Student life in the UK is very different from Sierra Leone in many ways and if you want to know what some of those differences are, keep reading. Sierra Leonean students in the UK found these things cool, funny, and straight-up weird.
1) You will have lots of group work and practical projects
Sierra Leonean universities tend to be lecture-heavy, with an emphasis on theory. UK universities take a more practical approach. Some courses have mandatory work placements, and those that don’t will often have exercises to help you practice real-life scenarios. For example, if you are studying law you will have practice trials in class, or if you are studying marketing you will have to put together pitches for fake products.
2) You will have fewer exams
Universities in Sierra Leone have lots of exams and schoolwork is devoted to independently preparing for exams. In the UK exams only happen at the end of the school year. “Exam season” can be very stressful – read our tips for managing it here.
3) Brits are very time-oriented
Brits care a lot about punctuality. If your class begins at 10:00am, your professor will expect you to be in your seat and ready to learn by 10:00am. It is considered rude to show up late so avoid it if you can. Busses and trains arrive and leave fairly punctually so if you need to be somewhere be sure to arrive at the bus stop or station on time.
4) You can get a free walk-in medical care
The National Health Service is funded by the British government and almost all of its services are free. If you are feeling poorly you can go to a walk-in clinic and see a doctor without having to arrange an appointment in advance. You may have to pay for your own medicine, but it shouldn’t cost very much.
5) Many Brits don’t know much about Sierra Leone
Despite the fact that Britain has a long history with Sierra Leone, including a recent military intervention, many Brits do not know very much about Sierra Leone. Some can’t even find it on a map! Others may associate it with bad things such as civil war and blood diamonds. This may feel discouraging but just remember that many Brits will be eager to learn more about your country.
6) No one speaks on the train in Britain
Something that will strike you as very strange is that British people rarely speak on public transport unless they are with their friends. If you are in a train carriage where no one knows each other you may not hear a single person speak for hours! This is because Brits are reserved, especially by Sierra Leonean standards. They do not like to speak to people whom they do not know well.
7) British smiles are fake
Brits might seem insincere to you because they will often smile at you even if they are not happy to see you or interested in what you are saying. If you do not know a British person well, they will likely smile at you to be polite. They are not necessarily signalling that they want to be your new best friend.
8) Hijabs are common in the UK
In the UK everyone has the right to openly practice their religion and you will see plenty of women wearing hijab or niqabs on the street. Some British Muslim women prefer to wear their hijab loosely, exposing their hairline. Others like to wear it with lots of makeup. Basically, you can express yourself however you want to.
9) Brits will wear party clothes during the day
In Sierra Leone there is a clear distinction between “day clothes,” which are worn to school or work, and “night clothes,” which are reserved for clubs and parties. You would be judged for wearing the wrong clothes at the wrong time.
British fashion, however, is very eclectic and the lines are blurry. Short skirts, tight tops, glittery jackets, and heavy makeup are all acceptable daywear in the UK; similarly, you can wear an oversized jumper and jeans to a party if you wish.
10) The UK is very diverse
You will get to experience cultures from all around the world whilst you are in the UK, especially if you live in a big city. Take advantage of the diversity by trying new foods and visiting local cultural festivals.