Why did I choose Surrey you ask? This answer has a few parts 1. Educational excellence 2. Location, location, location 3. Extra-curricular opportunities 4. Overall attitude and environment.
- Educational Excellence
Simply look at the league tables and you can see how Surrey stacks up against universities across the UK. League tables are important in the UK and rank universities based on statistics such as student to staff ratios, employment success, and student satisfaction. Subject specific rankings are also available.
The main one is The Guardian League Table: https://www.theguardian.com/education/ng-interactive/2016/may/23/university-league-tables-2017
As you can see, Surrey has been ranked 4th for a few years now. Surrey is a relatively new university and is ranked as high or higher than universities that have been around hundreds of years and is close to the ranks of Oxford and Cambridge.
Surrey has also been ranked as the University of the Year by The Times: http://www.surrey.ac.uk/mediacentre/press/2015/surrey-named-university-year-times-and-sunday-times
One of the points that annoyed me about higher education in the USA was the involvement of the teacher. The teachers in America seemed to have little personal connection to students because they didn’t grade assignments, attend labs, or even tutorial sessions. I didn’t want to be taught by another student; I wanted to be taught by a professional. Here at Surrey, most of my lecturers are doctors, have research and professional experience, all show up to every lecture, lab, and tutorial, and they create and grade every assignment and test. This creates a connection between the teacher and student and allows students to get personal help and guidance throughout their degree.
Beyond just rankings and awards, Surrey has some of the best internship connections in the UK. With thousands of employers coming directly to Surrey, students get the best experience in the country. Among my friends, I know people who are working at UBS, Goldman Sachs, Disney, Microsoft, Accenture, IBM, SKY TV, and Eli Lilly. The law has changed and now all internships must be paid and often students are offered full time jobs after graduation. My degree, Computing and IT, has an employment rate of 100%. Education is ultimately about getting a job and Surrey provides everything you need to jump successfully into a career straight after graduation.
- Location, location, location
I always find it slightly sad that when people visit England they never travel outside London. London does not represent what normal English life is like. A major bonus with Surrey is you can really embrace real English culture by living in Guildford. You can go down to the local pub, run into friends around town, or engage with English celebrations like Bonfire Day in Stoke Park.
Guildford is an adorable town with an eclectic mix of people and architecture. The shopping possibilities do not disappoint. I prefer them to Oxford Circus (the main shopping street in London) because the shops aren’t as packed, so I can find things quicker and with less hassle. There is a student’s shopping day each year where all the shops in Guildford’s mall called the Friary Centre have extra discounts. Many shops also do year-round discounts if you show them your student card. You can get these same discounts online by signing up to a free Unidays account and entering the code at checkout.
Coming from the Pacific Northwest, nature was a very important aspect in choosing my university. England has one of the most beautiful countrysides in the world. Its peaceful rolling hills covered in happy sheep and ancient hedge roads are iconic. Guildford is surrounded by the Surrey Hills that are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are plenty of beautiful walks that are easily accessible on foot. Examples include walks along the River Wey that cuts through the center of town, up a hill to the Mount that overlooks Guildford’s city, and over to Pewely Downs that’s just a couple minutes from the town center. A favorite park of mine is about 20 minutes north of Guildford called Painshill park and is definitely worth a visit. This outstanding beauty and peace is central to British culture.
For more things to do in Guildford check out my post: https://blogs.surrey.ac.uk/usablog/2017/04/23/so-what-is-there-to-do-in-guildford/
When I came to England, I wanted to see the real England. Guildford’s town, accessibility to the rest of the country, and connection to nature was a driving factor in my university choice.
- Extra-curricular activities
If you read the blog I linked above, you can see just how many sports teams and societies there are at Surrey. I am a big supporter of embracing whatever environment you are in through getting involved and investing yourself in its growth. The sheer number of options that Surrey provided for sports and societies blew me away. When I was touring universities a few years ago, I was constantly on the look-out for a dance studio. Dance is one of my passions and it wouldn’t have felt right if I didn’t continue it throughout my studies. Surrey was one of the few places that clearly had dedicated, world-class spaces for dancers and other sports teams.
If sports teams and societies aren’t enough there are plenty more opportunities to get involved around the university. Students are encouraged to take up positions across the educational departments and students union. Within each department, you can run to be a course representative where you can liaise with the department and students to improve each module and overall course. Our students union is also very active in improving student experience and community. Each year there are elections for full and part time positions relating to student voice, activity, community, and support.
- Overall attitude and environment
The interactions at the open day I attended the winter before I started at Surrey was a great indicator of what was to come. Everyone was friendly and more than willing to help me find where I was going within a couple seconds of looking lost. I made personal connections to the lecturers in the department and we have since reminisced on those moments. One of the lecturers gave me his email so I could send questions about the department directly to him and once I started my degree he arranged a meeting with me to check in on how I was adapting to the new environment and program.
I have met some of my best friends at the university. They are the funniest and most down to earth people I have met. There doesn’t seem to be the same boundaries at Surrey than at my American high school. People of all types are friends with each other and encourage others to join in. I love the banter and humor in England. It’s super sarcastic and very witty. The British people are sharp.
I was worried when I first came to England that I wouldn’t understand the slang or references, but everyone is happy to explain what I missed and get me up to speed. The people really make Surrey special. My transition from America to England was made painless and I miss England whenever I travel somewhere else or even go back to America.
There was a lot I was looking for in a University: a top notch, reputable education, hands-on personalized teaching, great job opportunities, a lively, genuine town, a sense of community amongst the students, a place to continue my dance passions and get involved within the inner workings of the university, and people who would help me adapt to a new culture, and friends that would last me a lifetime. University isn’t just about the education, it is your whole life for four years. It needs to fit all aspects of your life and Surrey definitely did that for me.