Brits in America: cultural differences

Cultural differences when moving between the US and Scotland have now proved to be positive, says Bonnie in her latest blog

February 27 2018
Students raising hands during lecture

Having been in the US since August, I’ve become more than aware of the cultural differences between myself and my classmates. I had been aware of the disparities between home and the States prior to my arrival in New York but now, in my second semester, I can attest to the benefits of my experience of both cultures.

Discussion is such a key component within US classrooms. Most of my classes feature fewer than 20 students, and bigger lectures break off into smaller discussion groups each week. I have yet to take a class where both sharing my own opinion and listening to others wasn’t the central focus.

To begin with, I think that my professors and peers thought that I was shy; almost everyone seemed to have this confidence that I thought Americans only had in the movies. The ability that my classmates had to speak so openly and assuredly left me quite intimidated in my first few months at university.


Read the rest of Bonnie's journey here

Brits in America: from Dundee to New York
Brits in America: changing perceptions of women-only universities
Brits in America: New York, New York
Brits in America: why the liberal arts works for indecisiveness
Brits in America: Christmas in New York helps to ease the homesickness
Brits in America: a world of experience


Imposter syndrome became a bit of an issue: do I deserve to be here? How will I ever compare to my classmates? The confidence and assuredness displayed by my fellow students intimidated me.

Yet, as the semester went on, finding my voice became easier. I found that it became easier to put my points forward and I was able to argue them with a newfound confidence. This semester, I’m no longer intimidated by those with the passionate academic determination that I used to wish I had myself. The fast-paced nature of an Ivy-League education meant that I had to learn how to speak up, and one semester in New York taught me just that.

Cultural differences also apply socially – these are perhaps more difficult to get used to than academic disparities. The campus environment provides a space to be social, all the time. There hasn’t been a day since arriving that I haven’t run into at least five people I know – whether it be outside the library, in the dining hall, or in the gym.

There is always something going on, or somewhere to go and meet people. Every aspect of life is so central to campus – living, eating and socialising all take place within the same few buildings, providing the perfect setting to meet and spend time with new people from all over.

Of course, my accent still gets me funny looks when I first meet people. Never did I think that being from Scotland could be “so cool” until now.

Although these academic and social differences may have been awkward to deal with at first, I've definitely learn from them. Being different has helped to shape my experience so far and will continue to make my time more interesting as each semester continues. 

Read more: A day in the life of a US university student

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