We asked foreign students the biggest assumptions they have about British unis
An insight into what is said about us across the channel
Since studying in Spain over the past three months, I have met other students from all over Europe. After initially getting over how well they all speak English – seriously, we should all be ashamed – it was really interesting to talk to them about what they thought of British students, especially in current circumstances. Now we’ve left, do EU students still like us?
From knowing these people for weeks, it is clear to me that their beliefs about British students rely heavily on what is portrayed in the media.
Either, the brilliant Cambridge student sitting in their reading nook and looking over an idyllic courtyard, or the wild one from a big city like London or Manchester whose first home is a rave rather than a library.
Considering that for some of them I was one of the first British people they had ever properly met, there seemed to be a lot of unanswered questions they had about us Brits.
It’s all peace and love, man
Firstly, there are quite a few stereotypes that we should be pretty proud of. Apparently, we are internationally considered very open-minded and non-judgemental.
Alex from Paris and Mohi from Cologne said that all the British students they have ever met have been very accepting of cultural or religious traditions that had previously been unknown to them. Guess all the guilt built up from centuries of imperial power is finally paying off.
We work hard for the coin
Even more complimentary than our progressive nature is the belief that, academically, we are extremely hard workers. Now, where they got this idea I have no clue. Nevertheless, Violeta from Zaragoza in Spain believes we are more dedicated to our studies than our EU counterparts, in order to get into uni at least. So thanks UCAS, I guess.
We never ever stop drinking. Like, ever.
We are of course known for liking a drink or two. To the average European student, the idea of binge-drinking on a weekday is as foreign as getting excited for the annual John Lewis advert.
Although they do know how to party out here, it is with different etiquette and motives. For example, getting drunk and going out to get off with someone is a very strange notion to a mainland European; turns out they don’t need alcohol to gather enough courage to be honest with someone. Weird.
We’re suckers for a good queue
We do also have some negative stereotypes, as does every country. For us, it seems we are thought of as quite reserved in that we don’t take many risks and are attracted to an organised set of rules. I suppose it is quite classically British to want to stick to our traditions and, compared to free-minded French and German people, we do probably come across as predictable.
We are all from Made in Chelsea
Jack from Kildare in Ireland told me that there is definitely the belief that every British student is rich and/or posh. Clearly a result of constantly portraying British universities as beautiful, ancient institutions stuffed full of robes and scrolls has made our neighbours think the only people attending uni are Boris Johnson and David Cameron.
Every Brit went to Hogwarts
This seemed to be a common theme as when I asked what people imagine when they picture a British university, nearly all of them referenced Oxbridge: old, big buildings with spires and stain-glassed windows. Someone even described them as ‘small castles’.
I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t accurate, especially once you remember the state of some uni accommodation’s bathrooms. But I can also see where they would get this idea as it is how our universities are constantly portrayed in film.
Overall, there are some aspects of British life which are still foreign to these students. For example, watching their faces as we tried to explain netball was hilarious. To most of them, uniforms being the national norm and not just for private schools is a very strange concept that they see as quite conservative.