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The prototypical University of Europe exists as a collection of old, pretty buildings sprinkled through the historic centre of your average, fairy-tale European town, indistinguishable from all the other buildings around them but for a discreet plaque by the door.

European CityThere will also be a modern "science park" or some such facility, much bigger, better equipped and more spacious than the other faculties, somewhere in the outskirts of town (typically built in the last 10 or 20 years, populated by scientists and medics). 

Do not expect the roomy, lawn-filled, ivory wall-bordered campuses of the US, with everything in one place. If you're looking for somewhere to live near the uni, make sure you've got the right part of the uni first, as it may be spread across many miles.

Along with the lack of cohesive campus goes a lack of cohesive campus life. Europeans tend to be more independent and adult in their social lives than Americans – often, there’s less university spirit and fewer student associations, including things like sports clubs.

This doesn’t mean there’s no fun – on the contrary, European students are extremely skilled in finding and creating all kinds of inventive forms of amusement, from epic house parties to refined theatrical performances; from street carnivals to exciting day trips.

ParisSmaller towns tend to have more student-based activities and organisations, while in the bigger cities students are often subsumed into the larger whirlwind of goings on. This means they engage more with the place they live in than most US students do. 

As in the US, students in Europe normally enroll in a certain number of courses, selected from a lengthy list, at the start of each semester. There are two semesters, the first lasting from September to January, and the second from January to June (with short breaks for Christmas and Easter).

Completion of each course earns students credits, normally between 5 and 15, with the goal being to get enough for a full bachelor's degree (180 credits in three years) or master's degree (120 credits in two years).

Unlike the US, though, these courses cannot simply be selected from any offered by the university, but must rather come from those permitted for you by your faculty - i.e. in your subject area. Although you generally get more courses to choose between each year, the breadth of topics that you study will actually decrease as you specialise within your subject, but this varies from uni to uni and from program to program.

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