In America, there is a very strong relationship between students and their university. We work hard to get into college, so that we can pat ourselves on the back when we make it.
As young as 18 we embark on our own, away from our parents, in search of the “college experience.” Greek life and football games are common alongside strong rivalries between schools. We drive to frat parties and tailgates, go to football games and local restaurants to socialize and have fun.
In Europe, everything is different. Universities are chosen out of convenience rather than recognition or rankings. Most students live at home or near their hometown. For Europeans, college is just a place to study and progress but still make time to have fun outside of class. Just like us, they go to clubs, parties or university events during their free time.
European students generally have the same outlook on college: it’s a place to study, get an internship and party along the way. This certainly differs from the outlook Americans are typically raised on— that college is where you go to find yourself and have life-changing experiences. But of course, every American college student still wants to get their degree just like European students.
Europe has a very international perspective. The U.S., along with other countries, is constantly talked about. When living in a continent with so many countries next to each other, one has to adopt an international perspective to accommodate for the fact that all the neighboring countries have their own culture and language. Therefore, practically everyone speaks at least two languages and can stipulate multiple perspectives on a subject: such as college culture. It’s also very common to take a semester or two abroad, or intern in another country.
On the contrary, only 10-15 percent of American students study abroad. American college students aren’t as global-minded because they aren’t exposed to as many cultures, perspectives or languages. American college classes typically discuss domestic strategies, while European classes can reflect many different cultures and international strategies. This affects other aspects of American student life by giving them a domestic approach, whether it be policies in a project or music at a party.
Even class structure differs between the two cultures. In Europe, the final exam typically makes up the majority or entirety of the final grade. This makes exam season even more important. However, if they fail the final exam they are generally allowed to retake it again in a couple of months. European professors generally don’t give homework, because the final exam is the main grade of the class, which makes studying more independent and less structured. The most that is typically given in a semester is an independent or group project, giving students a little more free time.
In America, students must constantly work to keep their grades up. American professors typically assign many assignments and quizzes/tests throughout the semester to make sure their students don’t fall behind.
In the end, both American and European university students are just trying to pass their classes and obtain a degree and long-term career while having some fun along the way. Both cultures strive for the same thing, but just go about it in different ways. Knowing about both cultures allows us to implement the best from the systems into our lives, and get the best out of the college experience.
Kelly Cavaliere is a sophomore at UF majoring in Business Administration and minoring in the German language. She is currently studying abroad for 6 months in Germany at the Universität Mannheim.
Kelly Cavaliere currently studying abroad for 6 months in Germany at the Universität Mannheim.