Study abroad can certainly look exciting, with the promise to broaden your horizons and introduce you to all kinds of glamorous foreign types. But faced with the realities of it – the distance from home, the distinct lack of tea – it might seem too daunting.
However, it's not an 'either / or' choice. It's also possible to study part of your degree here in the UK and the rest in the US, courtesy of initiatives such as Florida State University’s International Gateway Programme. It gives you the best of both: a home start, then a journey across the pond.
How it Works
In a nutshell, FSU's Gateway Programme lets you study for a four-year US liberal arts degree. You study the first year at their London Study Centre located near the British Museum, following a US-style curriculum, and then spend the remaining years in the States.
“It was exactly what I needed,” says first year student Sophie Jefferies, “a year in London where I could adjust to the American system and prepare myself to move away to Florida a year later.” For Sophie, starting in London was the perfect tonic for her nerves. “It helped ease me into the American ways, which was great because that was the one thing I was most nervous about.”
Third-year student Trystan Aherne adds that starting his student life at home in the UK helped manage the change between uni and school, too. “Staying in London for my first year allowed me to stay close to my school friends at that critical time when everyone splits off to do their own thing,” he says.
Having your cake and eating it
Another advantage is that as well as ultimately gaining access to the exciting, different opportunities US college life offers, you don't miss out on a UK student life either. “It's given me the opportunity to get the London university experience that many of my friends are having,” explains Sophie, “which is something I really wanted to do.”
Sophie says the personal benefits so far have included learning “how to be self-sufficient and independent,” which are great student skills in any context but very helpful when you're going to be heading overseas. Plus, she's been getting to grips with the liberal arts approach, which at unis like FSU means smaller classes and more contact with students. “Studying in London has only made me even more excited to study in Florida,” she says.
Not to mention the fact that she has some ready-made friends for her second year abroad. “I'm sure that will make the move much easier!”
With the first year over, Gateway Programme students join the university community in the US for the remainder of their degree. The liberal arts approach taken at many US universities, FSU included, means following a wide range of subjects in your first and second years before choosing a 'major' (the subject you'll mainly focus on) in the second half of your studies.
Trystan explains that while this system isn't easy, there are lots of benefits. “I've found the US education system both the most challenging change and the most enjoyable one,” he says. The broad curriculum meant revisiting subjects he found a stretch at A Level, but the perks were more than worth it. “It's allowed me to take classes and explore areas I never thought I'd be able to such as archaeology, oceanography and public speaking.”
Open your mind
The other great advantage to overseas study is that it involves an element of travel, and a chance to meet people from all over the world. Programmes like FSU's let you find your feet at home and gain some confidence, then head towards the horizon.
“I had always been told that travel broadens the mind, and it really does,” says Trystan. “It really is one of the most valuable aspects of the experience. I'd like to consider myself more culturally aware and sensitive, even when reflecting on my own culture.”
If you're looking for a student journey that gives you a taste of both home and away, an overseas programme like FSU's might be just the ticket. “I've been able to experience college in a completely different way from most people,” says Sophie. “Not many of us get to study in two countries and so the gateway programme has opened me up to huge opportunities.”
Find out more about the Florida State University International Gateway Programme.