Studying Abroad: In search of the full experience, American vs British perspective – Part 2 of 2

If you have not read part 1 please click here

Newspapers & Evening News

The first time I watched the “World News” programmes on American TV I was dismayed and amazed by the incredibly narrow view of the world and absolute lack of interest in what happens outside a very caricatured perspective of the world. There is a particular lack of interest on world news that don’t affect the USA directly. I found the title “World News Tonight” rather funny as they spend less than 20% (maybe only 10%) of the time talking about world news and the rest about American issues. Furthermore, rarely are news presented from an unbiased standpoint, with few exceptions, of course. This prevailing attitude illustrates and partly explains the inward looking nature that defines American life and attitudes towards the rest of the world.

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In contrast news reporting in the UK is truly global, probably the most global perspective anywhere in the world, from political problems in Fiji, to women rights in Mauritania, to child labour in the cocoa plantations in Ghana and Ivory Coast, to indigenous people’s rights in the Amazon, or the effects of deforestation by the palm oil industry on the populations of Orangutans, or the horrible site of child prostitution in Recife in our own country – it is all on the news regularly. The variety of topics in the evening news is amazing and the investigative reporting that supports some of these news is of a quality not matched by any other news organisation in the world. Best of all, the news are presented in an impartial manner (as much as possible) as this is the remit of the BBC. I particularly like newspapers like The Guardian and the BBC TV News and investigative reporting programmes.

Why does it matter and what might it mean to you as a foreign student? We are first and foremost citizens of the world and information and awareness mark our vision of the world and as a consequence defines a society and its people. As a foreign student, the fact that a larger proportion of the population is more aware of global issues means that it is more likely that you will be understood and/or find more things in common with people that you meet.

Music

America is certainly the centre of mass produced music in the world, however, I tend to like the British independent bands. When it comes to variety nothing really beats what you can get on BBC radio as you can hear music from all over the world, from obscure islands in the pacific like Vanuatu to modern music from Mozambique and Gabon or even from different regions of Brazil. Just this afternoon I was listening to some fusion of Mexican and Irish music – very nice, where else but BBC radio could you listen to stuff like this?
If you love live music, the the UK is a great place for this, from large summer festivals to just some music down the local pub – there is something for everyone in a great variety of styles and cultures. And if you love great acoustic rock, modern or classic – what can I say, some of the world’s greats, past and present, have come from Britain.

Some of my favourite recent rock bands in the best of the British acoustic rock tradition:

Plus many others like Arctic Monkeys, Keiser Chiefs, Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, Feeder, The Fratellis, etc, etc – if you don’t know them, look them up, see what you think.

Safety

All things are related and consequence of one another and safety within the country or city are a by-product of the society. American cities are aggressive and can be dangerous, even small towns – you certainly would not find me walking at night in an American city. Of course, nothing like Brazil, but I am talking in relative terms.

In contrast London, with a metropolitan area with a population on of around 11 million is a fairly safe city. As a woman I never felt threatened even when riding the tube at night or walking home late in the evening. Yes, you have to take precautions but in general terms you are far safer than in most American cities. If you are a woman thinking of an exchange, this should be a big consideration in selecting where to go.

This ability to move around at will, specially when you are finding your way about your host city, and to feel safe using public transport, well, I would consider this of great value to your overall experience.

Diversity and Internationalism

There is also a marked difference in how both countries approach their leading role in the world. While the USA society pushes for integration of immigrants into a conformed way of life, the American way; British society practices a policy of multiculturalism. There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to both of these approaches. However, as a foreigner coming into a new country, I feel in the UK there is much more acceptance of your cultural differences without a pressure to conform to a given way of life. Multiculturalism accepts and thrives on the differences while integrations pushes for immigrants to quickly adapt to their host country. I don’t know which one is best, I just know that I feel far more accepted in Britain that I ever was in the USA.

British also tend to be great internationalist, this means that they have a broad outlook of the world. I was amazed how many young people take a gap year and go travel around the world. It is not just for those that are wealthy, but all sorts of people do it, even if it is later in life, even if it is just trips across Europe or to north Africa. They frequently travel to destinations that are off the beaten path and you can find them travelling through the rice fields of Laos or the jungles of Africa. Yes, of course not everyone and not all levels of society could afford to do it but it is very normal to find people that have been to places one has hardly heard off. This is much more difficult to find in America where most people have never left the country or even own a passport.

What does this all mean to you as a foreign student? In my opinion, it is more likely that you will feel more accepted quicker and also there is a good chance that people in the UK will have a better understanding of your culture or, at the very least, an interest about it.

Ok, the wine is almost finished so I shall stop writing, although there is a lot more to discuss. In the end it is a matter of choice as to where you study, but it is a choice that you should make by informing yourself about all aspects that will affect your overall experience of your host county and city. Lots of nice places in America, it is after all an amazing country, but I would say that if you have limited time and funds, you may be better off choosing Britain as your destination. If you are open minded and you seek the experiences and variety that the country has to offer in a relatively small and accessible space, then I can assure you that you will have an amazingly good time.

But before I end, a few words about London:

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Samuel Johnson

Well, what could I add to the quote above. Simply one of the greatest cities in the world. A great place to visit and and even greater place to live.

In the next articles I will write about some of the things to do and places to visit in London that are out of the beaten path.

And, oh yes, if you get tired of London all things British you can always take the fast speed train (300 km/hr) from St Pancras station in central London and in be in central Paris in a few hours.

However, if you ask me where I would like to live, American or Britain, I would have to say France… ;-) but that is a different article!

Remember, variety is the spice of life!

See you soon !

Mensagem dos editores do EE: O objetivo do EE não é causar nenhum tipo de problema diplomático entre nações. Por isso dei o direito de resposta a uma americana nativa (Mary Ziller). A sua opinião está nos 2 arquivos pdf a seguir: resposta 1 e resposta 2.

Sobre a Autora: Meu nome é Luciana, sou professora de Inglês, leciono em São Paulo e recentemente criei o Inglês Interact. Morei e trabalhei por alguns anos na Inglaterra (Londres e Cambridge).

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