Like our High School Abroad France alum Zoe Lien, High School Abroad England alum Emily Demski studied as an exchange student in England when she was in high school and decided to pursue university abroad. We asked her about how this idea came about, how she applied, and tips for future students hoping to do the same.
My name is Emily Demski and I studied abroad in Exeter, England from January 2019- June 2019. I am from South Lyon, Michigan and I was 16 when I began my experience. I lived with a host family just outside of Exeter with 2 parents, 2 kids, and another student and I attended Exeter College.
I attended 3 AS level courses: psychology, sociology, and English language. I would have either 2 or 3 classes a day and would spend my free time meeting with friends, studying in the library, or exploring the city. I was taking 6 classes a day in the US, so I really liked that I got to focus on only 3 in the UK and learn much more about each subject. It was also interesting to learn about some topics from a different perspective.
I spent most of my weekends with my host family exploring other parts of Devon. They showed me several local beaches where we would go for hikes or fishing and different parks and trails. I loved this because the destinations in England are so different to what I was exposed to in Michigan.
While I studied in Exeter, I fell in love with the area and the life that I lived there. I realized that I wanted to live there longer, so I toured the University of Exeter it immediately felt like home. Because it’s in the area that I wanted and is a great school that provides a great education, I only applied to programs through the University of Exeter. Even though it’s a perfect fit for me, I never would have found it without studying abroad at Exeter College first.
I applied to 4 schools in the US and and to 4 programs in the UK, so I became very familiar with both application processes. Both can be done online and were fairly easy to complete. The first major difference I noticed was while applying in the UK, instead of applying to a school, you chose a program to apply to. For example, I applied to the business economics course at the University of Exeter rather than just applying to the University of Exeter. Another difference that I noticed were the skills you emphasize on the essay portion of the application. For schools in the US, you write a personal story so the university can better understand you as a person. For example, my essay focused on my struggles of having lyme disease, how I overcame that and what I learned from it. However, the personal statement that I wrote for applying to programs in the UK held a focus on why I am fit for that program and was more academic based. I wrote about the classes I took that prepared me for the program and my interests in it. Another fact that is important to know is that you need 3 college level classes (AP or dual enrollment) to apply to programs in the UK. This is because they complete A level classes, which are equivalent to AP or dual enrollment classes, prior to applying to universities.
Going to university abroad is an extremely huge commitment. For me, I will be there for 3 years completing my degree and I would feel a lot less prepared if I didn’t study abroad before. Going abroad alone can feel very scary, but now I have a host family and lots of friends to come back to. Since I studied abroad for only 5 months, it was a lot less scary to move to an unknown area for a few months rather than a few years. I also am very familiar with the area now, so I feel confident in navigating myself around and am excited to return. Having a support system for me there will really help with my transition back and throughout my whole experience.
I would highly recommend either visiting the area that you are interested in or studying abroad there beforehand. This is so you will feel confident that you will like living there. Because you won’t be able to come home as often as you could if you went to university locally, you have to make sure that where you go feels like home and you are comfortable there. If you are familiar with the area, the transition will go a lot better.
If the university seems like a good fit for you, I highly recommend going abroad. You will learn so much about yourself and you will be exposed to so many life changing experiences. I have never felt more alive than I did when I was in England. Everything is exciting, beautiful, and breathtaking.