high level of athletics in the U.S. is another large draw for the students.

Dani Kinnen, a recent graduate from Lipscomb University, said “the main reason I went to America was the fact it provided the opportunity to play the sport I love and also study.”

The feeling is echoed by Queens University of Charlotte freshman Leanne Bryant who said “it was the best option to combine soccer and studies.”

The excitement Leanne remarked on is a unifying factor among all British students in the U.S. (myself included), and with good reason. My four years studying in the U.S. has been an invaluable experience for me. Others with a similar experience agree.

Studying abroad is one way British students have found to keep pace with an increasingly global job market, and if it works for Emma Watson, it can’t be a bad way to go.

Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV