My First American College Experience, And How It's Different from British Uni

People always ask me: 'What do you think the major differences are between American college and British University?'

Answering this question always goes one of two ways:
a.) I make stark over-generalizations about American colleges based on what I've seen in the movies (Legally Blonde is a pretty accurate movie, right?)
b.) I simply and honestly say 'I can't compare because I've never spent time at an American college for longer than a campus tour.'

But, folks, now I can finally say that I've been to 'college' and experienced all the things that I traditionally associate American college with- from an acapella performance, to an on-campus house party, and everything in between.

This weekend, two of my best friends who I've known since I was in elementary school graciously hosted me at their lovely school, Bowdoin College, up in Brunswick Maine.

Now, before I get to the differences I noticed between American college and British University, I have to say that what I experienced was, indeed, individual and unique to my home school, Edinburgh Uni, and also to Bowdoin, of course. Plus, I was only at Bowdoin for two nights (and didn't even go to any classes), so that limits my observations as well.

However, I'd say that I've definitely gained much more insight into what a lot of my friends from home experience at college. Here are some of the differences I noticed:

Bowdoin is SMALL // And I can see both the pros and cons of going to a small school. It was so cute to walk beside my friends and have a solid majority of people on campus waving and saying hi as they passed by. I can literally take my twenty minute walk to campus without seeing a single soul that I know- or at least that I'm comfortable saying hi to. Bowdoin has a total student population of around 1,800, while the University of Edinburgh has a total student population of around 30,000. Being at Bowdoin kind of reminded me of being in high school and having the ability to recognize so many faces- I mean, my high school was just a tiny bit smaller than Bowdoin!

Their dining hall food is insanely good // This is actually something that most of my friends in America like to brag about. So what you have a soft serve ice cream machine in your dining hall? The JMCC serves haggis! I'm sure they're all jealous of my easy access to spicy ground lamb liver. But, real talk- Bowdoin's two dining halls had an incredible variety of food, including the best fruit selection I've ever seen (grapes, pineapple, watermelon- I was in heaven). Alright, JMCC- you need to step it up.

Not the dining hall food, but there were also some pretty great places to eat in town.

The campus is really concentrated // My friends actually complained about having to walk for 15 minutes in the rain to get to a restaurant in town. Excuse me? I walk 40 minutes a day (almost always in the rain) to get from halls to one class and back. Pretty much all of Bowdoin's academic and residence buildings are located in a small area so everything's very walkable in about five minutes. Granted, Brunswick isn't exactly a major city- it's more like a quaint, New England town or village. But, I mean, they don't have to get up as early to get to class- so I think they might have a better deal.

There isn't much to do outside of campus // As one of my friends eloquently stated 'There's not much else to do here other than eat, sleep, party, and go to Walmart.' As I said earlier, Brunswick is a pretty small and tame town. There didn't seem to be any crazy clubs or bars on the main street (not that people my age could go to them) and there weren't many major museums and sights nearby (apparently there's a waterfall that I didn't get to see, though). Being in such a small town kind of made me realize that I should take much more advantage of everything that living in a major city has to offer.

Social Houses at Bowdoin host parties and other social events on campus.

While American college and British university can often be miles different, higher education is higher education and it's totally what you make of it. Somewhere like Bowdoin definitely wouldn't have been a perfect fit school for me, but visiting this weekend was a wonderful experience.


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