From UWE to UGA: What Can We Learn?
Much like many other British students and those out of full time employment, I spent my last summer holiday working at a children’s sports camp in America. While I was there, a colleague and now good friend of mine invited me to go and stay with him down in Georgia once we’d finished at the camp. He is a student at UGA and so during my stay I was able to explore much of the campus with him. Needless to say, upon arrival I noticed more than a few differences between American universities and their British counterparts.
Firstly, there’s the size. Now I know that as a general rule, for everything that exists in the world there exists a larger version of it in America, but this is on another level. Apparently, they weren’t satisfied with having bigger cars, buildings and portion sizes and so decided to create universities the size of small cities as well. If one were to remove the University of Georgia from the city of Athens, all that would be left is a few shops and a gun range. The university itself is essentially the city. The campus actually has public roads running through it and is pretty much the only industry, either directly or indirectly, for miles around. The size of the universities, combined with the surplus of land in America all leads to my second major observation: sport.
Now here at UWE, most sports teams are just grateful if a few of their mates show up and cheer them on every now and then. But at UGA, you have to apply to buy a season ticket to go and watch football games. What’s more, if you miss more than three games, you forfeit your season ticket and it is given to someone else on the waiting list. To an American reader it may seem odd that I’m so amazed by this concept, but at a British university that is unthinkable. My amazement is further exacerbated by the size of the sports stadiums at American universities. If I refer back to UWE, our sports teams use other venues and facilities for their games, as we don’t have our own football stadium. Meanwhile at UGA, their football team makes use of their very own 92,000 seat stadium on their campus. Now I’m sure most other British students would struggle to imagine putting a stadium the size of Wembley next to their SU bar. For my entire stay down in Georgia, I could never quite get my head around the sheer size of the sports venues at the university. When my friend suggested we went to watch a college volleyball game, I was expecting a few gangly teenagers knocking a ball about for half an hour. Instead what I saw was a court occupied entirely by future Olympic athletes, accompanied by droves of cheering fans and support staff in a stadium fit for a championship football team.
With both of those observations making me slightly envious of my American peers, there was one aspect of US university life that I was happy not to have endured. For all of their amazing facilities and gigantic buildings, almost all students who live in university accommodation there have to share a room with other students. Now I wouldn’t call myself a reclusive person, but the thought of having to share a bedroom with someone else for a year is actually unbearable. What’s more, I can’t understand why this is. I’d take playing football on a poorly maintained, waterlogged pitch over playing in a 90,000 seat stadium any day of the week if I meant I could have my own bedroom. The universities clearly have the money and resources, as well as an abundance of space in which to build, so why are nearly all the university halls shared bedrooms?
Hey...at least you have that big stadium!
All in all, I loved my time in America. UGA is a fantastic university with exceptional facilities. There are certainly areas in which we can learn from American universities; the campus buzz, the hype around sporting events, the general push for excellence. But as I’m determined not to concede total defeat to the US I will hammer this point home, no football stadium in the world is worth having to share a bedroom with a loud, messy, unwashed student.
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