Sophia is a graduate student at Queen Mary University of London pursuing an MSc in Business Analytics. She obtained her Bachelor's degree from Furman University where she majored in Economics and Mathematics.
Master’s in the UK
Why did you choose to pursue your Master’s degree in the UK after obtaining your Bachelor’s degree in the USA?
I had been in the USA for at least five years and was looking forward to a different experience in another location. Additionally, a number of UK universities do not require standardized testing which was a plus and I liked that my program of interest had a much shorter duration of completion than the USA i.e. 1 year.
What influenced your decision to apply and eventually accept an offer of admission to study at Queen Mary University of London?
The location and program were one of the main factors I considered when beginning the application process. I was interested in studying in London and experiencing the London life so I sent applications to 3 schools; Brunel University, University College London and Queen Mary University of London. I got accepted into 2 out of the 3 schools I applied to, and decided to go ahead with Queen Mary.
Had you visited the UK prior to studying?
I had visited the UK a couple of times as a tourist.
What would you say has been the major difference between visiting the UK as a tourist and as an international student?
I have not had much time to involve myself in social activities and outings due to academic coursework as compared to my past visits.
Did you experience any struggles adjusting as an international student in the UK?
I had a cousin around so it made the adjustment phase fairly smooth. Also, I’ve only been in the UK for a period of 3 months with intermittent breaks so I honestly wouldn’t say I’ve had any struggles. It’s been good so far, until Covid-19 interrupted studies.
How does the classroom experience compare to that of the USA?
Professors in the UK are more lenient with assignment extensions compared to their counterparts in the USA. Additionally, professors in the USA are a bit more time conscious, more organized, and strict with grades, whereas UK professors, at least from what I observed from those whose classes I enrolled in, seemed to be more relaxed. e.g. In the USA, before the end of the first week of classes, you will most definitely know or at least have an idea of when final examinations are going to be conducted unlike the experience I’ve had in the UK, where I've been informed of the final timetable only a few weeks prior to the date.
Bachelor’s in the USA
What influenced your decision to study in the USA?
I had family members who had attended college in the USA so that was where I first began looking into schools. I actually planned on applying to schools in the UK as well, but once I started receiving offers of admission from U.S. institutions, I suspended my UK applications, since the application process in itself can be a little bit cumbersome.
Why did you choose to pursue Furman University?
I was awarded a fairly good scholarship (65%) compared to the other schools and also liked that it was a Liberal Arts institution.
Did you have any expectations before leaving Ghana to study abroad?
I was expecting to have more of a social life but it didn’t happen unfortunately. On many occasions, I was the only black person and girl in the classes I enrolled in with most of my course mates being white. I never once thought about racism and didn’t think it was an extremely serious issue in the South, as well as the ignorance of people towards certain cultures. The behavioral tendencies of the people made it difficult for me to make meaningful friendships and connections.
Is there anything you did not like about Furman University?
There wasn't much diversity there with regards to race demographics.
Did the Ghanaian education adequately prepare you to study abroad?
The education and training I had at Faith Montessori was very rigorous and vast, which reduced the stress that can come with getting used to a different educational system.
Have you experienced reverse culture shock since returning back to Ghana? Furman made me sensitive to misogyny. I’m now more outspoken about gender issues than before. Also, I find the customer service in Ghana at most places to be very poor and appalling. Associates in the USA seem more pleasant and enthusiastic about helping customers even on a bad day, but the same cannot be said of some Ghanaian workers.
How are you different/the same since studying abroad?
I have changed mentally, physically and socially since studying abroad. I have also become more open-minded.
If you had to go back in time, is there anything you would change on your approach to studying abroad?
I would be intentional about making more friends and honoring more social invitations.
Is there anything you wish you knew/had been told before studying abroad?
I wish I had known and was more informed on racism. Racism is not something I was exposed to prior to studying abroad so it was a bit too difficult to process it, especially when I had to experience it on various different occasions.
UK or USA, which experience have you preferred the most?
I prefer living in the UK, but studying in the USA.
Finally, what advice do you have for students who are indecisive about studying in the UK or USA?
I would advice students to opt for the UK if they consider themselves to be fairly independent and choose the USA if they feel they would need some extra help in adjusting.
Feel free to connect with Sophia professionally on Linkedin. If you are a past/current international student and would like to share your graduate school experience with us, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org