The College Experience: America Vs. Europe

For American students studying abroad, specifically in Europe, at some point during their undergraduate years has become a relatively popular thing to do. A less common trend however is going abroad for all of college. Because tuition is rising and acceptance rates are lowering in a majority of US colleges, there is more incentive than ever for students to receive their education across the pond. This non-traditional option of obtaining a college degree has many benefits that most American students are unaware of. Both nations have their benefits regarding education but I will discuss the advantages of European college because most of my readers already know about the US college system.
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According to The Federal Reserve of New York, the estimated American student debt is about $1 trillion. In contrast to US students, European college grads generally come out of school with little or no debt. This is primarily due to public funding. European countries with the exclusion of Britain have public funds that enable students to go to school very cheaply, if not for free. This is because Europeans believe that higher education is an inalienable right, which is why public universities tend to be more popular than private institutions. Another reason a European college education is cheaper than an American one is that it normally takes less time to complete. US undergraduate degree programs take four years to complete, while European undergraduate degrees only take two to three years. Shaving a year or two off of a college education obviously saves a great deal of time, but also money. One exception Americans must keep in mind however is the currency exchange rate. This is because the US dollar won’t stretch quite as far in Europe, but even so, most students have found that their overall college education is cheaper to obtain in Europe rather than in the US.
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A second major difference in European colleges is the academic style. While American colleges offer more areas of study, along with more general education requirements, European schools generally offer fewer courses and are more geared towards preparing for specific jobs. European classes are also conducted more independently and are more reading intensive which is different than American classes that usually involve more attendance points and group projects. This difference could either be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the student. European classes are generally conducted in large lectures where the professor is removed from the students. Just like it is becoming a more popular trend of taking an extra semester or year to graduate from college in American, European students are taking extra time as well.
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The last major difference between the two is the campus life and overall college experience one will have. American campuses tend to focus around student life and activities. The student body congregates at sporting events, speeches, and in Greek life. American campuses are designed to draw in their students; student unions for example are the centerpiece of campuses where dinning-halls, campus stores, entertainment, and libraries can most often be found. European campuses are designed exclusively for study and do not include abundant student housing or large student unions. The campuses are in major cities and because of that only have lecture halls, laboratories, and libraries. European colleges do not incorporate much of a student life; instead, people tend to travel more often because of the close proximity of so many different countries. Studying in Europe can introduce you to many more countries and cultures.
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Going to college abroad is not for everyone but it is a great alternate option for those who are looking to go to college farther than just a few states away. The cost, style, location, and experience are all things to take into consideration, but before narrowing your options to state schools in the US, it might be beneficial for students to look into European colleges. Even though I love my college experience at a state school here in the US, I can completely understand why studying across the pond would be an amazing experience as well. There are definite advantages in obtaining a degree in both places, it just depends what ones interests are.

The Coolest Bars In The World

Built in 1994 the worlds first and largest Icehotel was created. The original and once one-of-a-kind hotel is located in Jukkasjärvi, a small village in Northern Sweden 200 km north of the Artic Circle. Every year between 50,000 and 60,000 tourists from all over the world travel to the remote location to experience “Europe’s last Wilderness”. Because the hotel melts in the summer, the Icehotel is rebuilt annually by world-renowned ice sculptures that come up with new designs and architecture every year, making each Icehotel unique. Each one is built from 1,000 tons of crystal clear ice extracted from the Torne River and 30,000 tons of “snice”, a mixture of snow and ice.

A few years ago I was extremely privileged to experience the Icehotel on the vacation of a lifetime. My grandparents, cousins, family and I went to Sweden over Christmas break in 2006. After a nine-hour flight to Stockholm, another two-hour plane ride, and a short bus drive, we had finally made it to the tiny remote village of Jukkasjärvi. During our four-night stay, we spent three of them in small heated cabins that surrounded the Icehotel and only one actually inside of it. It may be surprising but I never got cold when I slept there, that is because I slept in sweats inside of a sub-zero sleeping bag on top of a bed covered in reindeer fur, which actually made for a toasty night’s sleep. During our stay we did some fun activities such as a snowmobile ride to see the Aurora Borealis (also know as the northern lights), went dog sledding into the arctic countryside, and tried making our own ice sculptures, which ended up being complete disasters. When we weren’t partaking in the organized activities we were indulging in Swedish cuisine—the meatballs really are delicious—and the adults were drinking heavily at the Absolut Icebar, one of the biggest attractions at the hotel. At the time I didn’t feel like I was missing out but now looking back on it through a “legal lens”, I am truly bummed I was not of drinking age.

The Absolut Vodka brand and production facilities are owned by the country of Sweden so it makes perfect sense that the Icehotel’s Icebar is sponsored by Absolut vodka. The popular alcohol brand is produced locally and recognized globally. Along with the worlds first Icehotel, the worlds first Icebar was also built in 1994. The Absolut Icebar offers an experience like none other. The room is kept at a chilling -5ºC (23ºF) and provides a unique drinking environment that can’t be found at the everyday pub. Just like the Icehotel, the Icebar takes on a unique design and theme every year. In celebration of the 25th anniversary the current year’s bar is called “BOOOM!” which features an ice explosion from an imaginary champagne bottle, “in wave-like cascades of bubbly”. Because the Icebar was such a big hit, the Absolut Icebar family has grown throughout the years. New locations have risen throughout Europe where you can now find them in Stockholm Sweden, London England, Milan Italy, and Copenhagen Denmark. To keep brand consistency, the same crystal clear ice from the Torne River that is used to build the Absolut Icebar in Jukkasjärvi is also used to build every other Absolut Icebar in the newer locations. Absolutely everything in the Icebar’s are made from ice: the artwork, the walls, the barstools, and even the shot glasses, literally giving a whole new meaning to “on the rocks”. The new and innovative bar concept has even spread beyond Europe and now ice bars are found around the world. Countries that have ice bars include Japan, China, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and if you don’t want to travel outside of the country, you can check out Minus5 Ice Bar in Las Vegas, IceBar Orlando, or the Frost Ice Bar in Boston.

Visiting an ice bar is something every drinker should do at least once in their lifetime. They offer an exciting atmosphere that literally brings you closer to the people around you, for warmth that is. Unfortunately when I was at the original Absolut Icebar I was only able to drink Swedish Lingonberry juice, which is why I plan on visiting another ice bar, probably much closer than the one I was previously at, as soon as possible so I can gain the full experience. I would highly recommend checking out an ice bar so you can experience what I believe to be the coolest and most unique drinking environment for yourself.