As the old cliché goes, college is the best four years of your life. The journey is filled with engaging classes that blow your mind and GPA, weekend shenanigans worthy of telling your future grandchildren and friendships forged to withstand the test of time. We’ve heard about the wonders of university life from relatives, movies and the neighbor who never changes out of his old varsity jacket. But how do people outside of the States view our college experience?
The Price of Excellence
As your shelf of ramen noodles can attest, money is a hot issue for most college students. Budgets planned around the occasional splurge on Pabst and food that doesn’t come in a microwavable cup are no match for the dreaded tuition fees, and the struggle is recognized around the world.
“For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the huge amount of money Americans have to pay in student loans.” – Plínio Melhado, National University of Ireland, Galway ‘15
“The first thing I think of is tuition and all that goes along with it, such as student loans and dependency on scholarship programs. Studying is free in Germany and on top of that there’s the bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz.” – Philipp Schmitt, National University of Ireland, Galway ‘15
Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz (try saying that five times fast) is a German financial aid program for students from low-income families. The program provides these students with state loans for room and board, requiring a mere 50 percent payoff with zero interest fees. Here’s to hoping that American colleges might jump on the bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz bandwagon. In the meantime, our tuition fees and interest rates have secured our worldwide reputations as poor college students.
Top Notch, Natch
While our universities do a number on our savings accounts, we get a hell of an education in return. Part of the prestige comes from the cut-throat, competitive nature of American colleges.
“I toured U Mizzou, Truman State and St. John’s Law. University of Canterbury was a booze-fueled waltz in the park by comparison.” – Luke O’Donnell, University of Canterbury ‘01
Perhaps knowing this academic prowess is globally acknowledged will make your next pre-exam all-nighter easier to stomach.
March Madness and Marching Bands
As much as we despise taking a break from the books, there is much more to college than classes.
“I think of freedom; expression, drugs, care-free.” – YoungJae Hwang, Atlantic Language Galway ‘15
“I think American colleges have mega events besides the studying, like sports and arts events.” – Irma van Baalen, National University of Ireland, Galway, Gaeilge Program ‘16
However, nothing brings students together quite like game day. Carefully nurtured rivalries and enthusiastic pregaming brings the student body out in full force; tailgating, bellowing victory marches and painting every available body part to demonstrate our school pride.
“In American universities there are a lot of sports, and basketball is really popular. In Italian universities we don’t have sponsored sports.” – Valentina Aggio, Cattolica University ‘14
“Everything in America is bigger, so your universities are bigger. Your classes are bigger. Your parties are bigger.” – Heather Dougherty, National University of Ireland, Galway ‘16
Whatever your interests may be, our endless repertoire of extracurricular activities makes for a truly spectacular collegiate experience.
Any movie about an American university wouldn’t be complete without a trip down Fraternity Row. Fraternities and sororities are functionally varied, but they all work to benefit the lives of their members. Whether they are historic honor societies, studious professional societies or the classic academic and social societies – it doesn’t matter. Their international reputations aren’t based on their nobler qualities.
“I think of frat parties!” Alex Hennessy, National University of Ireland, Galway ‘14
“Red cups at every party, always red cups.” – Jonas Althoff, Humboldtschule Hannover, Gymnasium für Jungen & Mädchen ‘13
“When I think of American universities, I think of a huge campus and big houses with groups of girls called kappa, gamma or stuff like that.” Camille Bertrandy, Université Blaise Pascal de Clermont Ferrand ‘14
The True College Experience
Tuition, academics, parties and game days only go so far when it comes to capturing the atmosphere of our universities. There is a special energy on college campuses, a pulse both seen and felt. Thousands of students at the threshold of their futures come together to create a unique, expressive environment.
“I see American college as a place of real exploration, where you can study whatever holds your fancy; it’s much more flexible than the college system in England. There’s also so much school pride, which is definitely unique to American college and the experience is better for it.” – Dan Parker, of UW Madison’15, from Flitwick, UK