Does the UK strike your fancy for studying abroad? Great choice. Let me guess – London calling? With the reputation for being one of the greatest cities in the world, no one can blame you. But the land across the pond offers more than just Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. Read the reasons below to consider venturing to one of Great Britain’s lesser sought – but dare we say better – study abroad destinations.
1) Cost: The North is easier on your wallet
With great attractions comes a great big price tag – London is known as one of the most expensive cities for a reason. If you’re coming from the US, that cost is going to be compounded by the less than ideal conversion rate. Studying abroad in London will be pricey in terms of not only living expenses but also food, leisure, and tourism. For the same level of Britishness (maybe even more?!), other cities like Leeds, Manchester, and Brighton’s ‘off the grid’ characteristic means you can stretch your buck farther for better accommodations, more sightseeing, and more possibilities for exploring. Your wallet will thank you when your pints are only £3.
2) Community: Fewer tourists mean a better home-away-from-home experience
If London has an abundance of one thing it’s tourists – an estimated 17 million in 2013 alone. Again, this is for good reason; the history and culture are rich, the trends are on the cusp and ever-changing, and the sites are breathtaking even though you’ve seen them in pictures countless times. But sometimes, walking through the hoards of picture-snapping, shoving lookers-on can become daunting. Studying abroad comes with culture shock, including the time period that it takes to adjust by figuring out a routine and generally becoming familiar with your surroundings. Cities outside of London are not only smaller scale but have fewer visitors. This means you can get to know your environment better and way around quicker – plus the small town charm can help you truly feel like you’re settling into a home away from home. Weren’t you hoping to get the real immersed British experience?
3) Nature: Surrounded by or a bit closer to
London has gorgeous parks, ponds, and of course, the River Thames. But you can easily get trapped in the city life of smog, concrete, and traffic resulting in a need for more fresh air to breathe. Leeds is a hop away from marshlands and the Lake District, Brighton’s pebble beaches are truly picturesque, and Cambridge’s greenery and punting adventures never get old. Part of England’s draw comes from its lush countryside that’s unlike the nature found anywhere else. You don’t want to miss out!
4) Travel: Matched access to tourist destinations
Think London is the only hub for hopping around Europe? Not so. Thanks to airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet, cheap flights are available from many of England’s university towns, catering to the growing tourism of young people who wanted to explore the UK and beyond. Better yet, you can breeze through a smaller airport rather than hustle through those pesky tourists at Heathrow. The UK also boasts underground and overground trains and coaches for quick travel. The possibilities for adventure are aplenty from any of England’s universities.
5) Character: Small town charm
A quintessentially British uni town will charm you with historic architecture, nature to frolic through, and pubs that have been around longer than your home country. The University of York houses milling ducks, a pub culture instead of club culture, and wildlife to explore. Here, you can walk the medieval streets across campus in just a few minutes, but never grow bored. Leeds is an industrial city of students and a rich music scene. Many venues feature new artists every night and have for decades, producing an endless amount of talent such as Chumbawamba, Kaiser Chiefs, and Corinne Bailey Rae. Leeds is also a main stop for world touring bands, so your favorites will probably be in town during term – most likely at the coveted Leeds Festival. In Birmingham you can cycle along the long-running Worcester and Birmingham canal, Brighton calls for a walk through its vintage shops complemented by wafting sea air, and the University of East Anglia’s cobblestone streets up to Norman Castle will make you feel like you’re in another world.
Leeds houses its music scene, Cambridge features its Hogwarts-eque dining halls, and many have unparalleled countryside to admire. Don’t limit yourself to cities you’ve heard of and know about. You’re studying abroad for rich and exciting experience, right? Small towns can offer more unique adventures and academic experiences. So what are your choices? Nottingham, Brighton, Manchester, Durham, York, and more – at least 15 unis offer study abroad opportunities. And don’t worry, London is only a £10 coach ride away.